Anxiety – The Article
So, tell me, why did I agree to write an article for a newsletter on anxiety? I thought it would be easy, turned out I had more to learn about myself.
I’ve been a writer most of my life; I love it, it’s in my heart. So then why is writing this article so difficult for me? I’m capable. I’m good at it. Why am I so afraid of it?
This time I chose to write differently. I chose to be more vulnerable. In that choice, anxiety came on full throttle and I thought I had already worked on this before. Well … no, turns out it’s coming up for me again and it is really kicking my ass this time.
Is it going to be good enough? Am I going to meet my deadline? How qualified am I to write about this? Am I a fraud? I am challenged by these thoughts daily.
I know but I don’t know, this is what I’ve learned. Should I trust what I’ve learned? Am I on the right path? Should I open something that doesn’t need to be opened? Is it the worst most painful side of things I need to delve into to heal and change my life so I can connect with others?
All my life I have been working towards this moment.
An Article Can Cause This Much Anxiety?
At the same time, my life is in transition again.
I broke up with my boyfriend, haven’t been able to find a job or really get my business off the ground which I have been preparing for years. There is no more reality, no life left from the one I knew. I get so stuck inside of this fear and panic, it is bleeding out of my pores.
This article brought everything up, the crying, screaming, not being able to see through the tears. I just want to throw up. I can’t breathe. I lock down and I white out; I can’t see, I can’t hear, I can’t think.
I release some of it and more comes up. I break down, I crawl into a fetal position, I can’t move. My heart feels like it has been ripped to shreds.
What is going on here?
Yes, being human can be downright messy when I come to what I refer to as my dark night of the soul. I am now begging for relief, guidance and anything that will help me move forward, it isn’t a pretty sight.
I am separate from everyone. I feel invisible and alone like no one else would understand. I feel judged because I can’t get my shit together.
The only thing left is a dark nothingness.
My life has come full circle.
Resistance and Overthinking
I can feel the resistance in me; resistance to the writing and even to the emotions that are coming up.
I am at a point where I question my very existence.
I torture myself with my thoughts; those thoughts never stop. They don’t go away. What’s my next step? What happens to me now? Where do I go? Where do I stay? Now I am overthinking and analyzing everything.
I’m smart and I can’t figure out what to do.
I want to connect, yet at the same time, I fear the connection. No one gets to know the real me, therefore, no one can judge me, and no one can hurt me. Because of the need to feel safe, I’ve been stuck in self-protection and self-preservation my whole life.
I remember someone saying to me, “this too shall pass.”
Stepping Out of the Fear and Into the Mind-Body Intelligence
Does any of this ring true with you? You want to change your life and at the same time are resisting it. I am not only talking about resisting moving forward, I also resist emotions and feelings that come up to protect myself.
Our bodies, in every case, will let you know when it’s time to take a look at your life and it happens through your emotions; anxiety happens to be just one of the emotions the body uses. The body has an intelligence and guidance system built in to take us through life, all we get to do is listen.
The trick is knowing that it is not this big booming voice or message we seem to expect to tell us what to do or which direction to go, it starts out subtle. When we don’t listen, it gets louder and louder until it gets painful; just like what I went through.
Vulnerability and Anxiety
Until recently, I thought that if I am vulnerable, I can get hurt and be taken advantage of. I learned not to trust; myself or the universe.
Generationally, these lessons of vulnerability were passed on and I didn’t know the true meaning of being vulnerable. Working through it for me has been quite a challenge.
In my generation, the baby busters and baby boomers, the modeled behavior from our parents and grandparents were all about life or death. The experiences they had with WWII and The Depression were exciting times where it was all about survival. Being vulnerable was considered a weakness, the mentality was that you had to be strong to survive.
Finally, our generation now understands the new meaning through Brene Brown. Vulnerability is about connection; huh, imagine that. Being honest with ourselves and honest with each other to connect at a deeper level. The question remains for me, how do I move away from fear into vulnerability and connection? This is what I struggle with.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Brene Brown asks Oprah what she thinks the definition of vulnerability is. This is the answer she got: “Being willing to express the truth no matter what. The truth of who you are, the essence at your core of what you’re feeling at any given moment. It’s being able to open up your soul and let it flow so that other people can see their soul in yours.”
I have been my own worst enemy.
I am now my own savior.
Anxiety – The Basics
You must first recognize and be aware of what is happening to you.
At its essence, anxiety is not dangerous, although, to some, it may feel that way. It is, like any other feeling we get, an alert to our brain that something is amiss. We have systems in our bodies which are aimed at getting us prepared for immediate action with the purpose to protect us. It is normal.
The Mechanism of Anxiety
The mechanism to help make us aware of a threat is called the fight/flight/freeze response. In its original form, it was strictly about survival.
We experience anxiety physically – with symptoms of dizziness, sweating, heart palpitations, chest pain and difficulty breathing; emotionally – feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, nervousness, and panic; mentally – thoughts about something being terribly wrong or dangerous. The energetic and spiritual are affected as well; it is all-inclusive. Our symptoms are not a result of anxiety or an emotion in and of itself, but our reaction to it.
