Anxiety is the feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease. Anxiety is a very important feeling because it helps us survive by heightening our senses. With heightened senses, we can interpret situations quickly and potentially more accurately. Anxiety also initiates our fight, flight, or freeze responses that has helped keep humans alive for thousands of years. Thank you anxiety! The problem, the way I see it, is in today’s world, there is too much anxiety even when there is no physical danger, which causes imbalance and unhappiness for many.
It seems like almost everyone I talk with in both my professional and personal life is struggling, on some level, with anxiety. Anxiety can stop us from trying new things, enjoying everyday experiences, and in too many cases lead to feelings of hopelessness or despair. The belief systems within our society perpetuate stress and anxiety with the overvalued belief system in everything logical and the devaluing of anything emotional or creative.
To move through and out of anxiety, let’s begin to understand a little better what anxiety is in today’s culture. Anxiety is actually quite fascinating! The cognitive or logical thoughts attached to the feelings of anxiety are usually fear based belief systems or what I call lies. They are judgments or programmed belief systems that do not line up with our emotional selves. Whether I’m working with kids or adults, I hear significant distortions associated with feelings of anxiety.
For example, one of my clients is a nine year old girl who is worried she will do poorly in school. She actually does very well in school and never gets a low grade, but her anxiety tells her otherwise and no amount of reasoning can infiltrate this belief system. Another client, an adult male, feels anxious when in social situations because he thinks others won’t like him and will reject him. When he feels calm he can understand this is a distortion because, when calm, he does feel liked and respected by those around him. When feeling anxious though, this reasoning goes out the window and he spends most social situations thinking everyone is judging him.
Knowing your distortions are the first step to choosing a healthy and positive belief system for yourself. In some cases it is important to identify the traumatized experiences that lead to the feelings of anxiety and judgmental belief systems. However, a lot can change by identifying a distortion and changing it into positive thoughts.
Another amazing aspect of feeling anxiety that I’ve seen, is that it spirals into so many other distortions. Anxiety seems to pick up more fears or distortions as it grows into a giant snowball coming to topple you over. This can feel so scary, isolating, debilitating, hopeless and many more overwhelming negative emotions. Therefore, it is important to take full responsibility for what thoughts you think and change them, when needed, to positive beliefs! For example, clients will say to me, “Well, I should go to this event even though I feel anxiety because that’s what’s expected”. Or, “Everyone else around me feels fine about…(fill in the blank with your own anxiety provoking experience)”. These comments are riddled with judgments. Change your thoughts to say, “I am safe”, “I am loved”, “I allow myself to set healthy boundaries for myself”, or “I allow myself to feel without fear or judgment.” Make positive affirmations to say out loud, every day until you no longer feel anxiety all the time. This really works.
Now that I’ve identified how anxiety can perpetuate lies, I want to tell you a big secret. The feeling of anxiety is telling you the truth! In fact, your feelings never lie! Not ever! Only the thoughts, belief systems or judgments connected to the feelings can lie. Feelings are the inner most sacred part of you. They are always, if you are listening, giving you beautiful gifts or insight into what’s happening inside of you.
I want to repeat this, because it’s important. Your logical self or thinking self (where your distortions reside) don’t often have the answers, like we think it does. Simply put, your brain is a computer, processing the data you give it. This is why choosing to think positive affirmations without judgments is so important.
If you’re feeling anxiety, you are probably feeling unsafe, unworthy, or unloved. Seems pretty simple, but knowing this doesn’t make the feeling go away. And instead of wishing the feelings of anxiety would simply go away, what if we embraced them? Take full responsibility for what we are feeling without judgment.
In simple terms, I’m saying embrace your anxiety, fears, or distortions in a giant bear hug of love. You’re letting your anxiety know you’re taking charge. By taking charge and choosing to love your feeling of anxiety you are in a much better position to choose a different feeling to feel. For example, by embracing your feeling of anxiety you are allowing it to move through you and giving permission to feel peaceful or joy about your situation.
Let’s look at my client again. The gentlemen I spoke of embraced his feelings of insecurity and unworthiness associated to being in social situations. By working through some traumatizing situations where he was shamed by his family in social situations, he was able to take responsibility for his beliefs, change his internal dialogue to positive self talk, and begin to feel peace and love when in groups. When I say work through, I mean that my client embraced fully his feelings of unworthiness and shame by feeling them. With courage, he completely acknowledged all the feelings associated with his anxiety until he moved through to self love, peace and acceptance.
To begin a life free from anxiety, utilize support from loved ones or even the amazingly skilled practitioners in this magazine to be with and move through your anxiety. It is not always easy to sit with uncomfortable emotions but it can be a simple process by taking it all one moment at a time.