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How can we help ourselves when worries start to pull us from our peace? Here’s a little food for thought that will help you graduate from worrier to mental warrior:


South Africa (10 September 2023) — Countless times, we find ourselves gearing up for battle with anxiety-inducing situations that are about as tangible as last night’s dream—the ‘what if’ battles. Other times, we know that the things we’re afraid of will have unavoidable negative emotions. That big presentation at work will be difficult. Driving after a car accident will be scary, and whatnot. We know that these real, ‘whatnot’ battles can be prepared for, but we put them off, thinking we can buy ourselves time—another kind of mental armour for the avoidants.

And we end up in a complicated, ironic loop of preparing for what we can’t control and avoiding what we can. And then we get caught in a trap where either of these ‘mental armours’ are actually more taxing than the battle itself!

Fear not soldier, you might just need a little more insight as to what’s actually going on.

Mental Armour Isn’t Always Your Friend

The thing about mental armour (hello, overthinking and procrastination) is that it can often only take you so far. More times, it weighs you down so much that when you get to the big showdown (no matter what that looks like for you) you’re already at a setback because you’re mentally exhausted.

Take the ‘what if’ battles. You spend hours preparing for the ‘uh oh’ moments that neither you nor any crystal ball has the power to confirm until you’re actually facing your scenario head-on. So you didn’t get the job—the worst happened. Was that feeling actually worse than all the strain you went through before the fact? Or did some part of you feel relieved that you didn’t need to worry about it anymore?

In the case of the ‘whatnot battles’, you might already know something is going to cause you an emotion you don’t want to feel. Here’s the good news—it’ll probably suck for a lot less time than the weeks or months you spend riding the painful procrastination spiral in avoiding it!

Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

At the root of many strains of anxiety usually lies two suspects: a negative or uncomfortable emotion we are trying to avoid and some element of control we feel we don’t have.

Society tells us that negative emotions are bad. Wrong. To be avoided at all costs. Our brains also try to protect us from any kind of pain at great costs! Put the two together, and it’s a no-brainer that we try to protect ourselves either through avoidance or over-preparing mentally.

But negative emotions do have their place in our mental ecosystems; one that’s actually very important. As Brianna Weist aptly indicates, negative emotions are just another part of the human experience. They do not always mean that something will go wrong, and trying to avoid them doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you! Instead, they need to be seen as indicators that there is something you need to take action on.

As therapist Michael Ceely shares, “anxiety is an action signal.” And as the old adage goes, “sometimes the only way out is through.”

How Do I Get to ‘Through’?

If ‘what ifs’ are your cross to bear, releasing control and trusting yourself a little more when you get there will go a long way. Take action on what you can to make yourself feel a little more at ease, but draw the line at what you can’t control. Your battle is to listen to what your action signals are telling you with more discretion.

  • Make a list of what is in your control versus what isn’t.
  • Accept the discomfort of letting go in exchange for your peace

If the ‘whatnots’ are keeping you up at night, your ‘through’ is biting the bullet. Action is your medicine, and you are likely dealing with a direct cause of stress that is largely in your control already as soon as you decide to tackle it head-on.

  • Make a list of actionable tasks that will relieve your anxiety
  • Understand what feeling you’re trying to avoid and if your avoidance is worse than the task

Sources: Good Things Guy
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About the Author

Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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