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Plenty Woman Newsletter
July 27, 2016
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The Imaginary Conversation I Had Yesterday Morning

I did something yesterday that I haven’t done in months. I had a conversation with someone who wasn’t there.

This is something I’ve been doing for years, usually when my anxiety is at its height about a dreaded conversation I either know (or fear) that I am going to have in the future. The fact that this hasn’t happened in months tells me the topic of my imaginary conversation is having a more anxiety-inducing impact on me than I realized (and I already knew it was a lot): the presidential election.

In my imaginary conversation, I was delivering a monologue to my family members on why I will be voting for a different candidate than them.

The goal? To make sure I can calmly and intelligently defend my position should it come up in conversation.

The fear? That I am incapable of doing that, thus the necessity for a scripted rehearsal.

In the moment, it feels like a necessity. Like the only way to reduce my anxiety about a dreaded conversation is to prove to myself that I can handle it.

But the thing of it is, my imaginary conversations usually make my anxiety worse and leave me feeling exhausted, as I can spend an hour or more perfecting them. Yesterday, though, it was maybe 10 minutes. I wish I could tell you I stopped on my own but it was unsuspecting Andy who walked into the room with a cheery good morning that snapped me back to reality.

There was a time when I would have resumed the imaginary conversation as soon as I had time again to myself. On the drive to and from the grocery store, for example. But that didn’t happen. Not because I had perfected my script. On the contrary, it was far from finished.

I’m not telling you this to sing the praises of abbreviated imaginary conversations. No matter the length, I hate having them. But I do believe the work I’ve been doing these past few months has made a difference in how I react to my thoughts and my behavior, which is maybe why I didn’t feel the need to finish the imaginary conversation.

One of the key components of this progress for me has been keeping a worry journal. I should have used it yesterday, but it didn’t occur to me until much later (not surprising, as anxious thoughts distract from all sorts of healthy, practical behaviors). But that won’t stop me from doing it today. Though worrying journaling in the moment may be ideal, I find it just as valuable after the height of the worry has passed, especially for diffusing recurring worries. It seems to make them less intense the next time around.

As you know, I’ve shared several of my own worry journal exercises on the website. But only recently did I put together a how-to on worry journaling, if you are so inclined to try it for whatever worries you – in the news, at work, at home, or for any negative thought or mistaken belief that’s eating away at you.

On a lighter note, it’s worry journaling that helped me embrace turning 44 years old this month. (Though Cameron Diaz helped ease my fears on that front, too.)

So, if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll check out my latest posts:

How to Keep a Worry Journal

How Cameron Diaz Helped Me Deal with the Anxiety of Aging

Happy to have a real person on the receiving end of this,

Meredith

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