Anxiety Solutions Now
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Whether the heart-pounding sensation during a job interview or the jittery moment before a social event, anxiety can be incredibly uncomfortable. Mother Nature actually intended it to feel that way. Anxiety can motivate us to perform at our highest level, help us focus, and push us to take action in potentially dangerous situations (Ever heard of the fight or flight instinct?).
But for some people, anxiety can feel completely debilitating. Apprehensive thoughts can create scary physical symptoms, like a pounding heart or shortnessof breath. In turn, those physical symptoms exacerbate the apprehensive thoughts. Then more symptoms, more thoughts, more symptoms, more thoughts, and then… BOOM… there’s enough adrenaline coursing through the body to fuel a rocket ship to the moon.
At least that is how panic feels. (click here to see the symptoms of anxiety and panic)
Have you every experienced this? Do you experience it regularly? The good news is that you are not alone. Not only are anxiety disorders extremely common, but they are also highly treatable. Once you come to accept and understand your anxiety, you can learn to better manage it. Empowered Life Solutions can teach you to live life abundantly, full of hope, through a series of anxiety management tools.
Five Steps to Begin Managing your Anxiety now:
|1. Accept Your Anxiety|
|2. Connect Your Thoughts To Your Anxiety|
|3. Return To The Present Moment – Deep Breathing|
|4. Go With The Anxiety, Not Against It|
|5. Exercise And Relax|
Accept Your Anxiety
If you’re like most people with anxiety, you probably plan much of your life around your worries. Perhaps you avoid driving on the highway or refuse to visit public places. Maybe you put off important projects or avoid meeting new people. With twenty years of Clinical Social Work experience, I have witnessed hundreds of clients whose lives were held hostage by anxiety and panic. Only when they learned to work with their anxiety, not against it, could they begin to regain control. The same can happen for you. Learning about anxiety will give you confidence that anxiety is manageable.
The first step to managing anxiety is accepting that you have it. Since the physical symptoms of anxiety are diverse and confusing, it can be difficult to link them to the word “anxiety”. Likewise, many people feel ashamed, weak, or inadequate because they experience anxiety and panic. It is estimated that 60% of adults in America experience anxiety, which means that those who don’t struggle with it are actually a minority. You are not weak, or even unusual, if you have anxiety. You are just having a normal, though difficult, human experience. Acknowledging your anxiety puts you in a position to understand it. Understanding your anxiety gives you the power do something about it.
[learn_more caption=”The Truth about Stress and Anxiety”] – 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
– 75% to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
-Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
– The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
– The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.[/learn_more]
“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened” ~ Mark Twain
Connect Your Thoughts to Your Anxiety
Mark Twain had great perspective when he said, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” As humans, we fret about things that will probably never happen. Then, if by chance they actually do happen, they end up not being nearly as catastrophic as we had originally anticipated.
Out of the sixty thousand thoughts we think each day, most are worry-related. No wonder 60% of the adult population reports that anxiety interrupts their day-to-day lives. Our minds are out of control, constantly guiding us down scary and irrational pathways. But Mark Twain was correct in saying that most of the things we worry about don’t ever come to fruition. Our heads are filled with worrisome, fragmented, thoughts that have little connection to reality.
Anxiety and panic are fear-based. We are afraid of not being good enough. We are afraid of embarrassing ourselves or of being rejected by others. We take all that fearful thinking and make it into “what if’”s. Anxiety and “what if” thinking are best friends.
“What if I don’t pass the test?”
“What if I am late?”
“What if I pass out while I am giving my presentation?”
“What if others think I’m a loser?”
“What if I can’t sleep tonight?”
It would be great if you could just say, “OK, I got it. My thinking is causing my anxiety, so I’ll just think positive thoughts and everything will be fine.” If only it were that easy. Anyone who experiences anxiety and panic knows that anxiety won’t give up without a fight. If we tell ourselves not to think something, we will only think it harder. If I suggest that you not think about elephants, all you will think about is Dumbo and salted peanuts.
Also, our bodies don’t distinguish between our thoughts and actual reality. If we think something, then it becomes true for us. If our bodies sense danger, either from something real or imagined, the response is the same: our brains send signals to our bodies to react.
So the trick is to learn to not take your thoughts at face value. They are just thoughts. Jot them down so you can have some distance from them. Look at each thought as separate from yourself and think, “Would this thought be true if someone else where thinking it? Is this thought really logical?”
In the Empower Life Solutions instructional videos, we will explore more deeply the relationship between your thoughts and your anxiety. But for now, just understanding that there is a connection will help you on your path to recovery.
Return to the Present Moment – Deep Breathing
Anxiety is all about time and thought. We take our fears of past experiences and project them onto the future. For example, a person who had trouble sleeping the previous evening might worry about not sleeping the next. I recommend returning to the present moment. Fear and anxiety cannot thrive in “the now” because right now you are doing just fine. You will learn more about this in the section on Living in the Present in the instructional videos, but you don’t have to understand all the details to get started now.
