By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS
The distorted stories we tell ourselves can amplify our anxiety — which, ironically can occur when we’re trying to reduce the worry, jitters and angst. One of the most damaging of distortions is the desire for perfection.
In his book Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On: Twenty Lessons for Managing Worry, Anxiety and Fear, author and professor Mark A. Reinecke, Ph.D, describes this desire as “the belief that there’s a best solution and that nothing less than the best is acceptable.”
Since we can’t predict how events will unfold, that perfect solution simply doesn’t exist — not to mention that the idea of perfection only puts added pressure on ourselves and sets us up for failure. As Reinecke writes, “When you expect perfection, the only guarantee is that you’ll be disappointed.”
A more helpful way to approach anxiety is by being flexible — which I know is tough because when you’re anxiety-prone, the last thing you probably feel comfortable with is variability. But with practice and a shift in perspective, you can get there.
Reinecke features a three-step process in his book to help readers find a variety of anxiety-alleviating strategies.
- To start figuring out which strategies can help, pinpoint a problem that’s bothering you. Then brainstorm at least 10 to 15 solutions (no erasing or crossing off just yet). “Be bold and creative,” Reinecke says. And consider how you’re feeling. Next to each solution, record the pros and cons along with the short- and long-term consequences. Lastly, look at your list and assign each solution a grade from A to F. Eliminate any of the Ds and Fs. After that, you’ve got a good-sized list of strategies.
- Try to be flexible if things don’t turn out according to your plan. As Reinecke writes, “Be open to a range of results, and maintain your sense that you are capable of handling a host of outcomes.”
- Remember that the only thing you can control is your perception. “Although you can’t control the future, you can control how you view it,” according to Reinecke.
Reinecke starts the chapter with a quote from Winston Churchill that serves as an important reminder for anxiety — and for life: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no less enthusiasm.”
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