Everyone suffers from anxiety from time to time: there’s public speaking, job interviews, the dentist, flying on airplanes and many more situations that can be triggers for anxiety. In a general sense, anxiety may be defined as a state of uneasiness or apprehension, which may include physical symptoms such as palpitations, nervousness, sweating, trembling and rapid breathing. For about one in six people, this experience may cross over into what psychologists term a disorder at some point in our lives. There are many anxiety disorders; they include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social and specific phobias as well as generalized anxiety disorder.
Based on a wide variety of social, personal, genetic and environmental factors, anxiety can range from troublesome to debilitating and from occasional to continuous. For the majority of people, anxiety is something that will come and go as part of the normal human condition. We are currently living in a time when there is a lot of chaos and uncertainty in our world. This itself can be a trigger for anxiety and additionally, there is a sense of a collective anxiety in our culture and our world. Regardless of the pattern, degree or frequency that a person may experience anxiety, being able to deal with it effectively is an important component in experiencing a joyful and balanced life.
In my work as a holistic practitioner, I have found that anxiety is one of the major motivators for clients to seek alternative therapies. There may be something they are dealing with such as a health, work, financial or personal issue, but it is often the experience of anxiety that is the driving force in taking steps to create change. Both personally and professionally, I have found that incorporating a holistic approach, one that attends to body, mind, emotion and spirit is beneficial in addressing anxiety.
Healing and change requires attention, a commitment to oneself and openness to exploring what is possible. There is no magic formula – everyone is different and needs to find the tools and resources that work best for them at any given point in life and in their own healing process. The following five steps are the foundation of a 4-week series I facilitate on Mastering Anxiety:
Five Steps to Mastering Anxiety
1. Learn to relax. By learning to relax your body and mind, you become more able to handle the symptoms of anxiety, including muscle tension, palpitations, restlessness, and worry. Relaxation practices are tools you can utilize anytime and anywhere in response to the stressors of life. They can help in dealing with anxiety as it is arising and can also offer a powerful method of prevention. Research shows that applied relaxation techniques such as deep diaphragmatic breathing, progressive relaxation and meditation are highly beneficial in reducing anxiety.
2. You are what you eat. This may be an old familiar saying, but it is true. A well-balanced diet is a key part of managing anxiety. It is beneficial to pay attention to certain stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, alcohol or cigarettes. These can increase the heart rate, stimulate brain chemistry and cause the onset of anxiety or panic attacks. It is also good to be aware that these types stimulants affect each person differently and effects may vary based on overall health and stress levels. Finding a diet that is appropriate for you, eating regular meals, and staying well hydrated are all important factors in learning to mastering anxiety.
3. Develop a fit body and fit mind. We all know that exercise is good for the body, but what we don’t always remember is that a healthy body has a positive effect on our whole being – body, mind, emotion and spirit. Research has shown that regular exercise can help to release feel-good brain chemicals such as endorphins and increase body temperature, which can produce calming effects as well as boost confidence, take the mind off worries and develop healthy coping patterns. Most studies suggest that 30 – 40 minutes of exercise at least 3 – 4 times per week can be a great way to release tension, ease anxiety and let go of pent-up emotions. By caring for our bodies, we are able to develop greater balance, calm and ease of well-being
4. Don’t suffer in silence. Seek support and reach out for help to manage your stress and anxiety. Find the support you need by connecting with friends or family, seeing a counselor, or attending a support group – moving out of isolation is one of the keys to easing anxiety. Studies show that connection is one of the key needs of being human. Our relationships can help to create the feelings and experience of safety. When we feel supported, we can learn to respond to life stressors proactively rather than from survival mode. Also, when we hold our feelings inside, they often intensify. Sharing is a way to open up and release our feelings before our anxiety grows.
5. Know Yourself. You are your own best friend and your own inner healer. By exploring triggers that heighten your anxiety and becoming conscious of how you experience it, you can become better able to look at solutions and cultivate tools that can help to manage these triggers. By recognizing the patterns of your anxiety, you can seek alternative behaviors and develop preventative measures for coping. Knowing yourself, how you respond to life and what tools/resources are beneficial for you personally is vital to mastering anxiety.
Although knowing yourself was #5 on the list, it is actually the most important step in mastering anxiety. It is part of all of the other steps. Taking the time and space to actively and consciously choose to get to know oneself is probably the greatest thing a person can do for themselves. In the process of learning to master anxiety or exploring other life changes, I recommend developing a journaling practice to track your exploration, identify patterns, and discover tools and resources that can become a part of a Holistic Self-Care plan.
