In her new self-published book, You 1, Anxiety 0: Winning Your Life Back From Fear and Panic to Keep Calm in a Crazy World, Jodi Aman presents ways to get rid of anxiety, shares her personal story, and gives an overview on what anxiety, fear, and panic really do to people. She follows up with an anxiety playbook that describes the tactics anxiety uses to manifest itself in a person’s life and the messages people use to protect their anxiety rather than move forward. From there, she discusses how people can use new skills and knowledge to conquer anxiety so it does not keep people from what they want most in life.
Her core message is that avoidance is not the right technique to manage anxiety. Recovery happens when people recognize that anxiety is present and a problem they want to address, but they do not beat themselves up over it. Self-compassion is crucial as people with anxiety learn new coping skills. With self-compassion, anxiety is less likely to be viewed as something that is integrated into one’s identity. When it is no longer talked about as part of identity — “I’m anxious” — people will no longer avoid the situations that bring it on. Avoidance prevents people from doing things they would enjoy. They may feel in control, but avoiding a situation puts anxiety in control. Stating “I feel anxious” rather than “I am anxious” or speaking about anxiety in the third person can help someone with anxiety get back that sense of control.
Aman shares examples from a number of her clients who have dealt with anxiety. She notes how when people are overwhelmed or have a fear of failure, they have no energy or motivation to do anything. But action is what helps decrease anxiety. Rather than shutting down, someone with anxiety needs to make the effort to do something active. Aman confirms this, saying, “Doing something has you feeling empowered, reminding you that you’ve got control over your response.” And one small action makes the next action seem more doable.
It can be tough to admit that anxiety is really a learned response and we have the power to manage it through action. It means people who deal with anxiety are not victims. But when a group of people go through the same exact experience, they report on it differently because each individual decides what it means based on past experiences. This realization brings hope: if anxiety is learned, it can also be unlearned.
One of Aman’s tips on taking action by asking questions is one of my favorite ones to use with clients. She encourages someone to think about a worry they have and then to ask the following questions: “What’s bad about that? What is bad about that happening? And what is bad about that? Why is that so bad? What if that happened, how bad would that be? What’s the worst that could happen? What would that be like?” Although it sounds a bit like interrogation, I love these questions because they get the client to really stop and think logically about their worries. Although this is not a resolution for everyone, it is very helpful for someone who constantly worries about minor things. Another great exercise is asking clients to list all the skills and knowledge they have by simply starting with the statement “I know….” Although it can be an effort for some who are also in a depression, I often find that when clients stop to think and focus on that statement, they are able to recognize things that are good about themselves. There are a number of other similar, easy to do exercises which are manageable for people, even if they are not working with a therapist. It does give some control back when people can stop and ask ”What is happening? Why do I feel this way? What skills do I have to help myself?”
The one criticism is that book does seem to be a little bit choppy and might be overwhelming for some readers. For instance, Aman lists over a dozen things that anxiety says to people, such as “I protect you” or “use black and white thinking,” and she gives examples and exercises for each item on her list. Then she shares over a dozen ways to fight back against anxiety, such as “facing fears,” “connecting with people,” and “nourishing yourself.”
You 1, Anxiety 0 may best serve people who have experienced anxiety for a while without recovery or who want to understand what it feels like for loved ones who battle anxiety. When she speaks about the different tricks, such as anxiety saying “I protect you,” she follows that with case studies so people can see what this looks like in real life and how what actions a person might take to defeat anxiety. These are practical things, such as remembering when they were able to face their fears in the past or when they didn’t have an opportunity because circumstances were beyond their control. An individual can see that “Yes, I’ve managed this in the past.” Someone working through this on their own might find Aman’s book to be a very easy-to-use guide because it gives just these little pieces. It probably is not the ideal book for an experienced clinician because it does give very surface-level fixes, but that surface-level is what makes it appealing to the everyday user who doesn’t want clinical terms or theoretical explanations. Someone who has experienced anxiety wants to know how to get better and I do think this book will provide those answers.
You 1, Anxiety 0: Win Your Freedom Back from Fear and Panic to Keep Calm in a Crazy World
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, April 2016
Paperback, 250 pages