Balancing your anxiety and your ambitions can seem like conflicting goals. One part of you is ready to make it happen; to turn your goals into a reality. You have a strong desire to get the promotion; to run with your latest creative idea; to start a new business venture. At the same time, there’s a voice in the back of your head that’s nagging you, causing all types of self-doubt. But with some anxiety management strategies, you can put your anxiety at ease so you can go after your dreams.
Most people with anxiety can relate to the moment of burn-out. It occurs after every anxious moment or panic attack after telling yourself, “It’s fine,” too many times to count. Your mind and body feels strung out, exhausted, and on-edge. The exhaustion that follows anxiety can even be worse than the actual anxiety itself.
Hello, I’m Sarah Kleiner, business coach and fellow anxiety warrior who knows first hand how difficult it can be to go after what you really want when you’re anxiety is trying to convince you otherwise. It took me a long time to learn how to take care of my body while doing new, challenging things that were needed to make my big dreams a reality. It’s still an imperfect process, but it’s progress nonetheless. I have always had a history of anxiety; frequent panic attacks that started in high school; my palms were always sweaty and my mind was always racing. My face would even blush during tests when I’d look up at the clock and see that I was done quickly because I was worried the teacher would think I was cheating. In reality, I studied and I studied hard, but my anxiety still made me doubt it.
My first career dream was to be a journalist, and I remember worrying over whether that was really the best job option for me. I worried about the stress, the deadlines, even the constant task of interviewing sources. I was worried my anxiety would hike up my stress, and that type of job wouldn’t be sustainable for me… Just because of my anxiety.
As the Universe would have it, I ended up in a job in crisis communications where it was actually my job to support a Fortune 500 company in responding to unexpected incidents. Basically, I was planning for, and then putting out, fires. Stress was pretty much inevitable. This is actually what got me to the point of truly addressing my anxiety in a deeper way than I ever had before. I started feeling the impact on my body, on my mind, and on my emotions in a way that was pretty undeniable. Ignoring my body just to reach the next goal was becoming impossible. I needed some serious anxiety management strategies.
The interesting thing that I discovered when I began listening to my mind, body and soul instead of my anxiety was that my soul wanted me to do some pretty big, scary things. As I listened to that part of me I was feeling called to things like starting a blog, starting a business, and finding a way to make a bigger impact in the world. On the surface this seemed even more stressful, and counter-productive to my initial goal of quieting my anxiety. Yet, what I found was there was a sense of peace that came with feeling guided. When I was listening to my soul, it felt bigger than me. It felt like I was choosing a path that was ultimately for my highest good, versus feeding that loud anxious voice in my brain that was usually yelling at me.
Of course, the worries of “I won’t be able to handle it” and “I’m not good enough” still popped into my head. In my experience, there’s no way to permanently banish that anxious voice. This time though, I was able to label it as my anxiety and give my body space to feel those emotions. I would write out what my anxious voice was saying. I would spend time with my feet in the grass, picturing all that anxious energy pouring out of my body and being transmuted by the Earth. I would spend time doing gentle yoga or in the bath, with the intention of nurturing my body and letting it know its safe. Then, I’d lovingly choose to do the scary thing anyway. I’d have a moment in my journal where I acknowledged it’s what my soul is tapping me to do. I’d express the excitement under the fear, and really feel the pull from my heart about this next step. I’d give my body love, and take action.
The biggest shift I had during this timeframe was connecting with my soul. It was that voice under my anxiety. It was what my heart wanted. I started making time every single day to connect with this part of me, even if it was only for ten minutes through meditation or journaling. This led to me noticing that the loudest voice in my head was usually my anxiety, and under it there was a whisper coming from my soul. I needed to start listening and here’s how you can too:
Slow breathing always works, so never underestimate its simplicity. When you’re anxious, your breathing becomes shallower and faster. Slowing down your breathing will instantly relax your nervous system, making this one of the best best anxiety management strategies.
Start by counting to three as you slowly breathe in; count to three as you slowly breathe out. As you get better with slow breathing, you can extend the time of each inhale and exhale.
Take a couple of moments to ground yourself. This anxiety management strategy helps bring you back to the present moment while also distracting your mind away from your anxiety attack.
In your mind, find 5 things you can see; 5 things you can touch, plus 5 things you can smell and 5 things you can hear.
One of the latest anxiety management strategies I’ve been learning is Progressive Muscle Relaxation. It’s similar to doing a body scan in meditation, as it takes you through the different sensations in your body so you can relax them.
Start by closing your eyes. Relax and tense each muscle group from your head to your toes. For example, crunch up your toes while the rest of your body is relaxed and then release them; move onto your feet, your calves, your thighs, etc.
With each step forward, it’s important to check in with both your body and your soul. Each moment of growth requires something different. When you can tune into that place of guidance in your soul, and the trust that it’s bigger than you, it’s truly what keeps you going.
Originally published on Anxiety Gone.
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