Anxiety isn’t new and it isn’t going to magically disappear from our lives. Because anxiety is simply a response to a stimulus, not an emotion. We are hardwired for anxiety. By understanding what anxiety really is, you can break it’s stranglehold on you. The goal is to create space so you can decide how to respond and not let your body go into autopilot.
Step 1 – Understand that anxiety a response, not an emotion. Your brain is just hijacked.
Anxiety happens when your brain see’s a stimulus (which could be anything) as a threat and over responds by dumping out a bunch of adrenaline in your body so you can run away from a lion. This worked well when the threats we faced were actually lions, but now that threat is your inbox.
Your brain was essentially hijacked so you must interupt the feedback loop. Box breathing is a good way to break this loop. Breath in for a count of 4, hold it for 4, exhale for 4. Repeat this 4 times.
Step 2 – Learn to shift your thinking from outcomes based to process based. Outcomes come from trusting the process.
You can’t control the outcomes of most things in life. You can usually control the process leading up to the outcome though. I happen to work with a lot of fertility patients – something incredible stressful. We cannot control the outcome (pregnancy) but we can control the process leading up to actually getting pregnant by optimizing your lifestyle, nutrition, biochemistry, etc to give you the best possible chance at getting pregnant.
Focus on the process and let go of what you cannot control.
Step 3 – An unknown future is scary but the present moment is usually just fine.
Of course we have to think and plan about the future but if you’re so focus on what could happen, you can forget to actually live right now. According to research conducted by our very own, Aniesa Hanson, PhD, people with more mindful tendencies like this had significantly lower levels of burnout in their job and were more happy in their everyday life.
So yes, plan for the future but learn how to live in the moment. That means being absolutely present as often as you can. Sometimes that means focusing on your breath, or a specific sound in the room your in or the feeling of the wind across your skin, or the smell of the food on the plate in front of you, or the smile. It means not being on your phone 24/7 or checking instagram or twitter while you stand in line at Chipotle.
Understanding that anxiety is simply a response is the first step. Creating a little bit of space so you can choose your response is the hard part that takes practice and a set of tools. Framing the the stimulus appropriately and focusing on your breath is the easiest way to do this. Just keep practicing and know things can change!