I’m often approached by people who tell me they suffer from anxiety. They feel as if they’re trapped in a box from which there is no escape.
There are a host of reasons why anxiety plagues 40 million, 18+ year adults in the United States. It could be the result of a big event—an assault, a life-changing accident, the loss of your home, or a loved one. Or it could be a culmination of smaller, stressful situations like relationship issues, financial concerns, work challenges, etc.
A lot of anxiety may stem from past trauma that has not been dealt with. In many cases, the reason it is still causing pain has to do with the fact that the feelings about it have not been addressed. Those feelings cause thoughts, and those thoughts create behavior, not always favorable. For example, “Dave” lost his 23-year-old daughter in a car accident. Dave went through the long and painful grieving process, and recovered as much as it is possible after losing a child. His wife, however, did not. Not wanting to feel her feelings, she began to drink as a way to numb her pain. This led to alcoholism, which led to health issues, which led to dysfunctional family interactions.
Like Dave’s wife in the above example, people avoid looking at their feelings by doing numerous things (i.e., drinking, drugs, shopping, gambling, risky behavior, etc.). Hence, why the anxiety lingers. There is hope, however!
Anxiety can be reduced by: 1) Looking at the feeling, 2) Allowing yourself to feel it), and 3) Releasing it. When the feeling surges, the most important thing to do is to let it come. Feel it. What you don’t want to do is to run to the fridge, pull out a gallon of Haagen-Dazs, make yourself a Gin and Tonic, binge watch Game of Thrones, or click “Add to Cart”, on Amazon, just to avoid feeling the emotions that are trying to make their way up.
The above are deleterious ways of alleviating anxiety. The other way has to do with positive personal actions you can take. Life, as you’ve probably figured out, can be quite short. Living it plagued by anxiety is no way to live.
Do you want to change? Do you want to take the steps necessary to find joy and live a beautiful life? That doesn’t mean there won’t be stress. What it does mean, however, is that you can get through the stress, and live your life without being crippled by anxiety.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which you can do this.
Make a Commitment
Decide you no longer want to live with anxiety. Take control of your life. You’ve only got just the one; don’t waste it. Know that you have a Life Purpose. That’s why you’re here. You may not believe me. You might even think I’m bonkers. It’s possible that somewhere along the way, you were told that you were unlovable and unworthy of love, and you believed it. What a bunch of nonsense! Disregard all that. You’re here, and now that you are, have some fun. Don’t stay locked in a psychological prison of your own making. You are here to make a difference. Commit to that goal.
Develop Strong a Strong Connection with Family & Friends
The happiest people are those who have strong bonds with their loved ones. That accounts for more happiness than having lots of money. When you feel connected to others, you always trust that someone has your back. Warning: Your connections have to be a positive influence. They have to be with people that want the best for you, that are kind, loving, nurturing, and encouraging. A family member or friend who is toxic should not be among the people to whom you reach out.
Nature is one of the most healing environments on the planet. Engage in activities that take you outside. Go for walks in the park. Go for bike rides. Sit on the sand and look at the ocean. Take a hike on a Nature Trail. Listen to the birds chirping. Walk your dog, if you have one. You will be amazed at how this lowers anxiety. It’s Nature’s Cure. But first you have to get out of your head, and your man-made box.
Be Helpful to Others
Volunteering—helping those in need—is one of the quickest and most effective ways to reduce anxiety. Why? Because when you’re helping someone else, you’re not in your head thinking about all your stressors. If you stay in the moment, and focus all your energy on those who really need you, you will discover that your anxiety all but disappears. There are all kinds of organizations that need volunteers. Reach out and offer your services. Do this for a month and see how you feel at the end of that time. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Do What You Love
There are passions in you. Perhaps you haven’t looked at them because you’ve kept yourself too busy entertaining all your anxiety-causing problems. Take some time now to think about the things you love to do. I know there is something, maybe more than one. Take a few minutes to determine what those things are. Make a list, then review it. What jumps out at you? Choose one thing, then take a tiny little step to do it. For example, let’s say that painting is on the list. You used to paint, but now all your paints have dried up due to lack of use. A mini step could be looking through a magazine for something you’d like to paint. A next step could be browsing through an art supply store. That’s all you have to do. I guarantee you that you will be inspired. Take one action daily, weekly even, toward painting something, no matter how simple it might seem. Some colorful brushstrokes on a blank canvas would be a great start. You can do that, can’t you?
Set a Goal and Follow Through
Are you confused about what you want to do? It may be that you’re not sure. As true as that may be, I know there is something inside of you that gets you excited. Maybe that something feels unreachable. And it probably is if you look at the whole picture. Imagine looking at the summit of Mount Everest and saying, “There’s no way I can climb that!” You would be right. But what if all you had to do was to take a few steps at a time? Could you do that? What if you trained and took lessons, climbed smaller mountains? Might you be able to make it to Base Camp?
The key to success in any venture is to set small, doable goals. It doesn’t really matter how small. Setting a goal gives you something for which to strive. It takes your mind away from anxiety-ridden thoughts, and focuses it on something that merits your time and energy. Setting small goals gives you hope, and something to which to look forward. It keeps you busy being constructive instead of destructive.
Anxiety often plagues those who have too much time to think. If you’re busy planning your life, taking steps to better it, anxiety fades into the background.
When you see the word “exercise”, you might think I’m suggesting you join an expensive gym, train for a marathon, buy expensive home equipment, etc. Nope, that’s not at all what I am recommending. I’m simply saying it’s important to move your body. The body was not made to sit still. If you notice, it has moving parts. Just about everything moves. So, what must you do with moving parts? Move them, of course. What happens when you don’t move something for a long time? It gets weak, lethargic.
Moving is important for your wellbeing. Studies have shown that simply walking 10 minutes a day (yes, you read that correctly—0NLY 10 MINUTES), can elevate a depressed mood, reduce fatigue, improve alertness, and overall cognitive functioning. It makes sense, doesn’t it, that when your body feels good, so does your mind? That’s a pretty good return for only 10 minutes, wouldn’t you agree?
Try the daily 10-minute exercise regime. Walk around the block, or put on some music and march in place inside your home. Do this for a month, and then assess your progress. Do you feel and look better?
You are here! Make good use of your time. Don’t allow anxiety to take hold of you. Decide to concentrate on what you want, and what you can do to attain it. Then start taking the steps. Disregard any self-doubts. Just act as if it’s going to happen. Then go out and make it happen.
I know you can do it. All you have to do is know YOU can!