Anxiety comes in many flavours, fear of failure, rejection, embarrassment, humiliation, being alone, flying and so on and brings a sense that we’re out of control and want to escape.
When we’re feeling anxious we become angry, impatient, aggressive and then ashamed of who we’ve become and how we behave and we lose confidence as fear takes us over. It creates a cycle where the fear of the consequences of the anxiety become the fuel that we keep throwing onto the fire.
Anxiety is a normal part of being human. It’s designed to save us in life-threatening situations. If you could see your best friend was unknowingly walking into a dangerous situation you’d shout to warn them. If they ignored you, you’d shout louder and louder in a desperate attempt to get their attention wouldn’t you? Rejecting or trying to avoid stress is very similar, when you ignore the warning signals from your brain, it get louder, stronger and more urgent in it’s attempt to save you. So it might be good to make up and be friends.
1. Understand that anxiety is your friend.
It’s your in-built survival system responding to a situation that it recognises as a threat. It feels scary because it’s meant to – It’s your monkey brain signalling to you to take avoidance action. It doesn’t mean you’re going to die imminently although I know it can feel like it. If fear felt nice we’d take unnecessary risks and put ourselves in danger more often.
2. Know that it’s doing it’s best to protect you.
Your evolutionary monkey brain is there to protect you and it would rather go off too often and save you rather than ignore something that can kill you, so it can become like a faithful and over-enthusiastic puppy that barks at the postman because he thinks he’s an attacker.
3. Learn to accept your feelings.
It’s all in the context and interpretation. Anxiety is the same physical response as excitement. Many people love the thrill they get from bungee jumping or white water rafting, others not so much. We don’t try and stop ourselves from laughing at a comedy show, being at peace when relaxing on a sun lounger or doing our hobbies.
4. Listen if it’s trying to tell you something.
If your friend was feeling anxious you’d listen to them and explore what might be wrong. Anxiety is trying to warn you that it thinks there’s a problem. Maybe you need to make some changes to your lifestyle. Sometimes though anxiety can become that boring friend that just keeps moaning about the same things over and over again. If you’ve got the same negative thoughts going round and round in your mind, recognise that’s what’s happening – label the thoughts as “anxiety’s doing its boring moaning thing” and allow them and remind yourself that they’re passing through.
5. Treat your new friend with kindness – It’s the little things that count.
Take your friend out for a walk. Anxiety is the result of adrenaline and cortisol flooding your body creating energy to help you to escape from danger. Taking exercise burns up the excess energy and helps you feel and sleep better.
Coffee, alcohol, sugar rev up your adrenal system and make the feelings worse. A healthy well balanced diet will help you to feel better.
Pamper yourself and maybe have a massage. Doing things we enjoy releases serotonin and oxytocin – hormones that heal and make us feel good.
6. Love yourself just the way you are.
The people you love most aren’t absolutely perfect are they? They have those annoying little habits but you love them anyway. Forgive yourself as you would a friend. Challenges are all opportunities to learn and be better. One day soon you’ll look back at this period as a challenge that you’ve overcome and know that it has made you stronger and more resilient.