Dealing with Underlying Anxiety (Part 2)
Hello again! Thank you for coming back and reading the second part of "Underlying Reasons You Might Be Anxious." In the first article, we discussed the difference between stress and anxiety, as well as four emotionally rooted reasons you may feel anxiety more often than not. You might have recognized yourself in one, two, or all of the four reasons. I hope you have given time for that information and corresponding realization to simmer and digest within your system. If you just read the first part a short time ago, please take some days to process and increase self awareness incrementally before reading this article.
You do not need to rush your process of healing anxiety. Doing personal healing work is a slow, gradual, and nonlinear process. Some parts are easier that others and you need to celebrate the victories along the way. It isn't enough to just 'know' why you feel, think, and do how you do, although that is the start of any journey. You also need to practice sustainable ways to shift perspective, environment, and relationships to be a healthier you. I hope this article will help you accomplish that. As you read on, the suggestions made are achieved through practice, consistent meeting of pain, and rising through resilience. As my incredibly resilient daughter (that I have MUCH to learn from) says, "You got this, mama!"
Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say
The practice of expressing your truth is one of the most transformative steps toward authenticity and healing if you struggle with people pleasing or any other social anxiety. When you say what you mean and mean what you say, you need to slow down and really be intentional about how you communicate; both what you say and how you listen. Since people pleasing is an emotional reaction, slowing down creates the space you need to respond, instead of react. At first, this feels uncomfortable and will be an adjustment. In the long run, learning to pause and listen to your genuine response makes for a more authentic way of being in relationships. You can set boundaries, say No with confidence, and release the expectation of yourself to impress or care-take others.
Self compassion is the art of treating yourself like you would treat the most precious, marvelous, worthy, and honorable human in the whole universe. For most people, this is a difficult and complicated process....at least that is what we tell ourselves. Self-compassion gives you the permission to make mistakes and learn from them, instead of internalizing them to mean something about how good of a person you are. When you practice self compassion, you can start to look at all situations and emotions in the gray (or multi-colored and sparkly) instead of black or white. This makes anxiety lessen because you realize that nothing is perfect, just a version of good enough.
Mindfulness and Gratitude
Anxiety is often a symptom of thinking too far or too much about the future, or ruminating about the past. Mindfulness is a practice that brings you to the present moment, which is the only one that actually matters since you can't change the past and can't predict the future. All mindfulness requires is that you pay attention to what is happening NOW. It does not require the moment to be positive or meet criteria to be good enough to pay attention to. If the present moment is challenging and difficult to tolerate, you can also add gratitude to the mix. I know it sounds cliche, but gratitude really is the antidote to fear and frustration. Practice making the choice to see and connect with what you can be grateful for, even the smallest and seemingly insignificant things.
Grounding exercises are some of my favorites to IMMEDIATELY reduce the severity of anxiety. If you notice yourself going into a place of panic or freeze, (like when you are asked a question in front of a group of people and you don't know the answer) practice the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 exercise. Name the following out loud or in your head in as much detail as possible....
5 things you see
4 things you touch
3 things you hear
2 things you smell
1 thing you taste
This practice orients you to the hear (ha! get it?) and now. Your brain cannot go to a panic place as easily if it is lit up with sensory information. Use this practice anytime you feel that sinking feeling in your stomach, your mind going blank, or feeling intense anger or frustration. It is also helpful in social situations where you feel nervous or on edge.
Do The Inner Work
I would be remiss if I did not mention, and stress the importance of, how important going soul deep in your healing work is. Whether you are rehabilitating an emotional wound, breaking hurtful patterns, or harmonizing your body and mind, it is crucial that you go beneath just changing the superficial behaviors. We can white-knuckle through any behavior change, but that does not mean we have gotten to the root of healing. To heal means "to become sound or healthy again." (ie. we can put a bandaid on a cut so we don't see it, but that does not mean the wound is gone). There is huge beauty in meeting our emotional pain head on and working through the yucky parts to see real light, not just flipping a behavior switch to look like light.
Go to Therapy
Want to really work through your stuff? Go see a professional. I know, I know....you don't have time, you don't have the money, you don't see the point in airing your dirty laundry, you can do it yourself.....yada yada yada. We make so many excuses and create reasons as to why we can't face what we need to face....AND....those just add to the bag of pain you already might carry. Therapy can help you gain a new level of self awareness, provide necessary education and normalizing of your experiences, and foster a container of safety, unconditional compassion, and gentle coaching. Therapists are not there to tell you what to do or how to live your life. Rather, they are there to hold space for you to listen to your own intelligence and sensory feedback to grow and heal.
I, too, struggle with anxiety and the above are ways that I have found to be helpful in lessening anxiety both personally and professionally in my work as a therapist. Anxiety is not something you just have to live with and it is treatable. Believing in yourself and your inherent worth, as well as deserving a life full of joy and untangled emotions, will help you on this journey not matter where you are on your path. Sending you all healing energy and love.