Steps for Coping with Anxiety
Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences. We only experience Anxiety about things we care about. It’s a call to action that says “hey, this is important to us! What can we do to prepare for it?” When we acknowledge (but don’t hand over our power to) Anxiety, we can leverage its influence to take action in our lives.
The goal is not to get rid of Anxiety, but rather to turn down the volume, so to speak. To take our power back from Anxiety. To say, “I see you, I feel you, and you are welcome here. But you do not call the shots.” Here are 4 simple steps to taking back your power from Anxiety!
1) Be Mindful
Mindful or Mind-Full, what’s the difference? “Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re experiencing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.” Mind-Full, on the other hand, is a having mind that is full of a thousand different thoughts, each more stressful and distracting than the last.
When you notice Anxiety starting to take over, ask yourself “Where do I feel this?” Is it a knot or a pit in your stomach? A tightening in your throat? A pressure in your chest? When you find it, close your eyes and focus on it. Can you make it bigger? Can you make it smaller? Ask yourself “What is this feeling telling me about what is important in my life?” Then ask yourself “What does this feeling need from me to feel validated?” Mindfulness takes practice, patience, and self-compassion.
2) Make An Agreement With Yourself To Be Uncomfortable
The optimal human condition is not a state of pure happiness and joy – being human is hard and painful! To truly live, you need to be able to experience and cope with the whole spectrum of emotions. Make an agreement with yourself: “I agree to be uncomfortable sometimes, this is okay, and it will pass.” Say it out loud or write it down and stick it on your mirror, what ever you need to make it real.
3) Ground Yourself
The harder you try to not feel Anxiety, the more power you handover. Instead of fighting Anxiety, try bringing your awareness out of your mind and into your body and the world around you right now. Look around the room, name (out loud) 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel/touch (not emotions), 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Focus on your breathing, making sure that you are taking deep breathes into your belly, not your chest. Anything to engage with your 5 senses. A hug, the voice of someone you care about or your favorite band, the smell of your favorite essential oil, the taste and texture of a piece of gum, find what works for you!
4) Willing Hands & Half Smile
Last, sit with your palms face-up and resting on your knees, the bed beside you, or the arms of your chair. This symbolizes a willingness and an openness to the experiences that life brings. Next, smile. It doesn’t have to be a big smile, just a half-smile will do. This triggers the neural pathways in our brain to release those feel-good chemicals (e.g., serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins). When you are happy, you smile – but the pathway works both ways. So, when you smile, you are activating those same ‘happy’ neural pathways.
The more you practice these steps, the quicker you will learn to calm your mind and body. You can practice when you are alone, in your car (maybe keep your eyes open for this one), or walking down the street. Experiment, find what works for you, and do it often!