How to manage anxiety
Anxiety (and its siblings fear, worry, panic) is an emotion that shows up frequently in my session room. So in this blog article, I’d like to talk about anxiety so you can get a clearer understanding of what goes on “behind the curtain” based on what I’ve learned, and some ideas of how to manage it. I won’t be going into anxiety caused by trauma and neurodiversity because those are special issues that are outside of the scope of this post. The anxiety I’m referring to is the day-to-day type, which can be overcome with some help.
What causes anxiety
Well, there’s no single clear and definite cause of anxiety. Doctors, researchers and mental health experts say a variety of factors come into play. Such as genetic predisposition, social/family environment, chronic health issues, medications, nutritional deficiencies, mental habits and personality. They agree that stress is the most common trigger that sets it off.
What I’ve observed is that anxiety gets activated easily when you haven’t had enough food, hydration, sleep, relaxation or fun. In that suboptimal state, an offhand remark, an unpleasant reaction or an unexpected and unwanted situation can trigger deeply hidden pain points.
Deeply hidden pain points can cause anxiety
Deeply hidden pain points are things like negative memories, unhealed parts, core negative beliefs and trapped negative emotions. They’re created through the not-so-great experiences which are part of life: embarassing, humiliating, shameful, shocking and frightening.
Most people instinctively shove those feelings out of sight because they’re uncomfortable to deal with. Or mull over and over what happened and get stuck. Or, blow them out of proportion. When the pain points don’t get resolved, they can cause anxiety. Because they’re like a niggling pain, letting you know something isn’t right, but you can’t figure out the cause so you can’t fix it.
Unless you’re born with an intuitive knowing of how to handle bad, anxiety-inducing life experiences in a healthy way, this is a skill that needs to be learned. The good news is that you can.
How to manage anxiety on your own
Below are some suggestions which can help you cope with anxiety when it comes:
1. Ground yourself
When you’re in the throes of anxiety, stop thinking!
Focus on your senses instead:
-Look at something near or far and notice all the details
-Put your hands under running water and feel the coolness
-Hold an object and feel all its textures
-Listen intently to the sounds around you
-Smell the aroma of your coffee
-Savor the taste of your snack
Noticing what your senses are picking up grounds you in your body and physical reality. Do this until you feel your entire body calm down.
When you’re more grounded, you can start to unpack the anxiety. Imagine that you’re with a kind friend who’s curious about you and explain to him/her what happened. Hold a compassionate, judgement free zone while doing this!
-What made you anxious?
-What thoughts were you thinking?
-What emotions did you feel?
-Why did you think/feel that way?
-How did your body feel?
You might discover parts of you that are angry, hurt, sad, scared, etc. and want to be heard. What do they want you to know? Talk with them as if you’re their friend, parent or mentor and really listen. You might gain some very valuable insights from this dialogue.
3. Check in
Come back to the present and notice what’s different for you now.
-How has your perception changed?
-Why did it change?
-What can you tell yourself so you don’t automatically slip into anxiety next time?
Change your anxious behavior patterns
When clients become more aware of what’s causing their anxiety, I’ve noticed they get a sense of relief. They understand better what’s going on so they feel less helpless. This is half the battle won! The other half is changing your behavior.
Being anxious is very similar to a habit (here’s a good podcast that breaks it down). By getting anxious, you trick your brain into believing you’re problem solving or preparing for the worst. Even if you don’t come up with any solutions, your brain gets a reward signal for “thinking a lot”. That action-reward feedback loop creates a circuit in the brain which becomes automated the more you use it… just like a habit.
To break the circuit, you need to dig a little deeper.
Is it possible you want more:
-Connection with someone?
-Control over things?
These are some examples of basic needs which may have been neglected, causing feelings of anxiety.
Take care of your unmet basic needs
If there are any basic needs that need attention, now’s the best time to truly take care of them.
Some things you could do are:
-Talk to yourself differently, notice the good among the bad
-Shift your perspective, have a bigger picture or longer view of things
-Set boundaries, internally and/or externally
-Ask for help, you don’t have to shoulder everything
-Say no or let go, some things are not necessary
-Strive for good enough, nothing can ever be perfect
All these actions help you develop the resilience you need to overcome anxiety. Note: this requires practice! Be kind to yourself, maybe even rope in a friend or a coach to be your moral support as you go on this learning journey.
Energy clearing also helps
I find that the biggest barriers to changing anxious behavior are the deeply hidden pain points I mentioned earlier. They act as unconscious mental blocks and show themselves in the reasons why you can’t do X or it’s too hard to do Y. They can also be stubbornly hard to heal on your own!
This is where having yourself energetically “tidied up” by an energy healer or practitioner can help. These practitioners have techniques which can tap into the subconscious mind. This is helpful because the deep pain points are often buried there, affecting you unconsciously. By clearing, healing or reprogramming the pain points, you free up more mental bandwidth to make the behavior changes you need.
After reading this far, I hope you’re beginning to see that being anxious is a way to cope with uncomfortable life experiences, and can become habitual. Good news is, there are steps you can take to manage these experiences in a way that’s healthier and more self empowering. Such as being aware of your unmet basic needs and taking care of them, and healing or integrating deeply hidden pain points.
I hope this was helpful for you in navigating your journey through anxiety! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me a message. I’m also happy to offer a complimentary call if you’d like to discuss this further – you can reach out to me here.