Anxiety has become the most prevalent psychological disorder in the U.S., affecting about 40 million adults annually (about 20% of the population!). Whether you’re struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), social anxiety, a specific phobia, or a different type of anxiety issue, the points I offer below can help. Read on to find out how.
Accept all emotions. Unfortunately, there is still some shame and stigma around any sort of distress (anxiety, depression, etc.), so many of us end up invaliding or resisting our own emotions. This ends up back-firing, however, because emotions actually become stronger – or hang around longer – when we resist them. I always tell clients that no matter what the issue or emotion, step 1 is always “lean in, accept and say ‘yes'”. Nothing can change until we’re willing to make peace with what is, so – somewhat paradoxically – if you want your anxiety to move through you (and it always will!), accept that you’re feeling anxious and know that it’s okay to not be okay.
Be here now.
Anxiety is an emotion that is future-oriented. When we experience anxiety, we’re not experiencing any real threat or danger in the HERE and NOW (the only moment that actually exists); rather, we’re feeling fear over some anticipated future event. Buddhism is extremely helpful in this sense as Buddhist philosophy emphasizes the present moment, and offers techniques to help us stay grounded in the here and now. One exercise I like is called “grounding in the senses”: choose an object in your immediate vicinity – it could be an item of clothing you’re wearing, the chair you’re sitting on or a person standing in front of you. Ask yourself what you see, smell, taste, hear and touch (not all senses will necessarily be engaged – ie, you’re probably not going to taste a shirt you’re wearing ;)) and let your mind reconnect to this moment right in front of you.
Trust that you’ll be able to handle whatever life gives you, when it arises.
When we fear some possible future situation or outcome, we send ourselves the message that we can’t handle whatever will arise (and in order to feel some false sense of control over said possible situation, we dwell and think and worry and ruminate and obsess over it in order to “be prepared”). The reality is, no amount of thinking about a problem that has yet to arise will in any way affect your ability to handle that problem. So the antidote in this sense is to booster your sense of self-confidence! Love yourself so fiercely that you know you’ll be able to meet whatever life throws your way. Don’t let the mean voice in your head convince you otherwise; connect to your center, to the place within you that is loving and kind, and speak to yourself as you would a friend or child.