From the Introduction
Whether you are in the midst of a difficult time in your life, or you simply want to live more optimally with everyday hurdles, you are not alone.
All of us are looking for happy endings. But the way our anxious mind tells the story, even day-to-day transactions can feel risky—even harrowing. Out of scant details, mere hints of threat can create a frightening scenario that debilitates you. You react physically and emotionally to every hairpin turn, gearing up as if the story your mind is showing you is really happening. You are a captive audience.
What is anxiety? It is the first reaction of a sensitive system that is wired to keep us alert to danger and protected from harm. In our more primitive days, anxiety worked beautifully in a fight or flight reaction to help us escape hungry tigers, woolly mammoths, and other dangerous threats. But today, with our best interests in mind, anxiety sometimes makes mistakes, overshooting and overpreparing. Especially when we are facing challenges, we need to be at our best. But anxiety can put any of us at a disadvantage. You don’t need worry running through disastrous plotlines and consequently wearing you out and gearing you up unnecessarily for the wrong things. You just want to take good care of yourself and be well-prepared for life. Your life.
Fortunately, your survival-oriented brain is not the only one running the show. You have a choice. Rather than stay glued to your seat, white-knuckling your way through a life that in reality is supremely better than your anxiety would have you think, you can walk out and trade in your tickets for a different show. You are the protagonist of your life story. You are the hero who comes through for yourself every time. And you get to decide who narrates. Whether you’re one of the millions of people trying to reduce stress and improve the quality of your life, or perhaps one of the 17 million people suffering from depression or one of the 40 million adults with an anxiety disorder in a given year, the news is good—very good. Not only are anxiety and depression the most treatable mental health conditions, they can be effectively prevented. The strategies here will show you how. So pull out your director’s chair—you are now running the show.
Not all thoughts are created equal. If a thought sounds too bad to be true it probably is. Just because the first words out of your mouth or mind are I’m going to ruin this, everyone will think badly of me, what a disaster, that doesn’t mean it will come true. This is exactly how “first thoughts” operate. It’s a story, but a story that will be disproven each and every time, hours or days later by intervening events. You didn’t get fired, the party was a hit, and the kids came home safely. Those facts don’t help you in the moment for one simple reason—they haven’t arrived yet. If you stop at your first thoughts, you plummet in a downward spiral of doubt or an escalating chain of catastrophes; meanwhile, other more healthy and accurate interpretations are right there waiting to be discovered. You have to look for the other thoughts, and when you do, you’ll find them in abundance.