Updated: Mar 28, 2019
Anxiety is an old friend of mine and one which at times I saw as a disability and reason to dislike myself. I now choose to call my anxiety a friend because acceptance and a loving perspective are a much healthier way of dealing with it.
Anxiety is that friend that reminds me something’s up. Not externally, but internally.
I got to know it so well that I know it is either telling me one of the following things:
1. I am stressed and need to manage it (Launch operation Self-care and self-love)
2. I am disconnected from my inner world and higher consciousness (Launch operation Stop, meditate, connect)
3. I made a decision that triggered my fears (Launch operation Trust and keep going)
There are instances where these don’t seem like the real reasons for an anxiety flare-up and they may look more like just phobias. E.g. my fear of flying, accidents, ill health, death, etc.
Recently, however, I discovered something incredibly important. My irrational fears only overwhelm me when I haven’t been managing the above silent triggers. A prime example is flying when I’ve had a stressful few days and little sleep vs. flying after self-care, relaxation and a good rest. The difference is incomparable. Whereas I would have a panic attack even before boarding the plane if I’ve been experiencing stress, if I am relaxed and rested, I am able to control my fear to the point of actually enjoying the flight! There is no greater evidence for me than this.
So today’s lesson is so important! You have to befriend your anxiety and get to know yourself as much as possible, with love, compassion and patience. This is where you begin healing, this is where the transformation begins.
It took me a while and it took a lot of self-development and awareness to pin point my main triggers. And since then, I have been able to manage my anxiety to the point of being anxiety-free for months at a time. I am basically rewiring my brain to not chase my anxious thoughts and be non-reactive to a wave of anxious feelings.
This was my brain two years ago: ‘F**k! Noooooo. Stupid a*s b***h anxiety is back! I don’t know what to do. I am so desperate. I don’t know what I want. I feel so guilty, I feel so paralysed. I am letting people down. Am I crazy? I am a failure. What is the point? I don’t want to live like this. Will it always be like this? I am damaged.’
This is my brain now: ‘Oh, hello! What’s up, old friend? What are you trying to tell me? Aha. Ok. Yep, I know. Cool. Can we talk about it in the morning? Great. Thanks for stopping by.’
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I can invite it out of my head instantly and sometimes I gotta let it stay for a day or two. But it ain’t ruling my life anymore! No, sir.
Here are some more tips that help me stay balanced, by operation name
SELF-CARE AND SELF-LOVE
When stress takes over me, I know these things help relax me and give me joy.
Good food – homemade is usually the best, fresh and nutritious. I don’t bother with calories and guilt over food, but I also never crave junk food – I crave hearty, soul food and maybe a dessert. Ok, sometimes a glass of wine.
Good music – I have a dedicated playlist called ‘Happy in love’ (I know, predictable) that is a mixture of genres and tempos but somehow awaken happy feelings in me.
Good company – people I trust and who know me well, accept me as I am and widen my perspective when I get fixated on anxious thoughts.
Exercise – any will help. My favourite: dancing, weight lifting, yoga.
Sleep – nothing throws me more off balance than lack of sleep. Nothing. It’s my worst trigger
My anxiety whispered: ‘Will you have kids then?’
Me: I don’t know, old friend! I don’t know. But I am staying present and not panicking about stuff that hasn’t happened yet.
A break from work (if possible) – and I do whatever I fancy without a strict plan.
A bubble bath with relaxing bath salts. Watch my favourite happy shows (no drama, violence or thrillers!)
Listen to podcasts: I recommend Oprah’s Super Soul conversations and Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness.
Go out for a walk in nature or simply spend time in the garden. I am a SUPER believer in our connection to nature, in it being the ‘natural’ order of things. We are not meant to live in concrete jungles and we should do whatever we can to keep that higher, incredible connection to the living world around us. There has never been a time when being in awe of nature hasn’t humbled me, grounded me and instantly lifted me. I love you, Mother Nature!
STOP, MEDITATE, CONNECT
Another major factor in overcoming my anxious mind has been introducing meditation and mindfulness in my life. I’ve talked about this before, and it perhaps deserves a whole book on it or at least a separate blog post. But for me meditation is training for the mind, not in a controlling matter, more like a compassionate, loving way of understanding your mind and making peace with the thoughts.
I basically spend 10-20 minutes every morning and evening staying still, breathing, watching my thoughts go by, and not reacting. This is the secret! Learning to watch the thoughts. Not stop them. Not feed them. Patiently and compassionately diminishing their intensity by bringing attention to the breath, to the sounds, the smells, the feelings in your body.
Meditation is a special time where your body and mind connect, helping each other relax and be still. It is a beautiful thing, but it requires daily practice and commitment. The benefits don’t hesitate to show even when you think you’re doing it wrong. You’ll slowly start noticing you are calmer, more present, more aware. You change seemingly and it is a sensation that fills me with joy and gratitude.
TRUST AND KEEP GOING
A major trigger and anxiety-inducing fear of mine is not being able to fulfil my potential and live my purpose. Aka not being good enough. Or brave enough, or strong enough...key word here being 'enough'.
This lack mentality is a chronic illness and we all suffer from it in our modern society.
So I fight with this mentality daily, rewiring my brain and rewriting my story, because I KNOW that fear is not real. And I know the more I let go, the more I trust the process, my choices, my work and path, the more things will align.
I have learned to recognise when decisions I make or routes I take are not aligned with my authentic self and bigger purpose. And that is the most important type of awareness, as I can use that gut feeling to re-route.
This isn't an easy mission, my friends. But it is a beautiful journey. One of growth, self-discovery and rewards. In fact, it is just what life is all about. Trusting and keep moving forward.
But you first need to dig so deep within yourself, try new things, get out of your comfort zone to formulate your big goal, or life dream. So that you always keep it in mind and, when faced with a decision, you can ask yourself: Is this bringing me closer to my goal?
My greatest advice remains to befriend your anxiety by getting to know it and yourself down to a T. I work on this every day. I practice, I write and I give thanks. Every. Single. Day. And there is more love and good in my life than I ever imagined, whether or not my old friend visits me every now and again.