Anxiety has been a bit of a theme in my blog this week … I have explored what causes anxiety and three unhealthy ways some of us avoid anxiety. To wrap it up, I figured it makes sense to find some healthy ways of approaching anxiety.
I was thinking about this last night, and I found myself amazed that something that we all possess to protect us (the amygdala and its fight or flight response) can cause so much pain and anguish for so many people. Selective Mutism is just one of many, many anxiety disorders that people suffer from day after day after day. It blows me away to think that so many of us are struggling to cope with a function that was originally designed to serve us.
The world has changed incredibly quickly in all of our lifetimes – and it is only speeding up. Life as our not-too-distant ancestors knew it is a distant memory, and we now find ourselves in a world that is very different to the world humans used to live in. Unfortunately, features that once helped us to stay alive have not changed as quickly as our world, and as a result the anxiety that we used to rely on appears to be coming back to bite us.
Through my thoughts it became clear to me that there are some definite methods that I sometimes use to approach my own anxiety that work better than others. I am still working on having these three approaches replacing my old avoidance strategies – but I’m getting there …
#1: Make friends with anxiety
I rarely hear anxiety being spoken of in a friendly way. People are no longer happy that they have this function – instead it is seen as a cause of misery for many, and something that huge numbers of people are striving to overcome. Advice from parents and friends usually declares that ‘There’s nothing to worry about’ or ‘You’ll be fine’ but that does nothing to quell our fears.
It is clear to me that pushing through fears, problems and triggers is not a long-term solution. If we don’t allow ourselves to notice what we are feeling in each moment, we gradually lose touch with ourselves – and that is anything but healthy.
A few weeks ago I shared my experience of making friends with my anxiety before my speech contest. It felt extremely counter-intuitive to invite all my yucky feelings to join me, but what I noticed is that every time I showed my anxiety that we were in this together, I felt a rush of Love replacing the feelings I didn’t like. It didn’t last long, and so this was something that I had to repeat over and over again – but it felt good! Try it!!
A few years ago I was shocked to realise that when I stopped to check on myself and my body I was never breathing. I always held my breath – as though I was waiting for something terrible to happen.
Taking deep full breaths can feel uncomfortable at first, especially if there’s a lot of feelings you are trying to avoid. However, breathing life into those feelings will help them to move on and out of your body. Deep belly breaths are the best type – and I try to make time to sit and take ten proper breaths two or three times a day. They always feel so wonderful and healing.
#3: Knowledge is power
In my opinion it is a huge advantage if you can understand why you are feeling the way you do, and also to know that you aren’t alone. Read about anxiety – find out what it does in the body, understand that it is a natural process that doesn’t know any better. Be compassionate with yourself – it is not your fault that you feel this way; anxiety is a natural function that affects everybody, and you certainly aren’t alone in having it manifest as a disorder.
The more you know about anxiety, the more you are likely to notice how it manifests for you, and the more comfortable you are likely to be with your symptoms.
Bonus #4: Love yourself!
How often do you tell yourself nice things about yourself? How often do you say the words, “I love you!” to yourself? Do you ever say it?
If this is something you rarely do, it’s likely to feel quite uncomfortable to start telling yourself that “I love you!” … but if you never begin, how will you go through your life feeling about yourself? What will it take to be loving toward yourself?
Love is the foundation for all the other techniques that might help you out – if you constantly talk down to yourself, you aren’t going to find it easy to reach your goal, no matter how tried and tested something is.
Try it now – in your head, “I love you!” Did it feel good?
I hope this helps – please consider sharing if you have found this post useful – and do sign up to my newsletter to stay up to date with my latest posts and book releases.