I recently wrote an article about how to overcome anxiety with 4 steps:
1. Embrace the anxiety
2. Surrender the issue or situation
3. Trust that it will be dealt with
4. Let it go
I said that I would write a follow up article on what you can do to make this process easier and part of your every day life with each and every situation.
I know that it is easier said than done to simply embrace, surrender, trust and let go. And for most of us it does not come naturally. For me it took many years to understand how to truly surrender. I knew what it meant, but I had no idea how to do it. Same thing with trusting, embracing and letting go. I knew what they meant and I could tell someone else what they should do but I will be honest, I truly struggled in my own life with being able to do it.
It wasn’t until I got completely desperate to find alternative ways of coping; healthier ways of coping with stress and anxiety that I learned the meaning of those words. Understanding and doing did not happen over night. It happened as the result of several lifestyle changes that I slowly implemented into my life.
I am a very busy woman and it was very difficult for me to do at first, mostly because I did not want to put the time and effort into doing them. But what I found was that once I started implementing these things into my life, like anything, I couldn’t imagine my life without doing them. The following are lifestyle changes you can make to improve your ability to embrace your emotions, surrender your emotions, trust that they will be taken care of and lastly let go of the negative emotions.
1. Talk about what is going on with someone you trust. The first step I took was to open up and talk to someone about my worries, fears, concerns etc. I am not someone who likes to open up to others about my problems. I am not used to doing this. I am the one who listens to others and helps others. Reaching out and trusting another person with my emotions was very difficult. I feared judgment and criticism. I feared rejection. I found that some people did judge and criticize me and some even rejected me, but some did not. Judgment, criticism, and rejection hurt. But it was through this process that I learned who my real friends were vs. who weren’t. Also by talking about what was going on I was able to get some great feedback as well as someone bringing my thoughts back to reality. Often times anxiety is a cluster of irrational thoughts. Having a trusted person to talk to helped me to put the thoughts into perspective and be more realistic. This person can be a friend or it can be a professional or even both. The more supports you have to listen the better.
2. Meditate. This was a very hard lifestyle change for me to practice and learn. I am not someone who can sit still for long periods of time. My mind races fast and I am always on the go. I thought I did better that way. It wasn’t until I attended my first couple of yoga classes that I learned how to sit and be present in the moment. I learned how to sit with emotions. I learned how to be mindful in the moment. I learned how to train my brain to stay in the moment rather worry about the future. I learned how to be still. By practicing quiet meditation it allows for thoughts to come into the mind. Thoughts that promote change. Often times some of my best changes come from an idea I got during a quiet meditation time.
3. Practice Yoga. As I said above, yoga taught me how to sit and be present and still. It also taught me how to connect to my body not just my mind. It taught me how to recognize internal signs within my body such as when I am hungry, tired, thirsty, cold, hot, uncomfortable, etc. Yoga helped me to relax. There are specific positions in yoga which helped me to surrender and also to let go. Some yoga postures can make you feel vulnerable, but once I began practicing them in a class setting, I slowly learned how to overcome this fear of judgment and criticism. I learned how to sit with feeling vulnerable and I learned how to surrender and let go of those feelings in class.
4. Breathe. Such a simple technique to learn and do. Yet if you think about it, we do not breathe properly throughout the day. Our breaths are tense and shallow and rapid much of the time due to the busy demands of every day life. Learning how to really sit and breath properly changes brain chemistry and releases chemicals that promote relaxation.
5. Eat healthy foods that nourish your body and mind. I bet it sounds strange to think that eating healthy has anything to do with anxiety. Well I learned one summer that it does. During my most difficult time I experienced severe anxiety accompanied by panic and insomnia. I went to see a holistic doctor who encouraged me to go on a whole foods diet for 6 weeks then slowly incorporate the foods back into my diet. I did this and was absolutely amazed at the results. I learned so much about food and my body. Certain foods affected my mood. Certain foods triggered headaches and body aches. Certain foods made it difficult for me to sleep. I did incorporate all foods back into my diet, but I did change how I ate them, when I ate them and how much I ate them. I limit the foods that cause me problems. I am very aware of how I feel when I choose to eat them and I know that if I am feeling emotionally imbalanced it may mean that I need to clean up my food a bit.
