Hey there, lovely! Today I want to talk about anxiety. Studies tell us that 40 million people 18 and over suffer from some form of anxiety. That is nearly 20% of our population is coping with anxiety. Trying to deal with sweaty palms, difficulty breathing, soul-crushing pressure and so much more that comes along with anxiety and their evil twin, panic attacks.
I developed social anxiety early on. Though I was in debate and did public speaking I was terrified of talking to a group of people without a preplanned speech prepared. In debate, I wrote so fast I could basically write out my entire speech before it was my turn to the podium. This is a trait that followed me into adulthood and into my work. I hated being on camera for anything but especially shit that was LIVE and I would avoid doing so much to the detriment of my business. It’s hard to connect with those I serve if I did not put myself out there without feeling like I was close to passing out.
And I am not alone. Though your anxiety may look entirely different many of us are struggling to live our most full lives with the effects of anxiety.
I tried everything from traditional talk therapy to medication to try and get my anxiety “under control” until I realized maybe I had it entirely backward. Maybe I was meant to work with the anxiety to uncover more about it and discover what it was trying to tell me.
These are 3 ways that I have learned to work with and thus clear anxiety so that I could move with anxiety rather than feel stopped by it.
I am a very high energy person. Without a proper outlet, this energy coagulates and has nowhere to go. As such its easily funneled into and translated by my body to anxiety in certain circumstances. For most of us, a way to give us a bit of relief from anxiety is to get the blood pumping. This is not a means of eradicating anxiety-this is simply a means of holistically working with our bodies to expel anything stagnant that is jumping around our bodies and being translated as anxiety. Whether its Yoga, Boxing or hitting up a local Crossfit joint-getting our blood pumping is a powerful way of releasing and recentering.
Those who’ve worked with me know I am big on thought inquiries. A thought inquiry is where we examine an emotional state from a standpoint of the thought or series of thoughts that preceded it. In this case, it’s crucial to examine what we were thinking (also called our narrative) that brought on the anxiety. And even if the anxiety is environmentally triggered our thoughts still give us an indication of where we could bring additional healing in order to ease our anxiety. For example the other day I had my first anxiety attack in many months. What helped to pull me from this space was realizing that I was caught in a mental loop of all that could go wrong about something that was taking place around me. I have enough experience with anxiety attacks that I could tell what was happening and was able to begin to put my focus on something different. Does doing this immediately flip the switch my anxiety? No, it’s not about gimmicky “quick fixes” but rather finding a holistic way to work with what is happening within me.
What this tip, in particular, does is that it gives me tools that the more I put in place the more I begin to undermine the old neurological relationships created by the anxiety and replace them with patterns that will program my brain to process information differently.
Intensive journaling is a process of gaining deeper understanding of ourselves, our feelings, our thoughts and helps us to get in touch with our most authentic self. This is a process that has radically transformed my life and helped me to keep my mind focused in moments when it was frantically and frenetically running from one thing to another propagating an environment of anxiety.
Some prompts that have proven helpful to me and my clients:
- What is the most difficult situation you’ve faced so far and how did you overcome it?
- What is the biggest challenge you are currently facing and where do you control the outcome?
- Write a letter to someone who you need to get something off your chest. Fold it up and keep it or burn it but do not send it. Knowing you are not actually sending this gives you carte blanch to get it all out and write unfiltered which is precisely what is needed to remove the stagnant energy of the situation so it does not fester in the body.
- What are you feeling right now? Go deep, go surface level and go between the two. Write without a filter about what you are feeling.
- Visualize your anxiety as a monster and write a story around it.
A few final tips as you put these practices in place
These are not about slapping a band-aid on a bullet wound. Nor is this about denying that your anxiety exists. It’s real. Its a part of you. But that doesn’t mean the story your anxiety is telling you is real. You hold at all times agency over your mind, your body, your spirit. Anxiety may try to tell you that you are not in charge but you are. And these practices give you the space to begin asserting that agency.
But like anything, they are a practice. You will find them effective over time and the more that you devote your attention to them the more that you will feel their medicine working in your life. So if the temptation to give up arises stick with it. The best give we give ourselves is the commitment we make to our own wellbeing.