Our Not-So-Friend, Anxiety

Are you living in the wreckage of the future?

Such is a descriptive depiction of anxiety. A world we make up in our heads about what could happen or will happen in the days to come. According to anxiety, this imagined world is grim. Only the worst comes about. In turn, we aren’t okay. We aren’t safe. We aren’t going to make it.

Thus, as we indulge our fears, we engage our fight-or-flight survival mechanism. We become stuck in a perpetual spinning cycle of what-might-happen. We are hyper-vigilant. Like security guards with guns engaged, we prepare for any and all danger. Because anything can happen at any time and it ain’t going to be pretty.

So, we stop breathing. We stop creating. We stop playing. For, we are at war with the unsubstantiated wreckage of the future.

Rightly so. The world can be dangerous. Pick up a newspaper, turn on the radio, look back at history, ease drop on conversations … the world is unpredictable and often very cruel. Havoc is real and security uncertain.

Not to mention the fact that many of us were raised in households of trauma – some of us with a capital “T” Trauma and some of us with a lowercase “t” trauma – but trauma all the same. As children, we weren’t protected enough during our most impressionable years. We experienced moments, days and even years when our safety was not guaranteed. Thus, anxiety became our much needed companion. Better to prepare for the ills of the future than be left in the throes, vulnerable and caught off guard.

But, we are grown up now. This once needed anxiety during our powerless state of childhood may no longer be necessary. In fact, it is probably taking more than it is giving. It’s zapping our living fully in the moment because we are always living in the next moment, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

What to do about this suffocating beast of nerves that threatens to take away our life?

  1. Breathe and breathe deeply. All the way into the bottom of your belly. This act alone will deactivate the stress response in your body.
  2. Reassure yourself that you aren’t powerless – you have made it this far. You have options and can navigate unwanted situations.
  3. Ground yourself to the present moment via your senses – what you taste, see, touch, feel and hear.
  4. Redirect your energy to the present tense of now. You are okay right now.
  5. Check your irrationality with factual data – what is actually true and what are you making up in your head? What is a current fear vs. a past fear that is flashing back?
  6. Give anxiety its due without indulging it. See if there are other feelings underneath that you’d rather avoid or cover-up with your tried-and-true anxiety. Feel those instead as your authentic truth.

Lastly, thank your anxiety. It really just wants to help. Thank it for its concern. Then invite it to shut-up.

You surely don’t want it ruining your future before it even happens. Besides, you got this. You are gonna be just fine.

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