Journaling is a powerful way to develop self-awareness, track our experiences and cultivate change in our lives. There are many ways to journal and it’s important to find a way that works for you. For some it’s hand writing, for others on the computer. In the process of Mastering Anxiety, the important thing is to develop a process that helps to you to track where you are, what tools you are exploring and what changes you maybe noticing. Also, lists are a wonderful way to develop clarity and have beneficial resources at hand when you need them. Here are some suggestions for things to include in your journal:
Mastering Anxiety Log
Keeping a log of each time you experience anxiety can be a powerful way to track, learn about and begin to transform your anxiety. The following is a suggested format but you can find a way that works for you.
1. Description of experience of anxiety or stress (e.g. was feeling anxious when I drove to work today)
2. Triggers that you are aware of (e.g. got an upsetting phone call as I was leaving from my sister)
3. Signs & Symptoms (e.g. palpitations, sweating, restlessness, nausea, etc.)
4. Interventions/Tools Used (Did you use an intervention? e.g. deep diaphragmatic breathing, took some Rescue Remedy, talked to a friend, etc.)
5. After effect/Response (e.g. – felt calmer or more at ease or still very anxious)
Lists are a great way to learn about yourself, to track information and to create your own personal reference manual for life. Lists are something you can work with on their own or they can come about after you spend some time tracking your anxiety. They can be helpful because sometimes when you are experiencing anxiety, you may not have the capacity or focus to remember what tools to use, who to call for support, etc. If you have your lists available, you can use this as a reference in times of crisis or as soon as you have the awareness to take some type of intervention for yourself. The following are some types of lists you may wish to have in your journal for anxiety. Also, this can be used for stress management and holistic self-care planning:
Signs and symptoms – how you personally experience anxiety (e.g. heart palpitations, stomach upset, insomnia, etc.)
Triggers – things you are aware of that trigger your anxiety (e.g. work, family, financial pressure, driving, etc.)
Tools/Resources – be sure to explore resources that support body, mind, emotion and spirit. (e.g. meditation, yoga, drinking enough water, going to the gym, taking supplements, etc.)
Support – be sure to include people, places and things that help you to feel a sense of safety and support. Include phone #’s and contact info so you have it accessible when you need it. Often, our animals offer a huge sense of support or going to a place in nature where we feel a sense of connection can help, too.
Notes to self…. – Include anything you may want to remind yourself or that feels important to address or explore. You may also want to create a list of positive affirmations that can help you in the process of transformation.
We all have the ability to become our own agents of change and to find our healer within. Taking time to explore and get to know oneself is the key to transformation and healing. Seeking support and connection is an important part of feeling happy and safe. Caring for our bodies through exercise and nutrition is a requirement for wellness. Relaxation is a gift we can give ourselves that opens the door to feeling more balanced, peaceful and at ease.
Whether you are dealing with ongoing or occasional anxiety or are just wanting to create a more joyful and balanced life, I hope you will take some time to explore getting to know yourself more deeply and caring for all of who you are – body, mind, emotion and spirit.
Mastering Anxiety 4-Week Teleseries Starts on Nov. 20
Being able to deal with anxiety effectively is an important component in experiencing a joyful and balanced life.
• Are you struggling with symptoms of anxiety?
• Do you experience restlessness and an inability to relax?
• Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because you can’t quiet your mind?
• Do you have chronic worrisome thoughts that are difficult to turn off?
• Do you suffer from muscular tension, headaches, stomach problems or lack of energy due to worry or anxiety?
•Do you feel like anxiety is limiting the quality of your life?
Anxiety can prevent you from living a happy and fulfilling life. It can keep you from being able to focus and be present. It can cause a variety of physical and psychological symptoms, which can interfere significantly with work, family and everyday functioning. If not addressed, it can become a contributor to physical disease such as heart disease and digestive problems.
Recent research has shown that they’re a variety of alternative treatment options for resolving anxiety. Come and explore natural and effective methods for mastering anxiety without medication. In the 4 part Teleseries, you will explore:
- 5 Steps to Mastering Anxiety
- Understanding of anxiety and your own experience of it
- Building a Holistic Resource Toolbox
- Developing a Holistic Self-Care plan
- Taking responsibility for your own process of healing and transformation
Facilitated by Beth Terrence. This 4-week Teleclass will be both educational and experiential. Through a series of explorations, discussions and practices, participants will be able to explore how to master their anxiety and become their own agents of change.
Date: Tuesdays, November 20th – December 11th
Time: 7 – 8:15 PM
Additional Details TBA
For additional information or to register, visit www.bethterrence.com.