This is a very important thing to understand about overcoming anxiety and worry:
It’s impossible to control thinking when you’re anxious.
Anxiety is a “fight or flight” state. It’s do or die, survival…
It’s a state that is intended to save your life. In the modern world we have so many pressures on us that just were not there as human beings evolved.
Anxiety has nowhere to go
And so we become anxious when we cannot fight or run. And all that anxious energy has NOWHERE TO GO. That’s very important background information to know before you can deal with this…
If you’re anxious, you won’t be thinking clearly OR rationally because the fight or flight state is not designed for you to solve problems, it’s designed for one thing only…. to save your life!
Many changes take place in your body in this state, digestion stops (it’s also hard to eat anything), and blood is pumped into muscles and away from inner organs. All sorts of changes happen that will help you run away or fight for your life.
So what to do?
A quick answer is immediate EXERCISE. The way to turn an anxious state around very quickly is to work hard. RUN. That’s what the fight or flight state is designed for in the first place. Exercise (and removing yourself from the triggering event if there is one) will bring your body back to a neutral state, you will feel better fast.
The situation is that you have pent up energy, so exercise is the natural quick solution. BUT if the situation that created the anxiety is still there, then you can go into another anxiety cycle easily, because nothing actually got resolved. SO…
Get pen/paper or open a file on your computer. Start writing, just flow it all out, keep going until you can’t write any more. This will release the pent up energy and will contain the solutions you need to move you forward. It will bring clarity. The stress needs an OUT-LET. It needs to be LET OUT! Some questions you might want to ponder…
- What is the preferred outcome?
- What actions can I take?
- What is the path of least resistance?
- Am I creating stress by being attached to certain outcomes when it doesn’t matter?
- If I stopped thinking about this completely, would anything bad happen?
It’s dysfunctional, don’t stress the stress
If you can’t exercise or let that energy out by writing, then simply KNOW, that this anxiety is primitive, it’s your mind and body perceiving a threat, but there is no action you can take right now. Go into pure AWARENESS, where you are just aware the anxiety is there, you see what it is, you are not RESISTING it.
Once you stop fighting it, it doesn’t feel so bad, it just feel like a very high energy pent up state but not so bad. If you get stressed that you’re stressed, then you just add another layer of stress on top! As soon as you can get to write or exercise or both… do that.
One of the big problems in modern life is that our natural behavior so often isn’t allowed. So we aren’t ALLOWED to act in the moment if we’re stressed, there are so many expectations on us of how to behave. That’s when repression causes problems, it’s unnatural, so we need a safe outlet. You can’t just ACT OUT because you will create a lot of collateral damage, you know this, that’s why you can end up like the proverbial swan… graceful on the surface and paddling like mad underneath.
Long term solutions
The long-term answer lies in good lifestyle habits. Regular relaxation, changing the way you react to anxiety triggers, exercise, diet and organization habits that massively reduce or remove anxiety and stress in the first place.
In every single moment, your current STATE is moving you into the next moment. If you are in a bad place, that state causes everything to start to go pear-shaped, every relationship becomes strained, every decision unsteady, poor sleep, etc. Because everything affects everything else, we can start to self-destruct.
For example, you are feeling bad, then some interaction goes badly and you upset someone, now you’ve added another stress, and then you don’t sleep and so-on.
So the opposite is also true. If you focus on being a happy person, then every event builds even more happiness. Every moment becomes joyful. So the long term solution is to live right and think right so that you are happy.
A multi-pronged strategy is the way to go
Everything affects everything else!
All SIX lifestyle elements I recommend you pay conscious attention to have a powerful influence on how you feel:
- Drugs (get rid of)
- Live in the moment
Start a walking program, eat lots more fruit and veg, get plenty of sleep, de-stress, learn to relax, drink lots of pure clean water, look at your caffeine intake — many people are sensitive to it, learn how to let go of compulsive thinking, spend time with loved ones, get more organized.
It’s especially important for any kind of anxiety disorder to correct magnesium deficiency too. Do all these things and see for yourself.
Removing the trigger
And let’s not forget the obvious. Where possible avoid the triggers of stress. Now a lot of people will tell you you have to “face your fears” and that is partly true. You don’t have to face it in one go! That doesn’t work!
What works is WINS. Getting a win and moving forward is what works. So don’t put yourself in stressful situation that you can avoid unless it’s a baby step, unless you are fairly confident of a win.
- Exercise to burn up adrenaline and return to neutral.
- Creative flow to let out pent up energy and creative clarity about solutions.
- Non-resistance to your state, pure awareness, don’t stress the stress.
Long-term there’s lots you can do so that you never get into a deep hole again. Look to your lifestyle and learn new coping strategies for dealing with anxiety and one day you’ll see it as a distant memory.
The lifestyle elements are powerful influencers of your mood and your state. You CAN be relaxed and happy again.
Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.
Read Chapter 1 “The Happiness Secret”
Or get the paperback…
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