“Whenever you avoid alarming situations, you almost always increase your anxiety about them.”
– Albert Ellis
1. Stop Global Ratings!
REBT says to stop globally rating and evaluating yourself, others, and life in general as good or bad, hardworking or lazy, kind or evil, etc.! It is rational to rate or evaluate behaviors and actions, but it is irrational to rate yourself, others, and life in your/their/its entirety! Judging yourself, others, and the world in this way is a form of irrational thinking, and therefore, it is NOT helpful for you! Furthermore, global ratings do not actually make sense, as there are likely countless examples of people you would rate as “good”, who have still done “bad” or hurtful things within their life. Furthermore, there are probably many people you would be inclined to rate as “bad” or even “evil” who have still engaged in “good” behavior at some point in their lifetime. By choosing to evaluate behaviors and specific circumstances, as opposed to an entire person or experience, you will learn to develop realistic expectations, and stop unnecessarily disturbing yourself (i.e. causing yourself anxiety) over imperfect or disappointing conditions.
2. Identify, Dispute, & Replace Your Irrational Thinking!
REBT encourages you to become aware of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors when you notice yourself becoming anxious. First, take note of what adversity or event you are encountering in this moment. Then examine your internal narrative pertaining to this adversity: consider what specifically you are telling yourself regarding this challenging situation, as you are feeling anxious.
Ask yourself: how are my thoughts contributing to my anxiety?
Am I awfulizing or catastrophizing what may or may not happen?
Am I telling myself that I cannot stand or survive what may or may not happen, when in all actuality I can withstand and survive it (even if I strongly prefer not to deal with it).
By changing the way that you think about upsetting circumstances in your life, you can transform your unhealthy anxiety into healthier and more helpful emotions such as concern. Concern helps to keep you safe when there is a physical or emotional threat, whereas anxiety generally makes it harder for you to accomplish your goals and protect yourself from actual threats!
3. Accept That Which You Cannot Control!
REBT advocates for sustaining healthy and flexible preferences, but not unhealthy rigid demands. When we mistake our strong desires for absolute needs, we demand that conditions must be, should be, ought to be, have to be, or need to be a certain way. In other words, we demand control over that which we cannot actually control. When we surrender our demanding attitudes, we essentially accept what we cannot control (the future, other people, life circumstances, etc.), thereby empowering ourselves to focus our energy on that which is within our power, such as our attitude, perspective, and self-constructed philosophy for living.
Remember, we can be passionate about our desires, yet still be flexible and realistic by not demanding that our goals MUST be accomplished or that our desires HAVE TO be fulfilled.
Acceptance does not equate to condoning something you strongly dislike or prefer not to happen; rather, it refers to tolerating the reality of less than ideal circumstances and cultivating the emotional fortitude to withstand that which feels both frustrating and uncomfortable.
4. Channel Your Anxious Energy Into Healthy Insight & Helpful Action
REBT promotes observing your cognitive patterns, disputing your irrational thoughts, and replacing them with rational and effective new beliefs, which will not only help you to transform your unhealthy anxiety into healthier concern, but it will facilitate you with engaging in helpful, constructive, creative, and calming behaviors and activities! Remember, anxiety does not change future outcomes or stop whatever we are afraid of from happening; it only further contributes to our emotional distress, as well as magnifies and intensifies our fears. Once you decide to overcome your anxiety, which has likely inhibited you from fully enjoying and being present in your life, it is helpful to commit to trying something different, and REBT says that the most powerful difference you can make is through changing the way that you think!