Stop Shaming Feelings That Cause High Functioning Anxiety

Earlier last week I found myself spinning with anxiety. When I am faced with dealing with high functioning anxiety, I try to practice the A.S.K. approach

  • Acknowledge what you are feeling
  • Slow down and get into your body
  • Kindly pull back to see the big picture

I kept saying to myself, “Ok, you need to practice A.S.K.,” so I would acknowledge my feelings (“I am feeling sad and overwhelmed”), and then I would move on to slowing down and getting into my body, and then kindly pulling back to see the big picture. And it wasn’t working. I wasn’t getting any relief. No matter how many times I tried it.

At the end of the day, I said to my husband, “I don’t know if this A.S.K. thing works anymore! I have gone through it 50 times today and still feel full of anxiety.” 

I shared with my husband that I was feeling sad about the death of Kobe Bryant because he reminds me of my Dad since my Dad loved him and because he reminded me of my own mortality. As soon as I shared what I was feeling and why, I heard my Monger say, “Well that is stupid. I mean you didn’t even know Kobe Bryant.”

And then I had an ah-ha, “Wait a minute, have I really acknowledged my feelings or did I just name them?” So again I tried to name my feelings and I had another major ah-ha. This time when I named them, I allowed them. 

I said to myself, “It is just hard to feel sad” and “I feel silly feeling sad for someone I never met” and “It’s ok to feel sad. It is what it is.”

Tips to Accept Your Feelings and Reduce Anxiety

Yes, earlier in the day I was naming my feelings. Yes, I was saying them out loud. But what followed was my Monger saying, ‘Well that’s not appropriate. That is ridiculous. How can you be feeling that way?!” So I wasn’t actually acknowledging and allowing my feelings; I was saying them and then slamming them down with criticism and judgment.

As a mental health professional and anxiety coach, I even have to revisit my own practices. Here were a few things I learned from this ah-ha.

  1. Stop dialing it in. I am now so familiar with the A.S.K process that I almost do it without thinking and that is not the spirit of A.S.K. Had I been more present during the process, I would have caught my self-shaming much earlier.
  2. Deprogramming messages around feelings is tough. We all have messages around feelings (most of them negative) and letting those messages go and making room for new ones is hard and takes time.
  3. We are always learning, always spiralling up. This is a process and we aren’t going to get it perfect the first time around.
  4. There is a HUGE difference between labeling and allowing. The spirit of acknowledging your feelings is to make room for them and give yourself some kindness and grace around them. Rather than just labeling them so you can then hammer yourself, give yourself room to allow them.
  5. Self-loyalty and kindness are key. What I was missing that day was my own self-loyalty. Over and over I turned away from myself, criticized my feelings, and shamed myself. When I was able to give a little kindness to myself, things started shifting.

Feelings are tricky, especially if you struggle with anxiety. Make sure to check out this week’s podcast episode, which is all about acknowledging your feelings and how to use the A.S.K. process.