Though anxiety is one of the most common emotions in our society, there is a physicality to it (shortness of breath, pounding heart, sweaty palms) that makes this feeling big, scary, and tricky to handle.
The fight-or-flight response helped our ancestors survive daily life across the ages, and is biologically programmed into our minds. Modern times don’t require this response, however, and anxiety can become debilitating when we are really just trying to manage our weekly routine.
Here are three ways you can begin to release the grip of anxiety on your mind and body.
1. Give anxiety a welcome mat.
Most of us try to deal with anxiety by either resisting it (pretending like we aren’t feeling anxious), reacting to it (running around frantically or yelling at family), or avoiding it (disconnecting altogether by over-eating, drinking too much, or watching marathon sessions of TV).
Feelings show up in your body to tell you something. Denying the emotions that you’re having, i.e. feeling anxious, is tantamount to denying your own personal reality. You can’t listen to the lessons from your body if you’re busy refusing the experience.
Lean in and accept what’s true in your body in this moment. From the space of acceptance, you can operate more calmly and clearly.
2. Treat anxiety like an ugly suitcase.
Sometimes, anxiety comes along for the ride. No matter how you’ve tried to calm yourself, anxiety is still there. In this case, I say carry it if you must, but own it. Don’t let it own you.
Just like Eckhart Tolle says, “Worry pretends to be necessary,” anxiety pretends to be in control. All of your emotions are created by the thoughts in your head, which means anxiety is created in your mind. Anxiety does not have the power to overwhelm you without your permission.
Just remembering that you are, in fact, in charge and can consciously direct your thinking is significant. Carrying through on that when anxiety shows up is really powerful work.
3. Use anxiety as a superpower.
We all have our own particular handful of situations, fears, or stressors that cause anxiety to flare up. Get to know these triggers intimately. These are bread crumbs along the way of getting to know and understand yourself better.
When you consider anxiety as a guide instead of a demon, it becomes your superpower. When does anxiety arrive? What patterns do you have around anxiety? What is anxiety trying to steer you towards or away from?
Becoming your own compassionate witness will allow you to leverage your powers for awareness and consciousness around who you truly are.
Anxiety does not have to be your enemy. Learn to acknowledge it and embrace it as a resource and guide for building on your consciousness, self-care, and personal strength in times of adversity.