Educate Yourself About Anxiety
Many people ask me how to deal with anxiety, my response is almost always the same, the first thing you should do is educate yourself about what anxiety is. You need to know what you are dealing with and how to get help. There is a good amount of information on the internet about different types of anxiety, some more difficult to handle than others. In short, based on my experience as a therapist – anxiety is a collection of different negative feelings ruled by a fear that was created by an incident, situation or a memory gone wrong that resulted in the nervous system staying alert.
What does this mean?
Having an ongoing “alert” in our nervous system, results in our mind working relentlessly on a plan of action, to make sure the old situation or incident will never return, making us chronically alert, worried and exhausted. The less we know about it and why is it happening the bigger the fear is and the feelings it produces. When we are alert our body starts to produce more stress hormones to keep us awake and able to run if needed. Having more stress hormones in our system leads to even more exhaustion and irritability, depleting our body from necessary rest and relaxation. A chronic state of anxiety will slowly build its way to chronic illnesses and health concerns.
How do I get back to a calm state?
The most important step for the nervous system to get back to a regulated state, is SAFETY. Anxiety is triggered when life gets out of the “safety zone”. When we are taken by fear our ability to think clearly is clouded. We see things only through the filter of fear and our fearful thoughts create anxious feelings. Our mind has taken control over our body and it no longer questions the situation but acts automatically.
A few things that you can do for yourself:
1. Shhh! Please don’t keep anxiety a secret, there is nothing you need to hide. It doesn’t mean that something is wrong with YOU. Anxiety is a symptom of a wellbeing issue you are dealing with. Ask for help if needed. You are not alone in this, there are a lot of people who deal with the same problem every day. The more you hide it, the more pressure it gives you. Just like any secret.
2. When talking about anxiety, check your language and avoid making it sound like a much larger issue. Your mind is always listening and trying to deliver what you “order”. Change ‘anxious’ to a “little worried” or “slightly nervous” or simply “excited”.
3. Never own your anxiety. Call it THE anxiety and not MY anxiety.
4. A fast heartbeat and breathing is our nervous system’s NORMAL response to danger called ‘fight and flight’ that makes sure your body has all it needs to run or fight, so your body IS NOT broken. The question is why your mind gave that false alert?
5. Swap fear for curiosity. Anxiety is not your enemy; its job is to keep you “safe” and anything out of the safe zone is potentially a trigger. Stop being threatened by it and start being curious. Imagine it’s your minds way to talk to you and anxiety has a message for you. Start noticing when and how it gets triggered. Ask yourself what your mind is trying to tell you.
6. Incorporate some new healthy daily habits into your life to stretch your “safety zone”. Make sure you start taking your power back by doing things that are different but safe. Example: start brushing your teeth with your left hand, turn the shower to cold for a few seconds in the end and then back to warm a few times. Take yourself out from your “safety zone” with tiny steps, by assuring and confirming yourself that you are safe.
7. Teach your mind and body that uncomfortable feelings are ok. You don’t have to run from them, they are here to “get your attention”. Start to notice what you did just before they arrived. What did you think just before? Did someone behave strangely that made you feel uncomfortable? Are you in more stress than usual? Is your self-confidence low? What about trusting in yourself?
8. Educate yourself about how the mind and body works and what anxiety is. It is not a mystery illness that you are taken by, with no cure. You can’t control your nervous system but you can control your thoughts. The more you do it, the easier it is to get your mind back under your control.
9. Give yourself all the time and love you need to move away from your negative feelings. Self-criticism, high expectations or disappointment and blame don’t help. Be kind to yourself.
What to do when you already feel a bit nervous:
1. Check the facts and reality. Is the reality as you see it? Are you in immediate danger or is it imagined? What do you see and what really happens? Look around, bring your attention out from your head to your body, feel the ground under your feet supporting you, the chair you are sitting on, the wall behind your back. Assure yourself that you are indeed supported and safe.
2. Drink water, sip by sip, it will help cortisol, the stress hormone, dissolve in the body faster.
3. Control your breathing. Breath slowly out until your lungs are empty and then take a shorter breath in and breath out again until no air is left in your lungs. Notice your breathing slowing down and then your heartbeat slowing down.
4. Focus on “doing” something that takes your mind away from creating anxiety. Start throwing a ball or a pen in the air with your left hand without letting it drop on the floor. If it is too easy, do it with eyes closed.
5. Think of something you love doing or shake your body softly to change the feeling.
6. Repeat empowering words like I CAN and I WILL to keep your mind focused without slipping into powerless I CAN’T. One of the most common root causes of anxiety is the inability to cope with the fear of the unknown, helplessness and hopelessness.
As a therapist and coach, I help my clients to heal their past wounds and let go of these patterns of behaviours that they seem to not have control over. The tools and techniques I use are efficient in spotting and clearing the root cause. This then allows you to create a new belief system and understanding that will give you the results you need.
The change starts with you and within you!
If you have any questions, please contact me for a FREE discovery call or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org