The easiest way to ground one’s self in the present is by slow, controlled breathing. When we are anxious, our breath is shallow and fast-paced. This mimics the fast-paced thoughts that tell us we aren’t good enough or that say “what if” such and such happens. A few controlled breaths will provide more oxygen to our brains. It reminds us that we are in control, not our thoughts. Breathing is happening in the here and now. We are never breathing in the past and we are never breathing in the future. Simply focusing on breathing slows the anxiety down.
Here’s how you do it. Breathe in for three counts; breathe out for three counts. Do it thee times. This is called 333 breathing. I know this sounds so simple that it couldn’t possibly be effective, but focusing on your breathing brings you to a place of conscious awareness rather than the thoughts running the show.
Practice the 333 breathing throughout your day. Focus on breathing when you are stuck in heavy traffic. Focus on breathing when you come home and the house is a mess. Focus on breathing when your boss walks into your office and hands you another seemingly impossible assignment. Focus on breath when calling the insurance company about an unpaid claim.
“That which you resist — persists” ~ Carl Jung
Go with the Anxiety – Not Against it
Experiencing a panic attack can feel overwhelming and confusing. Your heart races. Your palms sweat. Your body shakes. You feel like you might die. Once you have an experience like that, you obviously don’t want to repeat it. You do everything you can to prevent it. The attempt to avoid it soon brings anxiety about having anxiety and panic.
Carl Jung suggested, “That which you resist – persists.” What did he mean by that?
When my daughter was in high school, she talked me into inner tubing down a local river with her. We had just started our adventure when she accidentally floated into a large, jagged tree limb. It punctured her tube and she was forced to cling to the very limb that did the damage. Concerned for her safety, I tried to paddle upstream to her. The amount of energy it took to go against the current was amazing. I paddled and paddled and made almost no progress. I finally got close enough to yell for her to let go and float downstream. Such a simple solution. Obediently, she relaxed and let the current carry her right to me. Although there was a bit more adventure ahead of us on that trip, we learned a valuable lesson. It is easier to go with the current than against it.
The same is true with anxiety. You can put a lot of energy into not experiencing anxiety, but you don’t get very far. When you say “I can’t be happy until anxiety is gone” you are paddling against the current. Not only does the anxiety persist, but it gets worse. Only when you learn to float with the experience, rather than against it, can you truly overcome your anxiety.
Let’s take that same concept and apply it to panic. Panic is so uncomfortable that it can feel like your very survival is at stake. In addition to the pounding heart and shortness of breath, you might experience trembling, nausea, or dizziness. You could also feel some numbness, a choking sensation, chills, or hot flashes. Even though panic feels horrendous, the symptoms themselves are not dangerous at all. You are not going crazy and you are certainly not dying.
Whenever you get a cold or the flu, while definitely not fun, you know that your body will produce the necessary antibodies and you will feel better within a few days. When you experience panic, however, racing thoughts tell you that you are always going to feel that way. You start to have anxiety about the panic, which in turn creates more anxiety and more panic—a hideous cycle. The good news is that panic usually only lasts 45 minutes to an hour. If you knew that the flu would only last that long, you’d think it was a piece of cake.
Just as my daughter had to release the jagged branch and flow with the current to get to safety, you must flow with the current of panic to overcome it. “It is just panic. It will pass. The symptoms are uncomfortable, but I will be okay.” As you adopt this frame of mind, you hold the ultimate trump card, not your anxiety.
Relaxation and Exercise
Anxiety and panic cause tension in your body. Your muscles clench up as your mind races with worries. Relaxation will calm your mind and body. It helps you feel in control. I recommend that you practice relaxation at least once a day. Just as you wouldn’t expect to play a piano concert in Carnegie Hall without first practicing, you shouldn’t wait until you are having a full panic attack to try to “just relax”. It won’t work.
In the Empowered Life Solutions Instruction Videos, I will lead you through a variety of relaxation exercises and guided imageries. To get you started now, however, I will teach you a simple breathing meditation. Like learning the notes when starting piano lessons, this beginning meditation skill will give you a starting point for future relaxation techniques.
Another important tool for floating with your anxiety is exercise. Remember, your body responds to life-stressors by releasing adrenaline. This is useful in life-threatening situations (like when you need to jump out of the path of an oncoming car), but can be extremely annoying when all you are going through is anxiety. Exercise allows a natural outlet for the adrenalin. It also releases happy endorphins. It brings a feeling of well-being and control. You don’t have to start a rigorous exercise program, but begin by taking a good walk. Walking outdoors is even better because you get the added benefit of connecting to nature—which brings a healing energy all of its own. (Remember to consult with your physician when starting an exercise program.)
Now you have five simple steps to help you work on your anxiety right now. Those five steps are:
1. Accept Your Anxiety
2. Connect Your Thoughts to Your Anxiety
3. Return to the Present Moment – Deep Breathing
4. Go With the Anxiety – Not Against it
5. Exercise and Relax
These are just the beginning steps on an empowering journey. To learn more about gaining the full program offered by Empowered Life Solutions, click on the Instructional video’s button. I applaud your courage to take these first steps towards learning empowering solutions for your anxiety and panic.