Befriend your anxiety and change your life

I haven’t written a personal post in a while. I decided to make time once a week at least for this and share snippets of my transformation journey from fear to love. As you know, anxiety is an old friend of mine and one which at times I saw as a disability and reason to dislike myself. I now choose to call my anxiety a friend because acceptance and a loving perspective are a much healthier way of dealing with it.

Anxiety is that friend that reminds me something’s up. Not externally, but internally. I got to know it so well that I know it is either telling me one of the following things:

  • I am stressed and need to manage it (Launch operation ‘Self-care and self-love’)
  • I am disconnected from my inner world and higher consciousness (Launch operation ‘Stop, meditate, connect’)
  • I made a decision that wasn’t true to myself (Launch operation ‘Back to basics’ aka undo decision or accept mistake and start again)

There are instances where these don’t seem like the real reasons for an anxiety flare-up and they may look more like just phobias. E.g. my fear of flying, accidents, ill health, death, etc. Recently,  however, I discovered something incredibly important. My irrational fears only overwhelm me when I haven’t been managing the above silent triggers. A prime example is flying when I’ve had a stressful few days and little sleep vs. flying after self-care, relaxation and a good rest. The difference is incomparable. Whereas I would have a panic attack even before boarding the plane if I’ve been experiencing stress, if I am relaxed and rested, I am able to control my fear to the point of actually enjoying the flight! There is no greater evidence for me than this.

So today’s lesson is so important! You have to befriend your anxiety and get to know yourself as much as possible, with love, compassion and patience. This is where you begin healing, this is where the transformation begins.

It took me a while and it took a lot of self-development and awareness to pin point my main triggers. And since then, I have been able to manage my anxiety to the point of being anxiety-free for months at a time. I am basically rewiring my brain to not chase my anxious thoughts and be non-reactive to a wave of anxious feelings.

This was my brain two years ago: ‘F**k! Noooooo. Stupid a*s b***h anxiety is back! I don’t know what to do. I am so desperate. I don’t know what I want. I feel so guilty, I feel so paralysed. I am letting people down. Am I crazy? I am a failure. What is the point? I don’t want to live like this. Will it always be like this? I am damaged.’

This is my brain now: ‘Oh, hello! What’s up, old friend? What are you trying to tell me? Aha. Ok. Yep, I know. Cool. Can we talk about it in the morning? Great. Thanks for stopping by.’

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I can invite it out of my head instantly and sometimes I gotta let it stay for a day or two. But it ain’t ruling my life anymore! No, sir.

Here are some more tips that help me stay balanced, by operation name 😉

Self-care and self-love

When stress takes over me, I know these things help relax me and give me joy:

  • Good food – homemade is usually the best, fresh and nutritious. I don’t bother with calories and guilt over food, but I also never crave junk food – I crave hearty, soul food and maybe a dessert. Ok, sometimes a glass of wine.
  • Good music – I have a dedicated playlist called ‘Happy in love’ (I know, predictable) that is a mixture of genres and tempos but somehow awaken happy feelings in me.
  • Good company – people I trust and who know me well, accept me as I am and widen my perspective when I get fixated on anxious thoughts.
  • Exercise – any will help. My favourite: dancing, weight lifting, yoga.
  • Sleep – nothing throws me more off balance than lack of sleep. Nothing. It’s my worst trigger 🙁 So I don’t compromise on my rest time, ever. (My anxiety whispered: ‘Will you have kids then?’ – I don’t know, old friend! I don’t know. But I am staying present and not panicking about stuff that hasn’t happened yet. Thanks
  • A break from work (if possible) – and I do whatever I fancy without a strict plan.
  • A bubble bath with relaxing bath salts.
  • Watch my favourite happy shows (no drama, violence or thrillers!)
  • Listen to podcasts: I recommend Oprah’s Super Soul conversations and Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness.
  • Go out for a walk in nature or simply spend time in the garden. I am a SUPER believer in our connection to nature, in it being the ‘natural’ order of things. We are not meant to live in concrete jungles and we should do whatever we can to keep that higher, incredible connection to the living world around us. There has never been a time when being in awe of nature hasn’t humbled me, grounded me and instantly lifted me. I love you, Mother Nature!
STOP, MEDITATE, CONNECT 

Another major factor in overcoming my anxious mind has been introducing meditation and mindfulness in my life. I’ve talked about this before, and it perhaps deserves a whole book on it or at least a separate blog post. But for me meditation is training for the mind, not in a controlling matter, more like a compassionate, loving way of understanding your mind and making peace with the thoughts.

I basically spend 10-20 minutes every morning and evening staying still, breathing, watching my thoughts go by, and not reacting. This is the secret! Learning to watch the thoughts. Not stop them. Not feed them. Patiently and compassionately diminishing their intensity by bringing attention to the breath, to the sounds, the smells, the feelings in your body.

Meditation is a special time where your body and mind connect, helping each other relax and be still. It is a beautiful thing, but it requires daily practice and commitment. The benefits don’t hesitate to show even when you think you’re doing it wrong. You’ll slowly start noticing you are calmer, more present, more aware. You change seemingly and it is a sensation that fills me with joy and gratitude.

BACK TO BASICS

A major trigger and anxiety-inducing part of our lives is ‘finding purpose’. Aka finding that job that gives us meaning and is meant for us. There’s never been a more acute need to feel you’re making a difference.

This is a hard mission, my friends. There is so much unlearning, surrendering and trial & error. But it is a beautiful journey. One of growth, self-discovery and rewards.

I am still finding my way, but I will never regret the many directions I took, the ideas, the decisions, the giving-ups and starting-overs. Whilst sometimes I still hold myself back, I still make decisions based on fear or what others expect of me, my inner voice becomes stronger and stronger. And I know I am on the right path.

I have learned to recognise when decisions I make or routes I take are not aligned with my authentic self and bigger goal. And that is the most important step, as I can use that gut feeling to re-route.

However, you first need to dig so deep within yourself, try new things, get out of your comfort zone to formulate your big goal, or life dream. So that you always keep it in mind and when faced with a decision, you can ask yourself: Is this bringing me closer to my goal? 

More on finding your purpose coming soon. 

I am going to wrap this up here, I already can tell how there is so much more to explain and share. But we’ll take it one topic at a time.

My greatest advice remains to befriend your anxiety by getting to know it and yourself down to a T. I work on this every day. I practice, I write and I give thanks. Every. Single. Day. And there is more love and good in my life than I ever imagined, whether or not my old friend visits me every now and again ❤️