Anxiety is a normal human experience and often occurs as a natural biological reaction to feeling threatened – often referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response. Sometimes it can tip into something more serious, when this feeling is accompanied by physical and psychological effects, such as panic attacks. Life coach, Jacqueline Hurst, gives us her top tips on overcoming anxiety.
Retreat and retract
Sometimes we can become obsessed with a thought that creates worry and anxiety. It can take up so much mental space that it drains our energy and ultimately takes us out of our present moment, stopping us from enjoying our day. Since this is usually just our mind creating negativity, it’s really important to retreat and retract – in other words take a moment to chill out.
Take yourself out of your office and go for a short walk, or grab a coffee and just retreat. Then take a moment to stop, breathe and calm yourself down by reminding yourself that it is your choice to feel this way and that this is not the best choice of feeling for the rest of the day.
Check your thoughts
Anxiety is a feeling created solely from your thoughts. Thoughts pop into our mind all the time and it’s good to be reminded that actually, we have a lot more control over them than we realise. The only reason you are feeling this way is because you are thinking in a ‘catastrophic’ way – in other words, a negative way.
In other words, if you are thinking ‘I cannot believe my e-mail system is down and now I cannot do anything, what will my clients think of me,’ this will create a lot of negative feelings. Instead start to question that thought; ask yourself ,‘is this thought serving me or making me feel bad?’ If it is the latter, then start thinking about your situation in a more positive way, for example, ‘My emails will work again and right now I am doing my best in the current situation.’
Your thoughts are not facts
As humans we believe that what we think is always fact. The reality is that when we believe every thought we have is true, we open ourselves up to a whole world of pain and stress. If a thought comes into your mind telling you that ‘you’re not good enough,’ and you believe it, it can trigger a ton of other negative thoughts and feelings around this. This is an unmanaged mind.
We need to learn to become mindful and recognise that our thoughts are not facts and in turn we will find a lot more peace. Allow these thoughts to float in and then out of your mind and remember that they are just thoughts.
Anxiety is a feeling; you are in control
Anxiety is simply a feeling created by a negative thought process but ultimately we get to choose how we feel. Choosing anxiety is not optimal so it’s time to start deciding how you do want to feel and then work your mind around how you are going to get there. Feelings are simply a feeling. They cannot hurt you unless you sit in the negative all day without wanting to change them.
Choose a different feeling, like ‘calm’, and then question yourself: how can I think about this in order to feel calmer? Remember this is massive growth for you, so go gently. But don’t sit there thinking ‘I can’t do this’. You can.
Have a chat with yourself
A great exercise to try is to write down your anxious thoughts or worries on a notepad, then imagine your friend is telling you this is how she feels. What would you say back to her from the point of view of being a caring, rational and loving friend? If the thought is, ‘I am freaking out about going on this date later, what if it is just awful,’ you could respond to it with: ‘it is only dinner with a boy!
He could be a really interesting person and it might be a really enjoyable evening whether there is romance or not. He might even be more scared than you!’’ Following through your thoughts makes them less scary.
It’s only a feeling creating adrenaline
When you choose anxiety you can also create many uncomfortable physical symptoms, such as feeling jittery, palpitations, sweaty palms, etc.; in short, you are creating adrenaline. Our body thinks it needs to fight or flight (run away from danger), so it starts to produce a physical reaction. Although adrenaline feels scary, it can’t really hurt you. So next time you experience those weird feelings and symptoms, remember, it’s just adrenaline and you can calm it down by calming your mind.
Talk to someone
Anxiety can feel very isolating when you believe you’re alone in what you’re experiencing and that you are the only one in the world that feels like this. The truth is that anxiety is actually very common. It is something that you do not have to live with and something you can change. It’s really important to open up to friends and loved ones about your thoughts and feelings as talking about things can help you to feel better immediately and get you seeing things with a clearer and more realistic perspective.
There is also so much information on the internet about anxiety, so you can always take a moment to read a few articles or even check out some online forums. Just remember this: anxiety is your choice. Choose a different thought and get a different feeling. Work on it and see how this changes for you.