Catching the snowball of anxiety

I frequently hear clients talking about anxiety provoking life events that somehow, by the end of the discussion, have become life and death, make it or break it moments. For example, a student might struggle with a singular exam question (later admitted to perhaps be a poorly worded question), and then the student quickly decides that he or she will fail the exam, the class, the entire course of study, and end up living in a box in Denver (and everyone ends up in Denver…). Or a student might struggle with which classes to take next semester.  Or whether or not to attend a social event. Or what to wear at said social event.

All these concerns, and the angst, feel real enough, but clearly there is a logic issue:  Missing AN exam question does not equate to homelessness, joblessness, and loss of all pleasure in life.  What you wear to a social event likely isn’t a life or death question, or even a reason to avoid the social event.

Generalize this level of stress and anxiety to any other life task (not getting dinner on the table in a timely manner, sending a poorly worded email, making a joke that wasn’t that funny after all, calling your boss by the wrong name), and all of a sudden, you understand that moment of despair, the realization that what is happening is much, much larger than you ever thought possible, and your lifestyle/sanity/job is in peril.

Can you imagine that feeling?  Got it?

Now think of cartoons and the mayhem in any given cartoon.  Imagine a cartoon in which you see a tiny snowflake at the top of a large hill.  As the snowflake rolls down the hill, it becomes a snowball, then a very destructive snowball that takes out trees, houses, and people.  You can see arms, legs, and trees sticking out of the snowball.

Using the magic of technology and your vivid imagination (great job, by the way!), roll the ball back up the hill, with the ball getting smaller as you approach the top of the hill.  In this new cartoon, your job is to catch the snowflake in the early stages, while you can still manage the situation, or perhaps even savor the moment of catching a snowflake on your tongue.  This is your life.  Can you catch the snowball before your thought process is out of control?  Can you roll the ball back up the hill, to the last logical thought that crossed your mind?

So, there you are, taking that exam.  Instead of “I can’t do this, I’m going to fail, snowball…” can you stick with actual logic?  “This exam is hard, but I studied.  If I can’t do this item right away, can I find success on the next problem?  Will my instructor help me understand what the question is asking?”

If the snowball is headed for a tree, can you roll that back up the hill?  “I’m going to fail this exam” becomes “Fine, this test is hard, but I’m smart, and I can figure this stuff out” or “This is only one exam in a series of exams” (or, for extra credit, “This is one email in a hundred emails I have sent this person…I can fix this!”).

Can you savor the snowflake?  “This is hard, and this challenging experience helps me understand what more I need to learn in life.”  Or even, “I’m grateful for this struggle, so I can better understand others.”

Can you do it?  Can you catch the snowball, savor the snowflake, and get your thought process under control?

Want help with your snowball problems?  Contact me and we’ll build your snowperson and savor the snowflakes together.

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