Today, I’m talking about Anxiety, part 2. Like I said in my first post, I have no medical qualifications to talk about this. I’m speaking to the people who are sub-clinical. If you need medical treatment, GO GET HELP. All I have is my own experience and applying my study of thought management to the topic. Feel free to stop reading at any time.
Anxiety seems to have this unrealistic power because it feels so big and uncontrollable. It has an urgency, and an edge that is difficult to resist, and easy to justify as “reality.” But at the end of the day, anxiety is just another vibration in the body. Now, I’m going to lose some people here, because what I have to say next is controversial, and hard to hear. Maybe you allow yourself to get anxious because it is the easier route than managing your thoughts. I’m right there with you. I indulge anxiety when I get sloppy about managing my thoughts. It is easier to say that it swept me away, and I just couldn’t do anything about it. And am I alone here in feeling like it’s a guilty pleasure to go along with it?
I am fully aware I can control my thoughts, but that takes a lot of effort. Especially in a pattern like this where my brain has developed superhighways of neurons ready to fire with the least stimulation. Why would I take the footpath where I need to blaze a path with a machete, when I could be chauffeured by habitual thought patterns along the 18 lane highway? Now, in the moment, you never choose the hard route, so that’s why its so important to lay some groundwork when you are not in the midst of a panic attack, or an emotional flare up if you don’t want to use that term. When you’re under stress, you will most often choose default mode in your brain. It is what its good at, and goes there easily. Its also a survival mechanism, so pushing the override button is nearly impossible once you trip the fight or flight response. I won’t spend too much time on this, but basically anxiety becomes problematic when things that are not life threatening activate fight or flight. An argument with a co-worker, stubbing your toe or putting your bank account into overdraft are not worthy of a f/f response… but somehow they have figured out how to elicit it in order to get more press time.
Back to actionable things to do to gain some control of your thoughts and emotions. You’re not going to like this, but you have to take the footpath a few times before you are triggered into a fight or flight mode. You have to take a new route, make a new trail and do some mental work before being faced with the stimulus. Making decisions to practice a new route in the moment just doesn’t happen. You automatically go to the path of least resistance, which is the path that is the most practiced. Unless you have made a decision before the situation comes up, and have strategies in place to use when you go there, you will end up going over the same thoughts, triggering the same emotions, creating the same results.
So how do you do this? Good question. First you need to IDENTIFY the THOUGHTS that are triggering the reaction. This is tough because I don’t want to think about anxiety when I’m not experiencing anxiety. Its also difficult because these thoughts disguise themselves as common sense, reality and obvious. I have been socialized to think that these thoughts are normal, and if you don’t worry about the future, your finances, your health, your relationships, your whatever, you are abnormal. I’m telling you that there is another path. It truly is the path less traveled, because it is an uncommon choice requiring mental effort. It isn’t difficult, but it takes patience, self-love and practice. Most importantly, it takes the willingness to allow yourself to believe that you do have control. That you are not a victim, but the creator of your own prison.
If you have read any of my other work, this won’t come as a surprise to you that I suggest meditation and journaling. Identifying thoughts that trigger a response is like an onion. You start with the easy and obvious thoughts, then as you do this activity a few times, you start to unravel some of the deeper, more protected and ingrained thoughts and beliefs. Did you think you would only have to do this one time? Oh cricket. If you take this path, you are in for a lifetime of self examination, so get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Once you have a list of thoughts that cause your response, ask yourself the following questions about each of them:
1. Is it true?
2. Where did this thought/belief come from?
3. Do I want to think this way?
4. Can I reach for a better feeling thought?
Now, we aren’t jumping right from a bad feeling thought to a good feeling thought because your mind will reject it. Just shift it higher up the vibrational thought ladder. You also need to give emotions some space to exist. Feel the sensation in your body. Describe it, roll it around in your experience. Be able to identify the sensation so that next time you feel it, you can stop in the moment and ask yourself what thoughts are creating that sensation. Get used to identifying thoughts creating experiences before they hit the threshold of fight or flight.
One last, and very important point. The goal is not to eliminate negative feelings. That, my friend, is impossible. The point is to identify the thoughts that will trigger emotions that will take you on a merry-go-round of anxiety, shame, guilt, fear, anger, whatever it is. Feel the emotion (not resist it. I will have a whole other post just on resistance.) identify the thoughts creating that emotion, decide if you want to continue to feel the emotion or shift it up to a better feeling thought.
We talked about some heavy stuff today. I’m going to do some yoga to reset my energy on this one.