Feeling Anxious? You're not alone.
Anxiety is something everyone experiences from time to time. It's a feeling that comes from a thought that we are in danger, in a stressful situation or facing uncertainty.
What you think creates how you feel.
We tend to credit situations as the cause of our anxiety, for instance-COVID-19, deadlines, or Monday mornings but the truth is, none of these things are capable of creating the emotion of anxiety but your thoughts about them are.
Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
It’s a feeling triggered in your body by uncertainty.
Your primitive brain is in charge of fight of flight and uncertainty triggers it to make sure you survive. Cue the anxious feelings.
This reaction was very useful back when we literally had to fight for our lives or avoid eating poisonous berries but our primitive brain hasn't evolved at the rate our society has and we very rarely need to utilize our flight or flight response but it is staying sharp and ready by reacting to every day stressors as though they were life or death.
So how do we begin to manage this problem?
Start by understanding that nothing has gone wrong. You feeling anxious from time to time is a normal response that in no way means you are weak or incapable of handing your current tasks or circumstances.
If you are a high achiever who is focused on creating success, you may find yourself feeling anxious any time you set out to achieve a new goal or take on new responsibilities. It's completely normal and very much a part of the process. Your brain will want to know the specifics. How will you achieve it? What steps will you take? If it's something you've never done before, there will be uncertainty in the how and that's when your brain will want to freak out and think thoughts that create anxiety.
Next, explore what situations trigger anxiety in YOU and make a plan for how you will process your anxiety when it shows up.
We are all different and have different triggers. For example, several of my clients struggle with the Sunday Scaries. After taking a few days off from their work responsibilities, the idea of going back to work and having a week filled with unknowns or important meetings, and deadlines is enough to kick the primitive brain into fight or flight mode. This anxiety response comes on like clockwork, which actually makes it easy to plan for.
Some other events that may trigger anxiety that aren't as repetitive might be:
The best thing you can do to prepare to process the anxiety is to get good at thought work. This is a practice of getting all of your thoughts down on paper so you can look at them objectively and decide which thoughts are serving you and which thoughts you would like to let go of.
When you are faced with a stressful situation that creates anxiety for you, don't resist it or try to push it away. Instead, take some time to get to know the feeling and the thoughts creating it. Processing through the emotion is the only way through it.
Here is a plan to help you move through your anxiety.
How am I feeling right now?
nervous, anxious, scared
Where do I feel these feelings in my body?
My chest feels tight, my heart is racing. It's hard to take a full breath.
What is the situation I am struggling with?
I need to prep for a big meeting I have next week.
What are the thoughts I am having about the meeting that are causing me to feel anxious?
I am not prepared. I don't have all of the information. I don't do well speaking in front of people. My boss is testing me.
Choose one thought that feels the most stressful right now.
I am not prepared.
Is that true?
not really, I've done some prep work
What actions have you taken to prepare?
I've had a team meeting, I've researched my client's spending habits....
What is the worst thing that will happen if you aren't prepared?
I will feel embarrassed.
How do you want to feel instead of feeling anxious?
I want to feel confident.
What do you need to think in order to create the feeling of confidence when you think about the meeting?
I need to think that I have done enough work to contribute to the conversation in an meaningful way,
Do you believe that thought? If not, create a more neutral thought that you can start believing right now.
I don't fully believe it but I do believe that I have started the process of preparing and I still have 2 days to do more research.
How does your body feel when you think that thought?
Some of the tension has lifted. I feel less nervous and can take full breaths again.
After going through that process of asking yourself the questions to identify and change your thoughts, give yourself a minute to embody the new thought. Close your eyes. Take 5 slow, deep breaths and repeat that thought to yourself.
Finally, remember you’re not alone.
Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience from time to time. Nothing has gone wrong. You are a human having a human experience.
Take a deep breath. You've got this.
p.s. Another powerful tool for releasing anxiety is meditation. I've bundled three of my favorite guided meditations for you use when you need to calm in your body and your mind.
Click the image below to access the meditations.
**if you suffer from chronic, debilitating anxiety, seek out help from a medical professional. There are some circumstances where prescribed medication can be helpful.