Last night I woke up at 2:30 am to THE STORM. I’m not talking about an act of nature. I’m actually talking about a mental storm of anxiety-producing thoughts. If you have ever had anxiety maybe you can relate to THE STORM.
Generally, my STORM goes something like this: a sudden rush of negative thoughts, a pit in my stomach and throat, and a quickening of my breath.
I am a coach and a mindfulness teacher and I still face the storm from time to time.
I say that with openness and honesty in order to dispel any anxiety around having anxiety lol. The last thing that an anxious person needs to feel is anxiety about having anxiety.
The truth is that we cannot completely control our thoughts, therefore, we cannot control anxiety. However, we can manage or reduce anxiety by controling what thoughts we choose to believe, how we respond to anxiety, and what we make anxiety mean about ourselves.
I think that we often forget that we can choose our beliefs. Even though we cannot control our thoughts, we can control whether or not we believe them. Often our thoughts are pre-programmed and play like a broken record in our mind. But it is possible to watch your thoughts without believing them.
Last night, when I woke up in the middle of the night, my anxiety was a flood of all my “failures” and all the ways that “I am not enough.” Rather, than reacting to these thoughts and believing them, I went into the space of the silent observer. I let these thoughts pass like clouds in the sky without reaction or judgment. By not reacting to the thoughts of what we don’t want, we reduce their automaticity and their frequency.
Even though my mind brings up “facts” about what happened in the past, I am the one who decides whether they are “failures.” That decision is my choice and my choice alone.
Another way that I manage my anxiety is by shifting my response. Even though I still have anxiety and I face THE STORM from time to time I no longer struggle with anxiety. I have changed my relationship with anxiety by changing my response. Instead of trying to fight my anxiety I have learned to watch it with compassion and even love.
Compassion? Love? How can I have love and compassion for my anxiety?
I have compassion for my anxiety because I know that when my anxiety shows up, it is a mental and physical response that is actually trying to protect me.
Yes, in a weird way, my anxiety is trying to protect by keeping me in my comfort zone. It shows up more when I am out of my comfort zone because it’s afraid of uncertainty. It doesn’t know that wonderful things happen outside of my comfort zone, it just wants to keep me safe.
Knowing that it is just afraid and that it is trying to protect me, how can I not be compassionate?
I even believe that my anxiety loves me… though it has a weird way of showing it.
And when I see this, when I see that it is ALL LOVE, how can I not love it back?
The last way that I manage my anxiety is by changing what I make it mean about me. I have anxiety from time to time but that doesn’t have to mean that I am an ANXIOUS person. My anxiety is not a problem that I need “to fix” it’s just an indicator and it’s trying to tell me something . I believe that my anxiety shows up to tell me something very important. So when it shows up, I don’t immediately try to suppress it. Instead, I listen with attention and I talk to it. I ask, “What are you trying to tell me?” And I listen to the answer.
I would love to hear about your journey with anxiety, how it shows up for you and what you make it mean. Write your response in the comments section below.