What is Anxiety:
When it comes to anxiety everyone has a different experience. Some experience racing hearts, changes in body temperature, stomach pains, ruminating thoughts, panic, paralyzing fear, numbness, or disconnection. This list goes on and on. It is something that is a universal experience while also presenting very different in everyone. At the root of all anxiety is fear. Fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of not being enough, fear of death, and so on. Because anxiety can present in a variety of different ways it is important to have several different tools in your toolbox to work through it. It is trial and error until you find the perfect combination that works for you! This combo also needs to remain flexible because as your mindset shifts and grows, so will your tools.
How to Move Through It:
Ground Rule: I want to start with a ground rule before presenting the different strategies. The rule is we must learn to accept anxiety for what it is. Anxiety will never go away 100 percent (and we don’t want it to). In healthy amounts anxiety can be helpful, a tool in itself. It helps us achieve, warn us of danger, push us out of our comfort zones and grow. Okay, now that we’ve accepted that anxiety will always be a part of us, here are some strategies to help minimize impact.
- Breathing Strategy:
YouTube is an amazing resource when it comes to different breathing strategies to help move through anxiety. You may search Bee Breath or Box Breathing to start.
Box Breathing is where you are breathing in through your nose for 4 counts, hold at the top of the breath for 4 counts, exhale through the mouth for 4 counts and hold at the bottom for 4 counts. Then repeat as needed. This helps to shift our nervous systems to a parasympathetic or calm state.
- Challenging Thoughts Strategy:
This CBT strategy is called Putting Your Thoughts on Trial. When an irrational or anxious thought pops up and won’t go away, we can invite it into the court room. Your goal is then to create an argument for AND against the thought. For example:
Say the thought is, “That woman in the grocery store thinks I am stupid because I forgot my wallet in the car”
Solid Factual Evidence for: She saw that I forgot my wallet
Solid Factual Evidence against: She did not say that I was stupid
Just in these two small statements we can see that there is no evidence to support that the woman thought I was stupid, but instead my core beliefs are leading me to think this. I can then move on to meeting the need of the core belief and providing myself with compassion (see below).
- Compassion Strategy:
Anxiety tries to tell us that the thing we fear most is true. The amazing thing is that when we understand this, we can start to teach ourselves that this isn’t the case. This is also an act of building self-esteem. Taking the example above:
When anxiety tries to tell me that the woman behind me thinks I am stupid because I forgot my wallet in the car, I can meet the fear where it is.
I first can acknowledge what the anxious thought is trying to warn me of. Anxiety is trying to protect us, it is saying take cover, an insult might be coming. Then, I can remind myself that everyone makes mistakes, that I am human, and perfection is not expected. I can honor my intentions to be the best that I can be while also holding space for mistakes that WILL happen. When we meet our anxiety with compassion, we take away the fear of not being enough, being left, being alone. Compassion is power.
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