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The George Costanza Lifehack for Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

The George Costanza Lifehack for Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

George Costanza

    Despite what you may think, there are lifehacks to be learned from the television show Seinfeld. Take for example the episode “The Opposite”- George Costanza decides that every decision that he has ever made has been wrong, and that his life is the exact opposite of what it should be. George decides to do the opposite of everything he has done before, and great things begin to happen to him:

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    What George inadvertently discovers is Victor Frankl’s lifehack for overcoming fear and anxiety, called paradoxical intention.

    How to use Paradoxical Intention

    If you want to overcome fear and anxiety (including obsessive-compulsiveness and phobias), do the opposite of what you ordinarily do- deliberately wish for that which you fear, in order to remove it. According to patient statistics, paradoxical intention is successful in 80-90% of cases.

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    As fitting with a Seinfeld episode, humor is the key to using paradoxical intention. “The neurotic who learns to laugh at himself may be on the way to self-management, perhaps to cure”, says Godon W. Allport in his book The Individual and His Religion. Unable to maintain your diet due to fear of food binging? Eat as much as you can next week. Unable to fall asleep due to fear of sleeplessness? Try to stay awake as long as possible. The pure absurdity and humor of such suggestions are what allows one to put himself at a distance from his own fear and anxiety.

    How Paradoxical Intention Works

    Frankl says, “as soon as the patient stops fighting his obsessions and instead tries to ridicule them by dealing with them in an ironic way- by applying paradoxical intention- the vicious circle is cut, the symptom diminishes and finally atrophies.” Paradoxical intention seems to reverse the patient’s attitude, taking the wind out of the sails of anxiety.

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    Sweating Out Your Fears

    An example was given in Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. A young physician who had a fear of perspiring. His anticipatory anxiety of perspiration actually caused him to excessively sweat around certain individuals. Frankl advised the patient to use paradoxical intention, by deliberately showing people how much he could sweat. When the patient tried this, he was able to permanently free himself of a 4-year-old phobia, within one week.

    Paradoxical Intention is Not a Panacea

    If you are fighting anticipatory anxiety, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, or phobias, my suggestion is to give paradoxical intention a try. But if you are having suicidal thoughts, or have a mental disorder such as schizophrenia, paradoxical intention is not a good solution. I’m not an expert on paradoxical intention, and I don’t want to mislead anyone with this post- please do your own research, and talk to a medical professional if your condition is serious.

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    Last Updated on September 20, 2018

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

    If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

    1. Breathe

    The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

    • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
    • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
    • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

    Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

    2. Loosen up

    After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

    Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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    3. Chew slowly

    Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

    Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

    Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

    4. Let go

    Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

    The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

    It’s not. Promise.

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    Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

    Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

    21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

    5. Enjoy the journey

    Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

    Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

    6. Look at the big picture

    The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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    Will this matter to me…

    • Next week?
    • Next month?
    • Next year?
    • In 10 years?

    Hint: No, it won’t.

    I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

    Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

    7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

    You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

    Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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    8. Practice patience every day

    Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

    • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
    • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
    • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

    Final thoughts

    Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

    Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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