“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
― Amit Ray
We all know the familiar experience of anxiety. It can feel like your heart is starting to pound out of your chest, feeling like you can’t breathe properly, feeling terrified, or wanting to run away. Even though anxiety is extremely real in the moment, it is often a false alarm. Most of the things we worry about never actually even happen!
The Negative Impacts of Anxiety
Even worse, anxiety can flare up at seemingly the worst times, such as when you’re sitting on a first date across from your crush or when you completely fumble through an important presentation. In these cases, anxiety can become so extreme that it feels like it’s taking over your life. Left unchecked, it can convince you that all your friends hate you, hold you back from taking risks you need to take in order to enjoy life or connect with others, and leave you feeling constantly “on alert,” exhausted, and foggy. The effects of anxiety can feel crippling.
The Most Obvious Ways Of Dealing With Anxiety Often Make It Worse!
Obviously, no one wants to get trapped in anxiety. So it may feel natural to judge yourself for being “so stupid” to let the anxiety get the best of you, try to force the anxiety to go away, or try to rationalize with it.
But if you’ve tried any of these things, you may have realized that not only do they not help, they often make the anxiety even worse. It’s as if anxiety has the superpower of turning your best attempts to defeat it into fuel to make itself stronger!
From Anxious To Centered
If you’re suffering from these negative impacts of anxiety, please know that you’re not the only one. Anxiety happens to everyone on the planet, myself included!
But it is possible to reduce and befriend it, so it’s not so painful for you. Today, you’re going to learn “the why,” “the what,” and “the how” or managing anxiety in a different way. You’ll also learn a simple 3-step formula for managing your anxiety in the moment, so you can with more peace and ease.
“The Why:” Why It’s Helpful To View Anxiety Differently
Even though it feels crippling sometimes, anxiety is actually a normal human experience. Everyone experiences it at different levels and times. Anxiety’s role is to protect us from danger, and without it, our species wouldn’t have survived. Anxiety is actually an adaptive and necessary tool for survival, such as when you’re being chased by a tiger. If you didn’t feel anxious, you might not run!
Even when it feels like anxiety is trying to take over your life, it is actually just trying to help you. It has the best intentions with tragic results, such as when it sabotages your attempts to impress your crush or do well on a presentation. Anxiety is like the friend who buys you donuts when you’re on a diet. Its intentions are good, and it may not even understand the negative impact it is having.
But anxiety isn’t always a bad friend. In fact, anxiety in micro-levels is actually helpful! The same anxiety that can cripple you at some times can also give you important boosts of energy and focus at others. And if you are able to make friends with it, you can work together as a team, so it won’t take over your life. It’s just a matter of befriending your anxiety and bringing it into balance. As a therapist in Saint Louis, MO, this is one of the things I help my clients to do.
“The What:” What To Do Instead
For this reason, even though anxiety feels terrible a lot of the time and most of us would give anything to make it go away, I want to propose something counter-intuitive: love it instead of fight it.
If resisting anxiety makes it worse, then accepting it helps. Some of the things that work best are softer qualities, such as compassion, patience, acceptance, curiosity, and even surrender. Whenever you feel yourself getting anxious, remember not to fight it, but rather to befriend it.
“The How:” How To Manage Anxiety in 3 Simple Steps
These 3 steps use a combination of 3 different methods I have experience and training in: Internal Family Systems, mindfulness, and yogic breathing. You can use the acronym “RBA” to remember the steps.
1. Remember: The first step, as demonstrated above, is remembering that anxiety is just trying to help you. This helps you become more compassionate towards yourself instead of spinning into self-judgment, which can make it worse.
2. Breathe: The second step is to breathe. Breathing deeply has the powerful ability to decrease anxiety. See if you can deepen your breath into your belly and take longer breaths, especially on the exhale. See my deep breathing meditation to learn how to do this.
3. Allow: Send kindness to your anxiety and allow it to be there. Let the anxiety know that you appreciate its efforts, and invite it in. This reduces any tension you have from resisting, and paradoxically can make it subside much faster.
Reducing Your Anxiety For Good
If you try this, you will be on your way to managing your anxiety in the moment. This is just one way I help my clients with anxiety. I am a psychotherapist in Saint Louis, MO, and I also do online sessions with clients who live in Missouri and Illinois.
With my individualized help, it is possible to move beyond simply managing anxiety to reducing it. I help you understand why your anxiety is trying so hard to protect you, and what it might be protecting you from so that you can help your anxiety realize that it doesn’t need to be on high alert all the time.
This helps you shift from merely managing anxiety to reducing it all together, so you can give presentations or go on first dates more peacefully. If you’re ready to begin the journey towards a calmer, more peaceful “you,” then schedule a free consult with me.
If you do not live in Missouri or Illinois, please visit the directory of IFS practitioners to find someone in your area who has a similar view on anxiety.