Living and Coping with Anxiety
Most of us have anxiety at some level. I can’t think of one of my clients that doesn’t deal with anxiety and its partner, stress. And for most, it’s a major factor of their unhappiness. Why is anxiety so prevalent?
Anxiety spans a wide range of intensity from panic, phobias and rage to milder stress related daily experiences.
For most of us, we deal with Generalized Anxiety Disorder generated by a behavior. What is that behavior? Simply put, it is worry.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects over 6.8 million adults or almost 1/3 of the U.S. GAD is characterized by “persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues.”
Worry is imagining the future or the past in its worst-case terms. Clients, friends and family, pretty much everyone I’ve known or worked with, struggles with “fear of the unknown”. That fuels anxiety of all sorts. It can show up in everyday life. “What if I run into my ex with a date,” or “what if I can’t pay my bills this month.” Of course, significant life changes cause even more anxiety. “I just lost my job, and now my family is going to starve,” or “what if I never find a life partner?”
These are just a few real scenarios I’ve worked through with clients. And guess what? No one starved, and no one is alone. Bills got paid eventually without any ramifications, and meeting the ex turned out to actually be pleasant.
So why do we entertain these worst case scenarios?
I believe it is a survival mechanism. Our brain is like the computer of the body and this survival program is always running in the background, (like anti-virus type programs). This program is connected to our thoughts and it has helped us survive on this planet.
Throughout man’s evolution, we have needed to plan and calculate to live. Outsmarting saber tooth tigers, tracking the path of the buffalo for food, plotting safe travel routes and planning for weather to grow crops are just a few life threatening circumstances humans have had to navigate in order to survive.
In the United States and many other countries our lives are very different, now. Although we have stressful things we deal with, its rarely based on survival. Being late for work or having money challenges is usually not life threatening. We have grocery and clothing stores, transportation and safe travel routes set up for us. This is really good news for us, but that survival program is still running. It is running through the “what if” scenarios and focuses on fear and anxiety. Creating apprehension towards perceived events. In other words: worry.
These are stories we make up in our heads. There a lots of names out there for this phenomenon. Monkey mind, mental chatter and busy mind are just a few. You all know what I’m referring to, right?
GAD is supported by the false belief that we are at the whim of our mind, or we don’t have any control over where our thoughts go. Not true. If our brain is the computer, who is the programmer? YOU. Your higher Self, the emotional intelligent self, your intuitive self. The brain is ego and 3 dimensionally based – but you, the programmer, are bigger than the ego.
So, good news! You are not at the mercy of your mind, but it takes effort and vigilance to master the direction of your thoughts.
Here's a strategy.
Ask yourself, am I viewing this situation from fear or love? It’s our story and we choose the viewpoint. Actively choose love. In other words, positive/affirming outcomes not worst case scenarios. Both can be true, which one do you want to feed?
When you are in the story of fear and worst case scenario in your head, STOP the thought process for a minute and do a realistic check in. . . Am I in immediate danger? Is anybody hurt right now? Do I have a roof over my head tonite? Etc. Address the issue that is making you anxious. Most often the answers are that you are safe and good. That alone reduces the anxiety. I use this all the time when I feel anxious. Whether it was the fear of the unknown after my recent divorce, or my car breaking down on a busy freeway with two young children and no phone with us. The answers are always, “You are OK.”
Trust that you have what it takes to negotiate your life. Take responsibility for where your mind is going and what program is running currently. No one can do that for you because it is your thoughts. This is what you call an inside job.
Let's work together to stay present, peaceful, and in love with life.
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Christine Ryan, Sedona, AZ
ICP Certified Life Coach.
Certified Spiritual Response Therapy Practitioner
Conscious Connective Breathwork Practitioner
Exploring Your Passions and Soul Purpose
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