How to be Anxious

It’s quite easy to be anxious, as most of us know from experience. All you have to do is a few of the following (or all of them, if you want to be very anxious):

Spend a lot of time imagining and thinking repetitively about the many things that could possibly go wrong for you at some time in the future. There’s plenty of uncertainty in life, especially in areas such as health, relationships, work, finance etc, so the possibilities here are pretty much infinite. The phrase “What if…” can be a very useful starting point. You don’t even have to have a great imagination, though it helps…

Frequently check, as thoroughly as possible, for the slightest evidence of any kind of threat that there’s even the smallest possibility could be dangerous to you (Internet research can be of great benefit here, you’ll always find something to be anxious about if you are running short of ideas).

If you’d prefer not to be too dependent on such outside sources of threatening information, you could always judge some of your own thoughts to be dangerous – we can usually find some odd and disturbing ideas in our own heads if we look for them.

Our own bodies are another great potential source of anxiety, not only with regard to the health-related worries mentioned above, but also in relation to our own physical anxiety symptoms (increased heart rate, constriction in the throat, sweating, etc). Getting anxious about our own anxiety creates a wonderful vicious cycle which continues to create (and sometimes even escalate) our anxiety as if by magic, apparently out of nothing.

Make sure to avoid, as far as possible, anything you are anxious about. This might sound like something that would help decrease anxiety, rather than something that would help you to be anxious. However, if you stick with it (which you will have to do if you are really serious about being anxious) you’ll find that this relief from anxiety is only short-term; the long-term benefits in relation to becoming a really consistently anxious person are excellent.

If you can’t completely avoid the objects of your anxiety (people, for instance, can be hard to avoid entirely, and our own physiological symptoms unfortunately follow us wherever we go), then make sure that you make the most of your opportunities to keep the sense of threat alive by actively behaving as if you are unsafe. Examples of good ways to do these Safety Behaviours are:

  • hanging around the edge of social groups in case you might draw unwelcome attention and negative judgment
  • trying to dampen any hint of physiological arousal symptoms you can plausibly deem to be dangerous (increased heart rate, etc, as mentioned above). Alcohol can be good for this, if there’s any handy.

On the other hand, if by any chance you don’t want to be more anxious than is necessary for surviving (and for adding a bit of a motivational edge to life when necessary), it’s probably best not to bother with any of the above.

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