“Yes AND”: A Simple Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Exercise to Ease Anxiety

A few years ago, I enrolled in an improv comedy course. In improv, there are no scripts. The actors improvise the entire scene based on a suggestion. However, the actors follow rules. The most important rule is “Yes AND. . .†For example, if my scene partner states, “Isn’t the sky lovely?â€, I can’t say, “no it looks cloudy to me.†I must agree with the statement. Then, I add something to move the scene forward. “Yes, what a beautiful sky, AND that cloud looks just like my cat.†I may not like my scene partner’s statement, but I must accept it and keep moving forward. ACT operates on this same principal.

We commonly say “NO!†when anxiety shows up. It’s like that pesky cloud of dirt that follows Pigpen around in Charlie Brown. We just want to take a Dyson to it and keep on with our lives. However, did you notice that Pigpen always kept moving forward despite the dust? He danced, ice skated and played football with all the Peanuts characters. What might it be like to say “Yes AND. . .†to anxiety?

  • “Yes, anxiety I feel you, AND I’m still moving towards what I value.â€
  • “Yes, you are here, AND I’m still going to go on this first date.â€
  • “Yes, I feel scared, AND I am still going to apply for my dream jobâ€

I invite you to say “Yes AND†to anxiety and see what you notice. Oftentimes, anxiety turns down the volume once we’re headed in our valued direction.