Anxiety Control Training (ACT) is a self-help relaxation method that was designed to enable people to learn control over anxiety. Anxiety is a condition that is very common, and few people allow themselves the time to begin to overcome it. This approach will only work if the person wishes to learn the skill of controlling anxiety and is prepared to work at it steadily and regularly over several weeks.
The key to the approach is to help you to relax the tension in your body and move your thoughts away from the worrying thoughts that dominate your thinking. It normally takes a few sessions to begin to learn the skills of experiencing this deep calm. To do this you will need to practice this regularly—preferably twice a day. Try to view the session as a “prescription” to be taken in the morning and evening. Each session should not be too long—just 10 minutes—but you will need to find a room where you can be on your own and not be interrupted by others.
When you first begin, you may find that your thoughts begin to wander as you listen through the session. It is quite normal to find this hard to do at first, but with practice and further sessions you will find it easier and easier to reach a state of calmness. Over six to eight weeks many people find that they are slowly able to stop using the sound files as they find that they can move to a state of calm in everyday life. As with a good vacation, the benefits last far longer than just the time taken during the session of relaxation, and you will probably notice additional benefits throughout the day.
There are two main parts to the treatment approach:
- In the first two or three sessions you should listen only to the first version of Anxiety Control training. This will show you how to let calm feelings replace anxious feelings during the session. You will be asked to firstly relax your body, and then to form a mental image of a calm, relaxing scene. This can be anything you want: flowers, a favourite countryside place, or a relaxing past vacation.
- After this you should move on to the second version of Anxiety Control Training where you begin to think about slightly stressful events and then learn to control the anxiety this causes.
With practice, you will slowly begin to control unnecessary anxiety in real life situations in order to reach a state of calmness. The aim is to help you to help you cope with situations that you previously dreaded.
ACT should occur at a pace that you feel confident in. Sometimes people find they become more anxious as they think about trying to relax. If this occurs, consider whether you are trying to envisage situations that initially cause too much anxiety. In which case, you should instead choose things that create less distress until your confidence improves. If you continue to feel more anxious or experience high anxiety please take advice from your own doctor before using the approach again.
The really good thing about anxiety control training is that you do it. Once you have acquired the skill of controlling anxiety and learned why you become anxious, this skill is then yours for life. Anxiety Control Training is therefore a simple and effective way of helping you change; but remember, it won’t help unless you have really made up your mind that you are going to work at it. If you have any questions about this, please discuss it with your healthcare provider.
Key reference: Snaith, R.P. (1998). Meditation & Psychotherapy, British Journal of Psychiatry, 173, 193-196.
Credits: This page can be reproduced for personal use, or for use in training or teaching. Please credit this source.