We all experience fear and anxiety. A feeling of being afraid is an assembled experience that assesses threat. While fear is more immediate (being fearful of barbed wire or a coiled snake), anxiety is often associated with worry in the middle of the night or fretting about the future (when no immediate threat is present).
We often associate anxiety with an earlier hurt or trauma, yet the threats of old often have little relevance to the current moment. As such, worry acts as a ruse that diverts and drains our energy. Through a combined understanding of how your brain works and the powerful practice of mindfulness, we learn than the façade can be disrobed and dismantled.
Here are seven ways to be aware, understand and objectively call to question your fear and anxiety. Do they hold merit or hold you hostage?
1. TALK IT OUT Yup. Out loud. Sure it’s awkward at first, but voicing can reveal illogic. “If I divorce, I’m a failure.” “If I don’t get this promotion, I’m not talented or worthy.” “My boss holds all the power over my career.” Truth or un-truth? Voicing out loud uncovers all-or-nothing and dramatic thinking. At times, I even find that anxiety can sound silly! Then, I end with the bonus score of a good giggle.
2. LET YOUR GUT INSTINCT BE YOUR SECOND BRAIN American film producer Barbara Broccoli’s intuition led her to choose actor Daniel Craig to play James Bond–even when he was not listed on her colleagues’ shortlist of candidates. Going against the group can trigger anxiety: Let your gut instinct be your 007. When seen in bigger perspective, our fears can even encourage us to be heroic and align with deeper knowing.
3. YOU’VE GOT THIS! FOCUS ON THAT WHICH YOU DO WELL Anxiety freezes our ability to make good decision and take action. To ease the grasp, focus on something you do well–really well. Cooking, gardening, sport, music. You’ll attune the body, brain and nervous system toward confidence as testosterone levels increase and cortisol levels (stress) decrease. You’ll feel greater ease and safety.
4. BE IN RELATIONSHIP with animals, nature, the sun, the rain, people. We’re mammals! We evolve toward more fulfilling social engagement. When we turn on our receiving channel, we align with our greater evolution which, in turn, lessens anxiety. The press within our human evolution to expand is constant and the mind will attune to this evolution: Go with this powerful flow.
5. CALL ME CURIOUS, THE STEPPING STONE TO BALANCE While it’s unrealistic to instantly shift from anxiety to ease, curiosity serves as a stepping stone of neutrality. “What can I learn from this challenge?” “What is being asked of me?” Perhaps with practice, you’ll even have a glimmer of excitement in facing a new challenge.
6. BE A BRAINY GEEK: RECLAIM YOUR ABILITY TO GUIDE THE MIND Fear and anxiety are some of the most well researched and understood of all experiences; these emotions are readily measured and important in the understanding our evolution. Geek out on the Polyvagal Theory and Dr. Stephen Porges’ amazing life’s work in this video interview. Check out this book by Catherine Pittman and Elizabeth Karle: Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic and Worry By gaining real knowledge and understanding, we become more conscious. Knowledge is, indeed, power and neuroscience is super sexy.
7. MOVE IT! SHIFT BODY AND BRAIN CHEMISTRY A good workout supports health–including improved brain function. When I’m anxious, sometimes a powerful session on the mat, at the gym or in the park is the perfect remedy to bring mental balance and clarity. Lately I’ve been mixing personal workouts with a regular yoga practice: a Bosu class, body sculpting, Pilates. New experiences are refreshing and they help the brain break entrenched patterns.
For further encouragement, insights and sharing visit Karuna’s YouTube channel.