Anxiety is as debilitating as depression. Depression is not simply sadness that people feel, and anxiety isn’t just nervousness. There’s a lot more to it than just, “I’m nervous about X.” Anxiety has paralyzing effects, and it can feel imprisoning, especially during situations in life that requires us to get over a hurdle or perform at a job or social event.
I’ve had many experiences or moments, ones that were pivotal, life-changing — anxiety inducing enough to shoot me through the ceiling leaving behind a Tessa shaped hole in the roof. Any work or social opportunities that’d come up, I’d feel like I’ve got a stomach flu up until any event. At certain events, gatherings, or moments where I’ve had to take center stage, (like public speaking) I’d start to sweat and I barely sweat (except for exercising), my palms damp, chills along my spine, and my brain foggy. Panic swallowed me whole, and I’d become unable to think or speak clearly. If I had to memorize something, I was like, forget it. Not happening. After years of struggling with this, I got tired of anxiety overpowering me and dictating my life and experiences.
I think we’ve all had these high-intensity/stress moments or events where we’d think to ourselves, “Oh gosh, don’t screw this up!” I’ve learned that how we think can generate and exacerbate anxiety that wasn’t there to begin with. These strategies I use will foster calmness and level headed thinking so we can perform and accomplish seemingly daunting tasks in the midst of important situations.
Confidence Building Affirmations
Affirmations are great for any situation you find yourself in where anxiety comes out of nowhere. The day of an event, or even at an event, I’ll stop my thoughts in their tracks, and say five or more confidence building affirmations in my mind, or under my breath. I identify the root cause of what’s stirring me up, and use affirmations to refocus my train of thought. People can sense lacking confidence, which can affect the outcome of situations. You can use any affirmations, really; anything to transform your thought process to reality based thinking. Affirmations redirect the thoughts that stir our nerves.
Notice in the strategy above, I emphasized the word: reality. I have a realist mindset. Do I still daydream and wander off at times? Sure I do. On the verge of accomplishing important goals, though, I keep my mind grounded in the now. People often mistake ‘realists’ as negative people and this is incorrect. If you look up the term realist, Google defines it as: a person who accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly. The word “prepared” is the big winner in that definition, because I know I’ll always show up prepared and ready to tackle tough challenges, which increases the odds of getting what I want or need in the long run. Preparation is the key to managing anxiety.
Specific Diaphragmatic Breathing
If you have a few minutes when you’re at an event, count your inhales and blow out your exhales as hard as you can. On the inhale, breathe in (through the nose) two or three counts, and exhale. Deep breathing combats anxiety like no other. Shallow breathing with the mouth open promotes anxiety (one thing I learned in Yoga), whereas deep breathing — in through the nose and out the mouth eases every square inch of your body. This gets oxygen to your brain too, which aids in clearer thinking.
I’ve used visualization before to help me work through depression. It’s like a mental practice or rehearsal. This process helps us identify what we want and gives us insight on how to get to where we want to be. Imagine yourself at home (before approaching a stressful situation) knowing you achieved what you needed and wanted to. This motivates me to stop spiraling and start using the resources available to me, the ones that guarantee my success. Visualization is one of those resources freely available to you, along with the others listed above.
How we spend our time affects how we respond to stressful or challenging situations, as well as the outcome of situations. Time is precious and available to us to use at our advantage. We’ve got the resources within us to conquer anxiety and work through tough challenges that life throws at us.
Originally published at medium.com