How to Relieve Anxiety in 3 Easy Steps

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Anxiety is a piece of work. It feeds on fears and insecurities. It is the main course at the dinner table. It is also the appetizer and dessert. Anxiety is like cookie monster, constantly whispering “feed me” (said in a gruff, cookie monster voice).

Sometimes it can feel easier to feed the beast than to fight it off. When we live with something for a period of time, it becomes part of who we are. I’ll use the example of my hair. From as young as I can remember, I have been complimented on my hair. So much so that it became a huge piece of my identity. It was what made me pretty.

Then cancer came along and I lost my hair.

The fear of losing my entire self-identity was overwhelming. Until I lost my hair and was forced to re-assess who I was, I leaned so heavily on its weighted definition of self-worth that I created for myself that I really did not think I had anything to give without it. The year of no hair lead to a year of newness and self-discovery. So much so that I did a TEDx presentation about it.

I’m taking you on a bit of a scenic route to get to my point, which is that much like my hair, anxiety becomes the piece of ourselves that we cling to because it is certain in our life.

We often walk around thinking that we only attach to things that are good.  This is simply not true. In fact, if you listened to my latest podcast about Negativity Bias, you will understand that we have a genetic predisposition to look for the negative (a link to this episode is at the end of this post).

But still, why would we attach to something that is so visibly wreaking havoc? Because it’s comfortable, that’s why. To read more about this theory of anxiety being comfortable, and about the habit of anxiety, read The Order of a Mental Disorder

We identify with being anxious. Others may not use the term anxious to describe us, but they use words like:

Worrier

A-Type Personality

Controlling

Irritable

Restless

When you are told you are a certain way for a long enough period of time, you begin to lean into that definition.

Once you have defined ourselves as anxious, it becomes difficult to be anything else. I get it, you don’t want to be anxious. Who does? But for something to be different, the fear of change has to be less than the fear of staying the same.

Remember, anxiety feeds on fear. People with anxiety generally don’t like change. Therefore, a+b=c. In other words, the fear of taking steps necessary to manage anxiety can induce more fear than continuing to live with it.

The fear of change has to be less then the fear of staying the same

If you really want to manage your anxiety, you are going to have to take some steps in a very uncomfortable direction.

First Step

Believe that it is possible to live in a world where you can manage your anxiety. Notice I did not say live in a world free of anxiety. Promises of life without anxiety are made by people who have never experienced it. As a fellow anxiety-sufferer, I can tell you for certain that it is not possible to erase anxious thoughts from your life. But it IS possible to incorporate tools that will help you to manage it. I know because I have lived it. I am living it. I will continue to live with anxiety. What I refuse to live with anymore is its death grip on me.

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Second Step

Flip the script on your messaging to yourself. I talk about this a lot in most of my posts and on my podcast. It’s not because I have nothing else to say and am trying to fill up space. I mention it frequently because it is the single most important thing you can do.  Self-talk seems easy, but when we have a lifetime of telling ourselves negative messages, it takes a lot to untrain the brain.

Whenever you catch yourself using negative or absolute words, like can’t or always, flip the script. Or better yet, try this: replace the word can’t with won’t. You will be amazed by how this changes your thinking. Can’t implies incapability, won’t implies laziness. I tried doing this and what happened was I got mad. I’m no quitter! What also happened was that I began doing more of the things that I previously determined I can’t do.

 

Third Step

Stay curious. Curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat, sometimes it leads the cat back to its home. Don’t run from your negative self-talk. Instead, notice what you are thinking and stay curious about it. This will allow you to get to a place of understanding. For example, if you notice that you are feeling like you are not qualified to do something, instead of leaving it there, stay curious. Ask yourself why you think you might be saying you are not qualified, what evidence do you have, and just because you have never done it, does that mean you can’t do it? See where I’m going here? Curiosity is power.

In Summary

It is important to remember that just because things have always been a certain way does not mean that they have to continue that way. We all know the saying if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I hate to break it to you, but you’re broken. We are all broken in some way though. Recognizing what needs to be fixed is a lot more powerful than accepting that you are just going to live with worry taking over. You have lived this long with anxiety. How’s it working for you?

I am in the process of creating content that is going to help you to manage all of the ways that anxiety can affect us. In the meantime, click the link below to download a free 30-day anxiety slaying challenge that I have created to get you started.

Time to take action. You are worth it, you deserve to live your best life, and it is possible to make it happen.

 

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