Anxiety is an emotion we all feel from time to time--sometimes for good reasons, and sometimes not so much. Anxiety is one of the strongest emotions we feel, and it can provide us with motivation, power, push, and drive.
Human brain has evolved uniquely for us to look at the future and review the past. Mother Nature also has provided us with a negative bias. Clearly, these adaptions have helped us survive as a species. Anxiety often comes when our brain creates images of our future that can be scary (remember our inherent negative bias).
At its worst, anxiety can be incredibly frustrating and challenging, we can experience debilitating fear, worry and nervousness. At its best, however, anxiety is an emotion that can fuel us to great success--and ultimately, even happiness--so long as we control the anxiety we feel, and don't let it control us.
Anxiety often can help us pay attention to detail and provide us energy to push through roadblocks. I always remind myself that anxiety and excitement have the same physical “symptoms”, the only difference is the thoughts we have. Change your thoughts and you can change anxiety to excitement!
Want to learn how to turn your anxiety into success? Here are 3 steps to do just that.
Step One - Pause
Naturally, the most straightforward thing to do is simply to observe your anxiety. For most of us, anxiety manifests in form of rapid heart rates, breathing and sweating. One of my students, a busy executive, sits down and writes a blessing “May I be happy and peaceful” and puts his palms over his belly and just observes his breath. This pause often interrupts our negative bias.
Step 2 - Reflect
A nurse friend of mine grabs a pad of paper and writes what is worrying her. The act of writing slows down her thinking and she is able to look at her fears with a more balanced perspective. Write the worst thing that can happen and then look at other possible outcomes. Sometimes, it helps to talk with trusted colleague, friend or family member.
Step 3 - Act
Physical activity is an important step for most of us. In many cases, I will walk out of my office and go for a walk around the block. If the weather is not favorable, I will walk up and down the staircase. Another friend likes to use the coloring book for 5-10 minutes. Dancing to your favorite relaxing music can be powerful. Many of my students like to use “Blessing Meditation” Check this link out for more details.
Be patient and kind to yourself. Gently remind yourself “This too shall pass”. The more you take time to practice these three steps Pause, Reflect and Act”, you will be able to train your brain for love, peace and joy. Send me your questions and comments!
Disclaimer: One in five Americans suffer from anxiety disorders. It's not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet one in three of those suffering receive treatment. Check your healthcare provider and local health department for resources.
When I start one-on-one coaching with a new student, I often complete an inventory of my student's strengths based on questionnaires and their life-story essays. Yep - the students have to complete a lot of home-work - we use the euphemism "Home-Fun" LoL! We find that gratitude is often a dominant strength for many of my students. These students leverage gratitude daily to feel love, joy and peace and build resilience.
I attended an amazing online meditation session this weekend run by my friend Subba. He is based in Singapore and has a lovely yoga resort in Bali. At the start of the meditation session, Subba suggested that we write 100+ reasons to feel grateful. He said the opposite way is very easy. Given the negative bias of the mind, it would be very easy for 100+ things that we can complain about. Subba suggested that we turn that around.
1. I have laundry to do . . . I am grateful that I have clothes to wear
2. My house is cluttered with junk . . . I am grateful to have a roof over my head
3. I have a bad boss . . . I am grateful for a job that pays the bills
You get the drift. Now, Subba and I are not suggesting we live in a la-la land but often we are so busy complaining about life and we miss the wonder, joy and wisdom that comes along with the state of gratitude. I decided to try his gratitude exercise and I got stuck after the first five minutes. I persisted and bingo. I broke the hundred reasons into blocks of ten.
1. Ten people I am grateful for - wow! I could easily write 20+ people I am grateful for - including my dear friend Subba whom I have known for 30+ years
2 Ten magical places I have visited - Jerusalem, Cape Town . . . the list is quite endless
3. Ten books that have changed my life including Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
4. Ten Foods that I like the most - I didn't stop with 10 - LoL
5 Ten Songs/Music pieces that I enjoy again and again including the Happy Song
6. Ten body parts that I am grateful - eyes, ears, tongue . . . you know where I am going with this
7. Ten skills that I have and made my life better for myself and others - including meditation and public speaking
8. Ten movies that I watch again and again - including Shawshank Redemption
9. Ten Activities that bring me pleasure including hiking, dancing, swimming,
10. Ten Pieces of Art that bring me joy - including photos of Space by the Hubble Telescope.
11. Ten coincidences or chance happenings that transformed my life - Ah! so many people just came into my life at the right time, teaching opportunities, jobs . . . the list is endless.
I have been doing this exercise for the past three days - just looking at the categories fills my heart with love and joy. I encourage you to try this just for a week. I am sure you have ten categories of your own. Try it and send me a note or add a comment below!
Want to know more about my friend Subba? Check out his youtube channel and his website.
If you want scientific information and more details on how you can cultivate gratitude in your life, check out this earlier blog article of mine
a guided finger meditation
Engage your senses with soothing music, guided imagery and a labyrinth tracing activity which leverages the power of touch. Click the album cover to learn more.