I have a lot of personal experience with this. Anxiety can come in lots of different forms. Some can’t fall asleep because their minds won’t quiet down. Others wake up with their heart pounding and this intense feeling of fear. Some people go through their whole day with this background noise of fear and being on edge. And still others are so full of anxiety that they can’t even get out of bed. I’ve experienced all of these and more.
Of course all of us experience anxiety at one point or another. But I want to talk about what you can do when you have this unnecessary, irrational anxiety which gets in the way of you enjoying life. And the good news is there are ways to reduce your anxiety and to live a more peaceful and joyful life. Let me give you three.
The first is to get into the present moment. A lot of our anxiety is caused by what I call “future tripping”. Our minds are feverishly thinking about the future, what might happen (or what will probably happen), instead of just being here in this moment. For example, earlier this week I had a big meeting for my career. I was feeling a lot of anxiety about it because I was preoccupied with what might happen. ”Will it go well?” ”Will I look like an idiot?” And then someone reminded me that it wasn’t happening yet, and that right in this moment I was fine and there was nothing I could do about it now.
This is different than “just don’t worry about it”. ”Just don’t worry about it” doesn’t work because it is a negative statement. It says stop doing what you’re doing. But it doesn’t offer you an alternative. Getting into the present moment is an active process. You have to actually do something. Try for a moment to close your eyes and put all your focus on your breath. Notice how quickly your mind goes to some thought. And notice what you have to do, what kind of effort it takes, to interrupt that thought and bring your focus back to your breathing. That’s getting into the present moment. It’s a skill that we must practice.
The second thing you can do is figure out what you’re really scared of. Even in generalized, all pervasive anxiety, our mind is telling us a story that is causing us fear. And that story is often untrue. This took a long time for me to figure out. In High School I pretty much had a constant state of anxiety going on. It wasn’t “about” anything. I was just anxious and on edge all the time. It took 11 years before I finally realized that this generalized anxiety was a fear of being unlovable. I was constantly afraid that I would do something, or not do something, which would “prove” I was not worthy of love. But I don’t want it to take you 11 years to figure out what you’re scared of. Just try to name one thing you’re scared of. It can be something that seems “too small”. Get a partner to help you with this. Tell them what you’re scared of. Their instruction is to do one thing, ask you the same question over and over again “and why is that scary?” Have them ask you that question after every answer you give for 7 minutes. At some point in those 7 minutes you’ll probably be surprised by what you say. That’s the story your mind is telling.
Finally, notice how anxiety involves a high amount of energy in your body. Remember your physics class “energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but can change form”. Ignoring that energy in your body is like trying to destroy it. This sounds counterintuitive, but what you need to do is go into the energy. But how? Well notice where you feel the energy in your body. Is it in your chest? Your arms? Your legs? Your shoulders? Where do you feel it? Once you identify where it is in your body, allow that part of your body to just express the energy. If it’s in your legs go for a run. If it’s in your arms shake them out. If it’s in your shoulders roll them. Do something that allows the energy to change form, to be expressed and discharged.
There are lots of other ways I know of to help you reduce your anxiety. And the problem with anxiety is it often makes it difficult for us to focus on our own. We often need help to stay focused with any of these interventions. If you’d like some support, please feel free to contact me. 🙂
KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.