First of all, anything that I suggest is something that I’ve tried and that has worked for me. I recovered from Panic Disorder (and a stint of Agoraphobia) back in 2007 using these tactics. Now, I was very lucky to have been surrounded by people who cared and were incredibly patient and supportive of me. I was working at an out-patient rehab at the time, so I had the support and guidance from amazing co-workers and mentors. That’s important. I wasn’t alone…
But, rest assured that I’m not just another person talking about anxiety, who’s not actually ever dealt with it. I use what you’re about to read in my daily life and have been using these techniques with my clients for years. They’re going to sound a bit non-conventional to some of you….In my experience, Convention doesn’t always work 🙂
1) Stop treating Anxiety like it’s some foreign entity that’s invaded your body– Recognize that you have or your environment has done something to cause it.
Anxiety doesn’t just magically appear out of nowhere. Even when it seems like it does, it doesn’t. ANXIETY IS A SYMPTOM that something is not aligned in your life, that you’re stressed or that something in your life needs to change. Doctors will tell you that it’s “medical” or “chemical” and that’s fine, but that doesn’t offer any solution except a medical or chemical one. If my doctor had had it his way, I would have been popping Klonopin every time I had a panic attack. I refused his advice (because I knew better) and refused the prescription (because I knew better) and opted to explore what the SOURCE of my panic and anxiety was. I went to therapy, sought healers, journaled, got to know myself, screamed a lot, ran a lot, but discovered a lot along the way. Sure it takes longer, and requires more work, but when you recover this way, you don’t need a crutch and the problem will resolve itself completely. Plus you develop the skill of overcoming anxiety, which is a long term skill that will certainly come in handy again.
Self awareness is your friend. When you discover what it is that YOU are doing to cause the anxiety, what choices YOU are making to perpetuate it and what relationships/job/vice YOU are hanging onto that precipitated it, it is one of the most liberating moments of your life. Sure there is such a thing as genetic predisposition to Anxiety/Depression etc, but genetic disposition is not a life sentence and don’t let anyone tell you it is.
When you see that your body is simply reacting to what you are putting it through, you have the power the stop it and change your life so that it is more aligned with what is best for you. When your choices align with what, in your heart of hearts, is healthy for you, there is no need for the body to produce anxiety. Start looking to anxiety as a signal that something needs to change, that something in your life is out of whack, that some choice you’re making is not in your best interest. In this way, ANXIETY IS YOUR FRIEND. Whoa, what a concept. It’s literally helping you see that something’s gotta give. Be grateful for it. It’s delivering a very important message. Listen.
–Okay, so now that the philosophy lesson is out of the way, I can give some specific pointers–
2) Follow these steps the moment you realize you’re experiencing anxiety:
Acknowledge the anxiety
Locate where it is in your body
Give it space in your body (yes, I’m telling you to give it full permission to be there) and breathe deeply into it
Finally, ask it what it needs from you and do your best to take that action
Most people’s first inclination is to run or avoid or medicate anxiety..well, discomfort in general. This just band-aids the problem, though. The best thing to do is pay attention to it, listen to it, get to know it and realize that it’s there for a reason. This exercise WILL WORK, I promise. Anxiety, in my opinion, is mainly stifled energy coming from some kind of frustrated creativity, or passion or profound expression. When I first did this exercise, the actions that my body wanted to do were things like scream or stomp or push or throw things— I had a lot of stifled energy that wanted expression. This is one of the reasons why I have intention outlets for all of my creative endeavors now, I have to pay attention and give expression to everything that’s inside me or else I become very stifled and anxious and unhealthy.
3) When appropriate, eliminate the source of the anxiety
This takes guts. If you want to get rid of anxiety, you have to get rid of what’s causing it. And since it’s most likely a choice that you’re making that’s caused it, it may be really uncomfortable to do this. It might be that your relationship is not right for you, it might be your job, your home, your workout routine, your career choice, your social circle, your best friend…It could be any of these things in your life. It’s your job to dig deep, figure out what it is that is causing that strife and let it go. It doesn’t mean that you can’t revisit it later, or re-evaluate your relationship to it…but this is a blog about getting rid of anxiety, not about coddling it. Take charge, Feng Shui your life.
