Anxiety has always been a problem for me, I am a perfectionist and I have traditionally had some very negative thought patterns that allow me to spiral into long, crippling bouts of anxiety or panic attacks.
There have been points in my life when my anxiety completely stopped me from feeling like I was living at all. It was a chronic, painful existence. My self worth was nothing. So step one was to try to rebuild my self worth and prove that I could trust myself, people around me and the world.
- Self care: this took the form of stopping negative self talk. Whenever I stopped working I thought I was lazy. Creating a life wheel and making sure I focused on all the things that were important to me (such as gymnastics or friends), resting when I needed rest and not feeling guilty for it helped. Being around positive people was an important part of this step.
- Ask for help: working with a mentor was the first step, followed by a coach/clinical hypnotherapist, I didn’t feel like I could be vulnerable with friends and family. I didn’t learn to trust until I reached out to a colleague who I have worked closely with for a while now, he showed me that it was possible to reach out to people and that my percieved weaknesses weren’t going to be used against me.
- Remove toxic forces: this should have come first, however I have been in situations from which I wasn’t able to step away without help. I knew they were hurting me, with specific people manipulating, gas lighting, playing on my weaknesses. I had to value myself before I could see what was going on and I had to ask for help in order to remove the toxic people/situations from my life.
- A daily gratitude practice: Once my self worth was high enough to take positive action to keep me mentally and emotionally healthy I was able to start consistent gratitude practices. Five per morning as part of my morning routine.
- Manifestation practices: Manifestation is very powerful because you have to work to be very clear about what you want out of life. Creating goal lists and vision boards has been essential for me, it helps give me a purpose which helps me feel more in control of my life.
My anxiety used to be triggered by times when I felt completely out of alignment with my purpose. When I knew I was faced with having to speak positively about something that I didn’t believe in. or when I knew that I would have to face situations that might remind me of the toxic behaviour that I have faced. Once I loved myself enough and I knew I had trusted support I made the decision to stop putting myself in the position of championing things that I didn’t believe in.
Now, if I feel like something might trigger me, which is signalled by nerves, shortness of breath and self doubt, I take steps that stop it from spiralling out of control. This which normally keeps my anxiety in check:
- I change my physical situation by getting outside, doing some exercise or talking to people. If your stress response has already been triggered then it may not be possible for you to take “positive cognitive steps” until you change your physiology.
- Gratitude: I write down why I am grateful for the things I am nervous about. This can help turn nerves to excitement;
- I write emotional affirmations e.g. I am prepared, I am strong, I am capable;
- I write what I want to manifest: what do I want to achieve and how will I feel when I achieve it?
- Plan B: I try to remove the level of importance of the event by making sure that it is just one of many positive opportunities that I am equally excited about (e.g. if it is an investor pitch I would make sure I have other investors lined up or a route that I can go down if we don’t get the money).
We are all built to have stress responses and anxiety comes from our body’s biochemistry.
We can’t always avoid it, we can develop a toolkit to help us, these steps have really helped me. Let me know if they help you too, or if you have tried anything else that has worked?