6. Take vitamins and supplements. Certain vitamins can help with anxiety. I learned that B12, Calcium Magnesium, Vitamin D, Fish Oil, and a good whole foods multivitamin can be very beneficial to promoting stress relief and reducing cortisol levels. There are also several herbal supplements and teas on the market that can help as well. Consult with a holistic coach, nurse or doctor for more information on what is right for your body and mind.
7. Sleep. This is a tough one if you are struggling with anxiety and racing thoughts. The above lifestyle changes made it possible for me to be able to get the sleep I needed to stay balanced. I also learned that in order to ensure I get adequate sleep I needed to have a schedule. Our bodies are naturally programmed to settle down and unwind between the hours or 6 and 10pm. Our body produce chemicals such as melatonin in order to promote sleep. I now know that if I stay up too late or stimulate my mind later in the evening then I will not fall asleep at a decent time.
8. Pray. Yes Pray. I went through some very difficult moments in my life and am very blessed to have found a higher power through those challenges. Exploring spirituality was very difficult yet very awesome at the same time. People have different beliefs and thoughts about spirituality. I am not here to tell you what you should believe in, but I do want to say that by exploring spirituality and believing in something it can have a magnificent effect on how we manage and deal with emotions such as fear and anxiety. After exploring my spirituality I began to implement prayer into my life and it has completely changed my world. I no longer fear the unknown. I no longer need to control life. I can let it go knowing that there is something greater out there in control.
9. Focus on your purpose in life. I believe we all have purpose in this world. I learned that by trusting and focusing on that purpose is the key to finding a life of love and happiness. As I expressed above, I am not in control of the outcome. If I am anxious about something, I focus on my purpose. If my purpose is not clear, I go back to talking to someone I trust, meditation, yoga, breath, and prayer until the answer become clear. The answers always come in time. I learned that they may not always be what I want or how I want them or when I want them, but they do come and the outcome is always better than I ever imagined if I focus on my purpose rather control.
10. Journal or Write. I hated the idea of writing. I never had the time. Well I finally started doing it and I am addicted. I would write letters to the person I was struggling with (sometimes I gave them, sometimes I did not). I wrote answers to questions in self help workbooks or exercises. I wrote my thoughts and feelings in a journal. I even found people through self help programs that I could check in and write to daily. I did not do all of these every day. But I do write most days. This helps with the embrace, surrender and let go processes.
11. Listen to your body and mind and trust your instincts. The biggest challenge I faced and continue to struggle with today is listening to and trusting my instincts. I believe that we have the answers inside of us. Our body’s’ intuitively know what to do and how to do it. As a therapist and life coach my job is not to tell you how to live your life. My job is to help you connect with yourself because your answers are inside of you. I believe that our society and culture has taught us the opposite. It teaches us to resist our instincts and needs. Our culture encourages us to keep going when our instincts scream at us to stop. If you have anxiety, try asking yourself what is going on in your life? How does your body feel? Does your lifestyle allow for you to take care of your needs or does it encourage you to neglect them? If you answer yes to these questions, I am not surprised that you are experiencing anxiety. Listen to your body. Make the changes in your life you need to make.
12. Put healthy boundaries up with those who are not there to support you. This was another tough change I made. This was definitely a very painful process. I call it “cleaning out the closet”. I learned through this process of self care that there were some people in my life who were not capable of understanding, accepting and supporting me. I learned that in order for me to be able to move forward in my journey of health and wellness, I had to stop trying to please everyone around me. I learned that I had to believe in myself and keep going forward. I limited my time with unsupportive and toxic people. Doing this allowed more time and energy to spend with healthy more supportive individuals. Some of the people I set boundaries with remain in my life and others left. But once again, I learned who my real friends are. I also decided that I only want those real friends around. Friends and loved ones are supposed to make us feel good, not bad.
Try slowly practicing these skills and you will be amazed at how your life can change.
If you would like to explore your anxiety further with me or feel you would like more individual support check out my programs and services at http://www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net. Don’t forget to “LIKE” https://www.facebook.com/mindbodyspiritcounseling on Facebook for daily tips and inspiration.