This is imperative to know because when we are aware of what is going on and understand it, we can come from a more empowered perspective so we can change things in our lives. This is important to moving forward.
Our ancestor’s threats were much different than ours. We have a part of our brain which originates from them and automatically responds to being chased by a tiger. Has anyone been chased by a tiger lately?
Due to daily life stresses in present time. This instinct is now on overdrive and is stuck in the “on” position; it is running our bodies ragged. Side effects include inflammation, more rapid aging, less happiness, less joy, and our performance and decision-making abilities suffer because of this. There’s a lot going on inside us.
The paradox is that the very thing that is there to protect us from danger is now creating the danger to our health and our lives.
No Tigers … Overstimulation
We are overstimulated by information on our phones, the internet, television, the world; our senses are being flooded with it. We have less tolerance with just feeling uncomfortable and that alone triggers anxiety. Even small things like being cut off in traffic, make us over-react.
When larger experiences happening everywhere we look, such as our political environment, economics, our own finances, family and health issues, hurricanes and other major weather events or natural disasters, etc., occur in our lives, they can disrupt our bodies even more. With modern technology, it is in our faces 24-7.
Overthinking or Quieter Mind
What about this habit of overthinking? The Buddhists call this Monkey Mind, the worrying, stressful type of constant mind chatter. Perhaps you recognize this as the excessive need of your own mind to analyze, evaluate and replay certain personal life events over and over again. You are not alone in this.
This can make us feel trapped or locked into an endless spiral of unhelpful, mental activity without any clear sign of relief. Quieting our minds is a goal of getting past all of this.
Getting Comfortable with Discomfort – Moving Forward from Feeling Stuck
First, you will need to accept that you’re in the middle of this before your body can get out of it.
The goal is not to banish the resulting anxiety from body and mind; rather, to learn to be centered and thrive. Waiting to thrive when conditions outside yourself are perfect is not the answer; they will never be perfect.
One thing we can do is learn to realign our perceptions and experiences of anxiety. With acceptance, we learn to be at peace with discomfort instead of being afraid of it. Acknowledge it as part of life and our experiences.
Next, we get to change how the brain reacts to anxiety. We have the ability to turn on other parts of the brain that do not have a direct relationship to fear. Using our other senses such as sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch will help dilute the power of this fear response.
Instead of becoming overwhelmed and disempowered by our response system, we are now able to find a way to take control of ourselves and move out of fear. The goal is to lead us into better performance in the workplace, relationships, health, and other things in our lives.
Some Tools to Help
Now that you know what anxiety really is and that the automatic body response is not dangerous or life-threatening, the first step is awareness. Simply being aware will give you a feeling of confidence and the ability to manage what is happening. Once we manage it, we step out of it, learn from it and then have the ability to move forward.
Using awareness and observation lead to the following tools. Although it doesn’t look like it now, it gets easier and works faster every time we work through it. The secret is learning to trust yourself and surrender to what is happening. Not trusting, in and of itself leads to anxiety. I will discuss this more in another article.
- Meditation – a. Sit on a chair, cross-legged on the floor or a position that is comfortable for you. b. Focus on an aspect of breathing, i.e. breathing in through your nose and out of your mouth or watching your belly or chest rising and falling as you inhale and exhale. (There is no right way, only your way.) c. Begin to widen your focus and become aware of sounds, sensations in the body, thoughts, anything that comes up. d. Consider each thought or sensation that comes up without judging it good or bad. Sometimes I will say to the thought, “thanks for sharing.” You can use this statement if your mind starts to race or return your focus back to your breathing. Continue until you feel calmer.
- Yang Style Yoga – I find this type of yoga is actually more beneficial to calming me down than Yin Yoga styles. Yang yoga is active, while Yin is passive. Using our muscles actively also release pent-up energies. This is very important to release stress.
- Deep Breathing – Already mentioned, deep breathing can be done anywhere, even at work. Taking time out for deep breathing. It is essential to the health of our bodies. Most of us don’t breathe deeply enough; we are prone to shallow breathing. It is simple enough to just sit still, take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a count of three to four seconds and then force the air out of your lungs as hard as you can. The benefits of doing deep breathing is that it encourages full oxygen exchange. It will slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure; exactly what is needed when feeling anxious.
- Running/Walking/Exercise – Our bodies are made to move and I believe that another reason there is so much anxiety in our culture is that we don’t move enough. Any form of exercise is hugely beneficial, as long as you are doing it to the point of exhaustion. The body resets itself and the chemicals from the fight/flight/freeze response are released when we do this. Exercise not only affects physical health it also helps mental health. It relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood.
I have only added a few things that have assisted me in working through anxiety. There are many other ways to help us and they all work for each of us differently.
With these relatively simple techniques, you will find that we can powerfully train our everyday conscious minds to automatically move towards the more productive state of enjoying the real sense of confidently felt emotional detachment from these everyday occurrences in our lives. After all, it is the emotional components of anxiety, the stresses, and worries that we feel which we are seeking to ultimately change.
Release yourself from the chronic businesses of any excessive day-to-day thinking patterns so that you may positively benefit in all ways in mind, body, and spirit.