“Keep calm and carry on,” they say. Oh, OK, sweet! If only it was so easy. “Stop worrying and think positive!” It’s the cure for anxiety. If only. We’d all be free and happy then, wouldn’t we? I mean, I’ve had loads of positive thoughts, and I’m sure I had a moment of worry-free clarity somewhere in my mind this week, so I should be fine!
Well, sometimes, I’m just not. Even if I feel pretty well in my mind, and I’m doing all the things I’m supposed to (you know, salad, exercise, meditation, don’t drink too much) I still get panicky.
Today, my heart is racing, my mouth is dry and words coming out of my mouth are stammering, but I don’t feel like there’s anything particularly worrying me. This happens so often. I feel cool as. I’ve got nothing to be anxious about today, nobody is dying, I got some coin in my bank account, no stressful meetings on my agenda and I don’t think anyone is upset with me right now… so, why is my body responding like this? Does it happen to you? When you’ll just be going about your business on a regular day, and the physiological symptoms of anxiety show up. There are many symptoms of anxiety you just don’t have control over. The most annoying one for me is my shaky voice. I can easily hide my sweating, my heart rate and my crazy mind, but the worst is when I’m trying to talk and I sound like I’m scared… when I’m not.
Ugh. So, what do I do? Well, with help from my psychologist, I’ve developed a little process that assists me, and I’d love to share it with you.
1. Acknowledge it.
In my mind, I recognize I’m having some kind of anxious response. I’d like to thank it and throw it away Mari Kondo-style, but unfortunately this clutter is sticking around. So I’m gentle with it, and I acknowledge it is there.
2. Take a moment.
Pause and take a breath, realize I’m safe, and make a decision about how I’m going to manage it. What I imagine in this scenario is that my limbic system is going crazy for some reason, and the visual way I see this is that it looks like that picture. You know, those plasma ball things you touch and the current follows your hand? I imagine that center is my amygdala (the little part that regulates emotional response) and fear signals are firing all over the place. They activate other systems in my body. Like, sucking all the moisture out of my mouth and putting it in my armpits. Clever. *Rolls eyes*.
3. Put it back in it’s box.
I think, “Oh cool there you are. Thanks, but I’m OK right now. You can chill out back in your home.” I imagine putting those firing neuron things back into their little amygdala box, and I get on with what I’m doing. I give myself a pep talk about practical stuff like, “You know what you’re talking about right now. You’ve done this before. You are not in danger.” Stuff like that. You could write your own one-liner that you remember, and actively say to yourself in your mind over and over.
4. Stand up straighter.
This simple trick does a few things for me. I can breathe deeper, I feel more confident even if I’m not feeling it, and it focuses my attention away from the mental onto something physical.
I understand it isn’t always that easy or simple, but in day-to-day activity, when anxiety just shows up and you’re thinking there is little reason for it, a routine like this could be very helpful. It doesn’t make my shaky voice go away, but it gives me enough to keep going to get through a moment. At the very least, I can reduce those electric forks in my mind, stand up straighter, do a mini pep talk about how awesome I am and get on with the task.
When bigger things happen that are stressful and overwhelming, I need to take more time to take care of myself, and sometimes I need medication. One thing I can say for the mental health journey is that it’s never boring! These are just a few things I’ve learned along the way for my journey. Always check in with your health professionals about what’s best for you. If you have good help, they’ll facilitate you to understand yourself better and work out a system and plan that is right for your situation. Peace to you, friend.
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Author: Jade Goulding