“Greg” was a middle-aged, professional, referred by his doctor because of anxiety. It had been with him most of his life but worse since his sister died a few years earlier. He worried about the future and tended to see things negatively. Years of anti-anxiety medication hadn’t helped and made it worse because he feared taking pills meant that he couldn’t control himself. Although successful in his career, Greg believed he could achieve more if he wasn’t “so busy over-thinking” and came to Shift Cognitive Therapy to stop worrying.
Greg’s psychologist took a cognitive behavioural approach, introducing him to the fact that daily life events trigger automatic thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and behaviors that we’re often not aware of. He taught Greg to pay attention to those reactions and to the situations that activated them. Over the next few weeks Greg realized several things: That his mind routinely drifted to worries even when things were going well; that negative thoughts like “I’ll make a mistake” and “Something could go wrong” attracted his attention more than neutral or positive thoughts; and that scary thoughts caused an immediate rush of anxiousness.
Working with his psychologist, Greg learned that what he saw as dangerous “anxiety” was just the body’s way of preparing to deal with threats – in his case, the fears. Realizing that he wasn’t in danger simply because he was thinking about something upsetting, Greg was free to focus on more productive things. He started catching himself in the act of worrying and redirected his mind back to more important things. He set goals to improve his fitness and make his commute more enjoyable, and he started making strategic decisions about how he wanted to work.
By his eighth session, Greg felt much better about his life and worried less. He felt more confident, especially in his ability to calm himself and work through challenges. He worked with his doctor to decrease his anti-anxiety medication and was happy that small changes in his daily life added up to bigger change over time.
* Based on an actual client. Used with permission.