Hey everybody, welcome to Episode 21 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take your life questions and give you an answer here on the show.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and in today’s episode we have anxiety on the slab. Anxiety sure is rising and rising these days, or is it? In this episode we’ll look a bit more into anxiety and how we can leverage it in times when there’s seemingly no hope.
QUESTION: “What does an anxiety-free day feel like? I have been going through a major anxiety pang for the last 2 months (good use of “pang”), to the extent I even stopped listening to podcasts, my Calm app meditations, everyone around me made no sense, etc. My counselor, family, husband, everyone is telling me ‘it will get better' but better isn't good enough for me (and guess what…that makes me anxious too!). It's been so long, that I feel like I've forgotten what an anxiety-free day looks like.”
Does Anxiety Help or Harm Us?
I’ll tell you what an anxiety-free day feels like; it feels like fiction.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, even though that’s sorta become a regular thing here on the show, but an anxiety-free day doesn’t exist. For those of you who didn’t catch Episode 7 about overcoming fear, a core concept we went over is the fact that fear and anxiety are massive parts of who we are. They look out for us; they help us on a moment-by-moment basis.
We all have a lot more anxiety than we think we do — sorry if that’s not something you want to hear. Every single choice we make is a means of combating the anxiety we have towards the opposite.
Eating is done to combat the anxiety we have of going without food. Walking is done to combat the anxiety we have of staying where we are. The anxiety-ridden computing our brains do to avoid situations we feel are undesirable is an ongoing and endless process. Anxiety has objectively helped all of us infinitely more than harmed us, and it’s really worth recognizing that.
So what’s important from the get-go is to befriend this process and forgive it if it ever works in a way we might not like it to. Rest assured, however, if it’s working in a way we don’t want it to, it’s because it’s feeding off of a memory stored in your brain that YOU might have even forgotten about. It’s recognizing threat and trying to protect you from it.
So what you’re looking to do if you want to get out of this bout of especially strong anxiety is to both respect and understand this process that your brain is going through. This is how you can work towards acquiring a day that’s not free of anxiety, but a day in which there is less undesirable anxiety and therefore it’s not overriding you or your perception of reality.
How to Break the Cycle of Anxiety
Let’s talk about how to break this cycle to become more anxiety-free. I want to lay out some tips for you; some food for thought.
I’ll even break them down into numbers…mainly so I don’t have to think of silky smooth transitions between each one.
1. Know that it’s a part of life; it’s one of life’s many ups and downs.
You talk about nothing around you making sense. This phase can and probably will happen to anyone.
I know that after 2 months it probably feels as though there’s no climbing out, but there is. What they don’t tell you is that the climbing out is tricky because your stuck in quicksand, you’re not stuck in a well. The more you resist, the harder it’s going to be. This goes back to what I was saying about respecting your brain’s process and seeking to understand it rather than trying to force it into something new. Allow it this time. Learn form this time.
It WILL get better; your counselor, family and husband are absolutely right.
And then it might get bad again. Then good after that, and so on. That’s how life works. But if we’re talking about getting out of this CURRENT spell, that process is only going to be prolonged the more you insist that “better isn’t good enough” for you. When you insist on that, you’re buying into the idea that you aren’t good enough in the first place; that you, as you are, can’t do this and need something more. That’s the belief that makes a difference between getting out of this thing sooner or later.
2. Ask yourself what might have culminated and caused you to have a breaking point around this time.
Ask yourself what might have transpired two months ago, when this started, or what other things might have built up over time.
See you if you can manage to find a trigger that set this thing off and caused you to spiral down this far. If you can manage to lock in on one or two events that might be responsible for this, ask yourself the powerful questions about it.
The big dog to start with would probably be, “What did I buy into about this event that wasn’t true?” A question like this gives you the opportunity to get realistic about what the simple truth is about this event and how that truth is quite possibly very different than what you’ve told yourself about it up to this point.
You then might ask yourself if these anxieties are really just you acting out against something, or if there might be a healthier way to approach this, or maybe if there’s something or someone you need to get closure with. Identifying the trigger, whether or not you had a balanced reaction to it, and if not, how to acquire a balanced reaction, is of great assistance.
3. Jump right back into those actions you’ve been neglecting or new actions.
It’s time to stop waiting for motivation before acting on something — that’s yet another way of looking for a boost from somewhere else and reiterating to yourself that aren’t enough or don’t have enough right now to get to a healthier place. Any action right now will be useful. Even if it’s action you find yourself unenthused by, you can ask and examine why whilst you’re doing it. Action is so important because it forces your mind to change and have new experiences to work off of, thereby creating new thinking patterns.
The most driven action you can take, however, would be to really decide on the goal you’re trying to accomplish, if there’s something your anxiety is holding you back from specifically. Decide what the goal is that combats your anxiety, break it into small chunks and get to work on it.
These three approaches, in tandem, will put you back into the driver’s seat by helping you respond actively rather than passively to your anxiety. Though unwanted anxiety is due to return at any time, the more you can stay on top of it in ways like these, the more it's apt to staying in check and helping you only in the most practical ways.
And there we are, friends.
Of course, everyone’s anxiety is different, but one of the things we try to do here on the show is provide universally applicable themes to the answering of each question, and hopefully we did that for ya today because, as we mentioned at the top of the show, anxiety is something that has absolutely been being paid more attention to recently.
So if you have one of your own questions about something you’re struggling with answered on the show, you can email the question to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’d love to do what we can for ya, so please don’t be shy and keep the great questions rolling in. We’re sending a free book to those who send questions in, a little extra something to be excited about.
Can’t wait to break down another one for you next time. Until then everyone, take care!