Despite attempts to stay in control, anxiety can often be crippling when it goes unchecked. Here’s how you can find your way to a more hopeful place.
Anxiety and I are old friends. And I do mean friends, because it has taught me a lot. I’ve tried many methods over the years to try to manage it. What I’ve recognized over the years was that it was all about feeling more in control and less afraid.
Getting good grades, developing amazing organization skills, and ultimately, to having rigid control over food and exercise – they were an attempt to stay in control.
On the outside, all of these things probably appeared healthy and probably looked like I had it all together. However, none of them actually helped, but were ways to transfer my nervous energy into something I felt was productive. And when it came to using exercise and food to cope, it did a number on my mind and body.
We all have a “checker”, and it’s a good thing. It allows us to sense that danger is coming, like when you step out into a street and immediately step back as a car zooms by. But for those of us who are overly anxious, our “checker” just seems to be cranked up a million fold.
We see danger in just about every situation, and there is always something to be done, fixed, figured out, or solved.
So over the years, I have developed a very keen awareness of what anxiety feels like – in my mind, my emotions, and my body.
It was important for me to work with a therapist or mental health professional to develop an awareness that helps you identify when anxiety starts to creep up. There will be days where I still struggle to a certain extent, but it is nowhere near as bad as it once was. I attribute this the following practices for those of you living with anxiety may find helpful.
1. Connect inwards
Start each day with quiet time to yourself: a meditation or devotional, or if you’re religious, a prayer or scripture study. It connects you to what you value most, and what brings you the most peace. Whatever that is for you, feeling connected with yourself allows you to learn from your own experiences. Starting your day this way helps remind you to hang on to hope above all else.
2. Be mindful
There are life-changing benefits that can come from implementing mindfulness skills and tools. Mindfulness is defined as: “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” Essentially, it helps you discern the difference between irrational fears and truth.
Practicing mindfulness has allowed you to live more in the present – focusing on what is right in front of me – rather than feeling anxious about the future or some sort of impending doom. When you feel your mind start to race, you learn to take deep breaths, validate your thoughts, feelings and worries. That way, you can redirect your thoughts to what is right in front of you, and remind yourself to make decisions based on what it really is, rather than what you’re anticipating.
Write down your thoughts will benefit the way you process your internal emotions. Do not underestimate the effectiveness of this activity – you will come to understand your own thoughts, feelings and situations more clearly, and make them feel more manageable.
4. Work with a professional
Working with a therapist helped me identify the very root cause of my suffering. It was linked to my overwhelming need to do everything perfectly – a situation that is, in fact, impossible. I can attest to the greater confidence and peace that has come as I have practiced being more kind to myself and others.
Cutting myself some slack, bailing on my to-do list for something more meaningful, not comparing myself to others, avoiding assumptions and judgments, not taking offense (even when intended), and ultimately, not eating or exercising by any rules.
If you find truth in what I have said, know that finding hope and healing can happen for you as it has for me. I believe that none of us experience things for only our benefit and learning, but to take what we learn and share it with others.
So if that’s you, I sincerely hope it helps.
Adapted from the original article.
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Emily Fonnesbeck, RD, CD, CLT is a Utah-based private practice Registered Dietitian. Instead of creating unnecessary restrictions, Emily focuses on helping individuals become confident and in charge of their own well-being through Intuitive Eating and Mindful Living. She is a strong believer and advocate for helping people become capable individuals who are confident in taking care of themselves. Make a visit and read more from Emily.