As spring continues to make itself felt, the vaccine rollout continues apace, and social restrictions start to be relaxed, many of us will be looking forward to getting out a bit more, seeing a couple more friends, and maybe even enjoying some sporting activities or a drink in a beer garden.
But for some of us, the prospect of getting back out there may bring with it some other, less positive emotions. Feeling some healthy concern as things begin to change is natural and helpful. Letting this turn into unhealthy anxiety is irrational and unhelpful. Let’s look at the differences between the two emotions to help manage the next few weeks more successfully.
Concern Vs Anxiety
We’ve looked at the difference between concern and anxiety on this blog before. The key thing to remember is that at their heart, they are both concerned with the same core idea: threat or danger. However, one will turn you towards the problem, and help you deal with it, and the other will turn you away from it and make it seem much worse than it really is.
Anxiety is the unhealthy negative emotion (negative emotions are a part of life, but we can choose whether to experience healthy or unhealthy ones) provoked by an irrational belief around the perceived threat. This irrational belief might be telling you that the danger is far worse than it is, that the virus will come back as strongly as before, or that you somehow won’t be able to fit back into normal life (let’s face it, all of our social skills are probably a bit rusty!).
Concern, on the other hand, will look at these potential threats with a much more realistic and rational belief system: yes, there is still a danger, but it’s getting smaller all the time as more people get the vaccine; yes, the virus might come back, but we are more prepared now than this time last year, and know what to do; and yes, we might be a bit rusty when it comes to socialising again, but so is everyone, and we’ll soon be back to our old ways, however gregarious (or not) we once were.
Anxiety will try and get you to overestimate the threat, and underestimate your ability to cope with it. Concern will realistically assess any potential issues and help you prepare to tackle them.
Anxiety would like you to cancel any and all invitations and plans. Concern will help you remember the rule of six, and to wash your hands and wear a mask, and to experience and enjoy life as much as you can, when you can.
REBT’s central philosophy of emotional responsibility means that by noticing what we are telling ourselves, and how that belief is affecting our emotions, we can choose to challenge the irrational, unhelpful beliefs and replace them with rational, helpful ones. Actively sticking with, and acting in accordance with these healthy believes might be uncomfortable at first, but the benefits will soon outweigh any discomfort.
So maybe it’s time to cautiously, but optimistically, start to look outside again…
CBT / REBT Therapist