Do you ever suffer from anxiety? We all do at some point. It might show up before making a speech, taking a test, or going on a date.
The possibilities are endless and anxiety symptoms can range from annoying to downright debilitating.
At a time when you are not feeling anxious, look at your past experiences and appraise them honestly. Anxiety can arise in two types of situations — those we put ourselves in (like facing a fear or beginning a new relationship), and those we are thrown into (like public speaking).
The difference between the two is wanting to be in a situation despite feeling anxious and not wanting to be in a situation at all, which causes anxiety.
Whichever situation you find yourself in, it’s helpful to know how to calm anxiety so you can keep your feelings in check.
1. Remember to breathe
Breathing is not a secret weapon you say? You’ll see that it is if you are not already regularly taking long, slow, deep breaths into your belly and exhaling completely! Aim for fewer than twelve breaths per minute.
Robert Heller said, “Fear is excitement without the breath.” It certainly can be, if you’re afraid about something you want to do.
Fear and excitement are both heightened feelings of energy flowing through the same channel in your body. Help them to keep on flowing and you’ll begin to feel the pleasure of that flow, and perhaps, excitement!
2. Rewrite the script
Harvard Business School Professor Allison Wood Brooks has studied the cognitive aspect of this shift from fear to excitement. She calls it anxiety reappraisal and espouses a change of mental script when you feel anxious.
Switch from “I’m freaking out about tomorrow’s speech!” to “I’m excited to address the board tomorrow!”
Now, let your breath align you with that new truth. Positive statements will work to open your flow and negative ones will make it easier to contract into fear. It seems that performance improves when anxiety gets a script rewrite.
3. Move through your anxiety
Anxiety brings tension to your body. Perhaps imperceptibly at first, but it is contracting, tightening and playing off of the increasingly shallow breathing and any thoughts of doom you may be entertaining about your imagined imminent failure.
Now you are breathing deeply and perhaps aware that this is something that you are excited about. Add to that some subtle (or big) gentle movements throughout your body.
Lift your shoulders and relax them, stretch your back, rotate your ankle – bring movement back into your whole body, aided by full breathing. Experience the energy of excitement!
4. Focus on the “now”
When you’re anxious, your body tenses and your shallow breathing stokes the anxiety, your thoughts join in to make a bonfire. As you are using your new breathing technique, and moving your body gently, you are being invited back to the present moment.
To keep your mind from associating with past failures or negative experiences and from imagining these will repeat in the future, come back to the now. Look around you and name what you see, hear, feel, smell as you breathe and move. This will make you available to what is happening at this moment.
Change can happen only in the present moment. Come back to now, where life is lived and let your mental thoughts and your body strategies be allies in the quest for grounded peace and joyous excitement.
Remember current means both now and flow and it takes more effort to get anxious when you are flowing in the current of excitement.
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