How do you find that space between stimulus and response and increase it so you can respond differently?

Through awareness, acceptance and action. Anxiety is an adaptive response to perceived threat. Fear is necessary for your survival, anxiety is not. Fear enables you to act to save your life. Anxiety is a short-ciruited fear, running on repeat, so you are responding to save yourself over and over again, when it is no longer or not necessary. This puts your body in a highly alert state, preparing for an emergency, over and over again.

The first step in finding that space between stimulus and response, between trigger and anxiety, is to become aware of both, without judgement. You are simply an observer of your anxiety. You start by becoming aware of when you become anxious, and what was happening, being said, who was there, just before. You note what happens when certain things are expected of you, and what you are afraid will happen, for example if there is a difficult telephone call to make, or you can’t make yourself pick up your paintbrush. Describe your physical anxiety to yourself in terms you understand. Observe your anxiety, without judgement, for a week. Notice everything you can about it. At the end of the week, look over what you have written. Notice any patterns. Notice what you do when you are anxious. Notice how much you are avoiding, or the types of things you are avoiding and how you convince yourself you really can’t do those things at the moment. Don’t dismiss your feelings or tell yourself you shouldn’t be anxious about certain things. You need to start where you are. This is where you are. This is one of your survival strategies. Respect it.

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