As leaders of our life, we’re always managing; every day’s a flurry of managing our schedules, people, money, kids, pets, our over-flowing to-do list, and our anxiety.
Because we’re experts at managing, it stands to reason that we’d manage anxiety, right?
Whereas managing anxiety might serve us in the short-term, it will not serve us in the long-term; I know, as I tried for most of my life, and failed miserably into a spiraling hot mess.
Here, my friend, is why managing anxiety doesn’t work.
Living With Anxiety
Anxiety’s part of living and breathing as a human; it helped us survive as a species by alerting us to possible threats or danger; anxiety’s actually a pretty useful emotion.
So, when we step out of our home and into our life, anxiety is bound to go with us, in some way, shape, or form…and that’s okay.
We often need anxiety to kick us in the keister, get us moving, and inspire us to leap, risk, evolve, and reach higher.
The right amount of anxiety keeps us responsibly alert and on our toes, productive, creative, and dedicated to our responsibilities.
Without anxiety, we might not perform or create at the level of which we’re capable; we might not get out of bed in the morning!
However, for some of us, anxiety goes beyond useful and functional.
The anxiety barometer is always in over-drive and the common, and generally annoying, symptoms of anxiety are dialed way, way up.
We wake each morning on high alert, anticipating the next shoe to drop.
Our heart races, our jaw clenches, our body sweats, and our stomach flutters.
We worry excessively, have trouble sleeping, suffer from mental and emotional exhaustion, and even experience an array of psychosomatic and physically debilitating symptoms.
Our capacity to cope? Questionable at times.
Each expansion and risk intensifies our anxiety, our ability to cope wanes, and yet we persevere day in and day out, often at a cost.
We suffer in silence and isolation, and drown or numb our anxiety with food, alcohol, drugs, working, shopping, or other compulsive coping behaviors.
We’re way too independent and ashamed to reach out and ask for help. What would people think? We’re suppose to have it all together, right?
So we suffer…
Why Managing Anxiety Doesn’t Work
I’ve lived with high anxiety all my life.
Even though I’ve achieved, accomplished, and continue to be successful in multiple areas of my life, I’ve suffered from often unbearable symptoms of anxiety.
As a child, I knew my body was wired differently.
I was in and out of the doctor’s office with stomach issues; I was always nervous, tense, worried, and painfully anxious.
My hands, feet, and armpits were always sweaty and clammy; I was always seeking certain types and colors of clothing to hide my persistent anxious sweat.
Body tremors and panic attacks were common and unpredictable.
I remember countless times being unable to drive my car because my legs were shaking and trembling uncontrollably.
The pain of my anxiety attacks felt like a knife in my throat and a vice on my chest, as if my breath was literally being squeezed out of me.
I assumed that I could successfully managing my anxiety, as I did all the other areas I managed in my life.
I tried managing anxiety with therapy, medication, vitamins and herbs, teas, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and even journaling…desperate to control it.
Some of the things I tried worked, but only for the short-term; rarely did anything work when trying to meet deadlines, handle conflicts and difficult conversations, and managing the daily demands of life.
Let’s face it. Life doesn’t always allow space for a yoga class, or finding a private space to meditate, especially, if you work in a busy office with little privacy.
And even though self-care is a priority in my schedule, and believe me, yoga, meditation, and journaling are amazingly helpful, the reality is that some items on the calendar are simply non-negotiable and must be completed today!
Making Peace With Anxiety
After years of trying to manage my anxiety, I decided to approach this whole anxiety thing differently; what I was doing, or all I was doing, was simply not working.
I wanted to figure out how to make peace with anxiety and live with it differently, and in a way that allowed me to be all in with my life, maintain my schedule and productivity, while also staying present, focused, and in the flow of life with my family, even when feeling anxious.
So I figured it out!
Here are two practices that I rely on daily to make peace with anxiety; I truly believe that they can help you too!
Disclaimer: If you ever experience super scary, ultra frightening symptoms because of anxiety, please seek medical assistance immediately.
1. Change How You Think and Feel About Anxiety
Anxiety is a feeling, an emotion, nothing more, nothing less.
And granted, some of us might be wired to experience more anxiety than others, and even have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, like I do.
However, what intensifies our anxiety and makes it worse is how we think and feel about anxiety.
Thoughts such as, “Why can’t I control my anxiety?” “I’m so stupid that I can’t get a handle on this!” “What’s wrong with me!” “Look at me! I’m a frantic mess!”
Likewise, our thoughts and beliefs about our circumstances and ourselves also increase anxiety.
Thoughts like, I’m not good enough, smart enough, techy enough, thin enough, pretty enough, blah, blah, blah, are thoughts we create in our mind; thoughts that are generally connected to our past.
The more we think these types of negative thoughts, the more anxious we feel; the more anxious we feel, the more we start trying to managing anxiety.
It’s a viscous cycle that does not serve us or our business well!
It’s when we decide and commit to changing how we think about anxiety and ourselves that we begin to create long-lasting, permanent relief.
2. Connect With Your Body
Because anxiety is a feeling, we naturally “feel” it in our body.
By connecting with your body, you can begin to learn about your anxiety and what it’s trying to tell you.
When I feel overly anxious, I stop and listen, check in, and hear what anxiety is wanting me to know.
In most cases, an old story from my past has surfaced or I’ve pushed myself too hard or extended myself beyond my calendar.
In most cases, by simply noticing and focusing on my breathing for 3-5 minutes, my anxiety eases.
So when you feel anxiety stir, pause, notice, and listen to what your body is telling you.
Become curious with where you feel the anxiety, how it feels, and how it’s moving through your body.
Stay with it, breathe into it, and trust that it can’t harm you.
As you travel through your body, notice your breathing; breathe in and out deeply and slowly, paying attention to your breath entering and exiting your nostrils.
Simply be with your body and your anxiety. Honor it. Treat it kindly and lovingly.
Explore your entire body with playful interest. Stay open, curious, and compassionate.
Living Peacefully With Anxiety
When we stop trying to manage anxiety and start seeking to understand it, we begin to experience huge relief internally and noticeable external shifts in our life.
A wealth of strategies and practices exist for easing the symptoms of anxiety, such as exercise, yoga, meditation, relaxation, journaling, and visualization, just to name a few; I’ve integrated many of them into my own self-care practices with noticeable success!
Yet, of all the strategies that I practice regularly, changing how I think and feel about anxiety, my circumstances, and me, while mindfully connecting with my body have been the two most effective practices for me professionally and personally.
“Anxiety’s not the issue. The issue is how we think, feel, and respond to anxiety. “
Both are always accessible, available free of charge, and you can call on them any time, any where, with anyone, under any circumstance.
I practice changing my thinking and connecting with my body in uncomfortable meetings, during stressful conversations, when trying to meet an important, critical deadline, and living a crazy-busy family life.
We perfect what we practice and committing to these two practices has given me noticeable anxiety relief. Honest!
Look, I know you’re anxious about all the responsibilities you’re juggling in your life; I get it!
But what if it’s possible to stop managing anxiety and start making peace with anxiety?
What if these two simple strategies could allow you to begin living peacefully with anxiety, once and for all?