Anxiety is the most frequent symptom that leads clients to contact me for therapy or spiritual life coaching. It is that powerful and that painful. Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease.” How could you get through a human life without feeling that at one time or another? You can’t, so accept that it is a part of life. But, the severity and frequency of the anxiety is what you want to consider.
I believe that one of the reasons anxiety is so prevalent is because we live in an achievement-oriented and materialistic society where many of us are driven “to have stuff” as measures of our basic self-worth. On top of that, we may believe that we can have whatever we want when we want it, and the discomfort, worry, disappointment or fear that results when that doesn’t occur is huge. This expectation is fueled by the instant gratification that has run rampant in modern society, having become so accustomed to accessing what we want immediately. This may be streaming a favorite TV show (rather than awaiting next Thursday at 8pm when it is aired, which is how it was for my childhood and even much of my adulthood) or ordering a new toaster online and receiving it at your door two days later, we naturally come to feel that we can snap our fingers and also achieve our life goals. Add to this our intense “comparison culture,” with social media revealing to us daily a stylized version of others’ lives, leaving many of us to feel that our own lives come up short in success, beauty, happiness or wealth. So, as a result of all of this: our achievement-orientated, instant-gratification culture and comparison-syndrome habits, we are left anxious that we are not enough, that things aren’t working out for us. Those are heavy burdens to carry. I want to help. Here are four suggestions of how to manage anxiety:
1. Move your body. Aerobic activity stimulates the relaxation-response in the nervous system and releases endorphins (the “happiness hormones”) which decrease anxiety almost immediately. Exercise is honestly one of the single best things you can do when gripped with anxiety, and it doesn’t take much. Anything that brings up your heart rate above resting for even ten minutes can make a significant improvement. If you don’t have ten minutes, one minute of jumping jacks, walking a few flights of stairs (skip the elevator!) or holding a plank (upward push-up) pose will do.
2. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Exhaustion, and even slight sleep-deprivation, increases our sense of vulnerability and inability to cope at our best, naturally boosting feelings of anxiety. When not well-rested, your mind is slower, you have less access to your own coping resources and don’t have the bandwidth to release yourself from a downward spiral of thinking and body tension.
3. Meditation. In its simplest form, meditation is the act of observing yourself observing yourself. Because so much of anxiety originates in negative thinking (what I like to call “awfulizing”) learning to meditate can help you observe yourself thinking, creating a pause to ask yourself if those thoughts are actually true and you open the opportunity to shift them. As Shakespeare himself said, “Things are neither good nor bad, thinking makes them so.”
4. Turn off your social media! If you troll through your apps for hours daily, you are there too long and exposing yourself to messages and images that can easily lead to shame, doubt and feelings of comparison. Trust me, even if you think you aren’t, you are. Our brains are wired this way for survival, so prevent it. Spend more time living YOUR life, and less watching others’.
Accept that some anxiety is a part of the human journey and also know that there are steps you can take to bring yourself relief when it is just too much. You don’t have to remain in an endless cycle of dread, racing thoughts and sweaty palms. Do something. Even small steps can lead to a more peaceful existence. TheWiseWomanPath.com is here to help.