with Mindset Coaching
So what is anxiety?
Before discussing ways of overcoming anxiety, first we need to define what it actually is. The dictionary meaning for anxiety is: “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.” Often people describe anxiety as a general feeling of fear or worry, surrounded by vague emotions.
Anxiety was a very powerful emotion when humans needed to run from danger. The fight or flight decision was essential when assessing danger. This was survival anxiety. However modern day anxiety doesn’t normally require us to run from danger but we are often feeling high levels of anxiety for smaller things such as body image.
The uncomfortable feelings that accompany anxiety are often exaggerated when anxiety is resisted. If anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness and uncertainty, these symptoms appear to be fairly harmless. When you try to resist feeling these emotions, it often amplifies the emotions, telling the brain you are in extreme danger, making the anxiety worse.
The first way to overcoming anxiety is to accept it. When you accept anxiety, instead of resisting it, you begin to own the emotion. When you own the emotion, you have all the power and with this power you can begin to make steps to changing it.
Anxiety is a feeling in your body caused by a thought in your head. These thoughts are determined by you and your interpretation of a situation. If anxiety is a feeling caused by a thought you are having, it seems realistic that with practice to change your thought, you can also change your anxiety!!
Common ways of handling anxiety
Fight it. When you tell your brain to resist the feelings of anxiety, it is often because of fear of what will happen if anxiety takes over. This fear only gains momentum and takes over completely.
React to it. When you react to anxiety, it is like adding fuel to a fire. Reacting to the emotions of anxiety often results in negative and irrational thoughts. All reactions are created from your current perspective which in times of anxiety, is often distorted.
Avoid it. One way to avoid anxiety is hide behind numbing out the pain. Many people do this by using food to avoid feeling the fear of anxiety. Some other ways to avoid feeling anxiety and to numb out is through alcohol, drugs and even things like TV or Social Media (spending hours on Facebook).
Accepting it in the moment you are experiencing it. A common misconception is by accepting the anxious moment you are handing over control but in fact by accepting, you keep all the power and can ultimately change it.
Recognising you are experiencing anxiety and how it feels in your body will help overcome it. When you are anxious, take a moment or two to write down how your body is feeling. The more detail you can write while you are experiencing it, the more you will begin to understand how to take back control. It is not until the anxiety has passed that you should read what you have written so you can begin to understand, analyse and alter your experiences.
Stages for overcoming anxiety
Stage #1 – Accept it. Anxiety is just a result of a thought you have in your head about a circumstance. Allow the thought and write the thought down. Tell yourself that it is OK that you are feeling anxious. If you feel you need to rush through the emotion, you are probably not accepting it. Give yourself permission to be with anxiety knowing it will not harm you.
Stage #2 – Start to describe how your anxiety is feeling in your body. This is very powerful and helps the mind understand that you are not in danger and the feelings are not as bad as often perceived. Most people never write the feelings down and therefore never gain a new perspective once the anxiety has calmed down.
Stage #3 – Learn how to play with anxiety. When you are feeling anxious, tell your mind to increase the levels of anxiety. Sit and experience it knowing you have deliberately increased your intensity. In another situation, consciously tell your mind to decrease the level and see if you can feel the levels change. By doing this you are teaching your brain that you will accept anxiety but you not allow it to control you.
Stage #4 – Allow time to feel anxious. Often anxiety increases because it is coming at a time that is inconvenient. Each day, tell yourself that you are allowed to feel anxious – you will be OK but try to find a time to delegate towards it. The brain will begin to focus on what you tell it. This takes practice but helps with controlling it.
Stage #5 – Breath. Breath and breath. Breathing is such a quick and effective way to take yourself back to the present moment. While you are breathing , continue to allow the anxiety without trying to fight it. Inhale deeply and exhale the anxiety.
Anxiety is controlled by a thought in your head. Your brain works for you – the boss and will focus on what instructions you give it. If you are screaming to fight the emotion, the brain will do this and all feelings will be exaggerated. If you tell the brain to just feel it – sit with it, you will feel uncomfortable at first because it’s new but you will survive.
How do you handle anxiety?