Now some of you might be like, “Brooke, what if my kids are giving me anxiety– I can’t just eliminate them!” And to that I will say is it REALLY your kids, or is it something else….Is it the lack of help with your kids that gives you anxiety? Is it the feeling of insecurity you have about being a parent, or of not having enough money for their schooling or the fear that your spouse is an alcoholic who is unsafe in the home? It could be a number of things associated with being a parent, and that’s your job to discover 🙂
4) Make choices that support your well-being, your health and your happiness
When you are living in alignment with yourself, there is no struggle. I know it’s sounds hokey, but it’s true. It’s actually common sense if you think about it. Most people are just not aware of who they really are or have been conditioned to be someone they’re not. When you structure your life around being someone you’re not, OF COURSE YOUR SWEET BODY IS GOING TO SOUND THE ALARM. Of course your body is like “Hello! Please stop. That’s not good for you, and it’s hurting me! Knock it off.” Your brain is designed to sound the alarm when there is a threat, real or perceived. If you’ve opted to put something in your life that is threatening your well-being, your body will tell you– you just have to pay attention and listen to the signals. We experience physical pain when an experience is delivering harm to the body. Pain receptors flare up when we touch a flame or our finger gets caught in a door jam…Start looking at emotional pain THE SAME WAY. Your body is still telling you when an experience is harmful or misaligned.
And PS. Your brain is designed to send you into fight, flight or freeze when you experience a threat, if you don’t follow through with one of these (we’ve all incidentally been conditioned NOT to follow through by the way, society tells us it “isn’t appropriate”) you have a plethora of excess adrenaline and other fancy chemicals running through your body with no outlet. Animals expel the energy by running or shaking or making loud noises…Knowing this, doesn’t it start to make sense that humans, who don’t generally give themselves permission to expel that excess energy, would develop as symptom set around stifled energy?
Get to know yourself and what makes you feel alive, inspired, healthy and spirited–and take steps to implement those things into your daily life. If you need to dance, go dance. If you need more sex, go have some. If you need to kick and scream and shout on stage, start performing. If you want to cook lovely meals for people, do it. If you really enjoy sculpting strange things out of wire and metal, do that. If you want to have more color in your home, paint a mural in the living room. Just find what it is inside of you that wants expression, and give it an outlet to come to life.
5) Find your passion/purpose and create intentional outlets for it
This one is huge. For me, it’s the biggest one. As humans, we really have a responsibility to ourselves to discover what our passions are, and follow them. The years I had with Panic Disorder (notice I never said the year I “suffered” from Panic Disorder, I think of it as a gift) forced me to get to know what I needed in my life. Over and over again, I found myself dancing or singing or moving around or writing in order to channel the anxiety (excess, stifled energy) out of me. After awhile, it became clear that these were all outlets I NEEDED in my life in order to stay aligned. So today, I have outlets for them all, plus a few more 😉
10 years ago, I was having panic attacks around the clock. At home, at work, at the grocery store, in the car. It was terrifying at first. Oh and did I mention I was in Grad School and working full time while I went through this? That was fun. I asked my doctor what I could DO at the time to address the cause, and he wrote me a prescription. I asked him again, what actions or choices or behavior modifications I could make so that I could get to the source of it–and he looked at me like I was nuts. Granted this was 10 years ago and things have progressed within the medical field, but still. That was frustrating.
I was scared to leave the house, but felt trapped when I didn’t. I remember feeling like an elephant was sitting on my chest or that I was having a heart attack weekly. I remember laying on my apartment floor, waiting for an ambulance one night, because I was convinced I was dying. I was paranoid, had irrational fears of dying all of the time, was terrified of falling asleep, and was living with a heavy sense of dread at all times. I could barely function. Let’s not forget the weird obsessions and hypervigilance. And oh right, those of you who’ve been through this remember the years of PTSD like symptoms that arise after you’ve overcome Panic Disorder right? Is it going to happen again? Wait, are my pupils dilating, is that a hint of a palpitation in my chest? Those were fun too.
At the time, I thought I was losing my mind, but as it turns out, I had been given a wonderful opportunity to discover myself at the deepest level. Anxiety was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever had. It forced me to listen to my body and it forced me to get self-aware.
I hope someone out there reading this comes to find the gifts that I did. It’s a whole new world when you do…
Hope this helps!
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5 Ways To Stop Anxiety
January 28, 2017