Welcome to 2023. 🍾
As I write this, I’m looking ahead to all of the fun and scary things that I know are coming for me in the New Year. There is always something fresh and open about having an entire calendar year W I D E O P E N to whatever I want to create or change in my life and I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how I can challenge myself to move forward in my life and my business since November. I’ve never been one to do resolutions and this year is no different for me, however, if you’ve created resolutions for 2023, GREAT! I’d love to hear what you have planned for yourself. You can leave a comment and declare those intentions to the world and get the ball rolling. (I really do believe if you say it out loud it has more power. Try it.) Or, if you’re more like me and your goals are broad and evolving without the pressure of resolutions, that's okay too. Either way, I'm here to help you tackle the anxiety that often comes with change. And don't worry, feeling anxious about making changes is normal for everybody so you're in excellent company.
I have a thought shift to share with you today.
Are you ready for this?
What if instead of holding you back, anxiety is the ultimate launchpad toward everything you've been wanting?
Yes, I went there and you're coming along.
If anxiety has been a major theme of your life, your immediate thought might be,
Anxiety is bad.
Anxiety is something to get rid of. Or...
I have to avoid feeling anxious.
But, what if anxiety was actually a good thing? This might sound completely insane right now and me from the past would tell the me writing this I didn't understand anything about anxiety and to sit down.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying anxiety FEELS good. I'm asking, what if the function of anxiety as a whole is actually exactly what you need to get you to where you want to go?
The truth is, anxiety is 100% normal and everyone in the world feels it from time to time. The purpose of anxiety is simply to keep you safe and to prompt you to take action; usually by running away or avoiding things, fighting off danger or the feeling of anxiety itself, or people-pleasing. One way or another, you are taking action because even inaction or negative action is still action.
When you peel away your past experiences with feeling mildly anxious all the way up to a full blown panic attack, and look at what happens inside your body with a fresh perspective, you can begin to see the problem as the way you think about how your body feels and what you tell yourself is going on. When this happens, you scramble to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. The real problem is the way you react when
your heart starts to flutter or pound,
when you feel dizzy,
when your breathing changes, or
however else your body feels.
Instead, and I know this might sound like a stretch right now, what if the one thing that has to change is your thoughts about how you feel?
Anxiety is about how you think about how your body feels and this is true for people with high functioning anxiety, panic, trauma, mild or everyday anxiety… all of it! To be clear, there are people who have experienced trauma in their past. For those people, resolving that trauma is crucial in moving forward. Additionally, there are a few different stances on trauma being the only instigator of anxiety or an anxiety disorder. I tend to leave the word trauma for bigger events and I don’t like to attach that definition to things that are regular occurrences for a lot of people. If your definition is different, that is okay - I’m not defining exactly what trauma is or is not, because the truth is, either way, you start feeling better when you learn to listen to how your body feels then change your thoughts about those feelings.
You learn to feel your body outside of your mind.
When I’m working with someone who is learning about their anxious feelings or dealing with stress, step one is helping them begin to make friends with that nasty anxious feeling from the moment their brain decides to pump them full of hormones. This is an important moment when they choose to feel anxiety instead of instantly reacting. This is intentionally allowing yourself to feel anxious.
Labeling anxiety as simply anxiety, takes the feelings inside your body and categorize them as something that isn’t wishy-washy or unclear. You give them a definition that you can easily identify. Since your brain loves familiarity and certainty, you allow the feelings you normally pushing away or fear and recognize that you know exactly what is going on because you have experienced these feelings and thoughts before. You are no longer trying to figure out what else could is happening. You stop reacting; no fighting the feelings, no trying and stop them, no need to Google, or whatever other anxiety habits you may use. You immediately cut off the typical search for answers.
You just created your launchpad!
Noticing the sensations that feel overwhelming and terrifying then choosing to stop your usual process of trying to fix them starts your recovery process. This choice is a conscious decision you make over and over to teach your brain that nothing is wrong and you are safe.
Yes, even when your body still feels like crap and yes, this will feel really uncomfortable at first.
Learning to trust yourself and your body is a choice you repeat each time you feel anxiety coming on to label the feeling then respond instead of react. This process of the brain rewiring itself to find sufficiency in the feelings and to know that they don’t mean anything is called neuroplasticity. It won't take long before you notice your brain catching on.
And now we take off!
Recognizing when your body feels anxious and allowing that feeling to be there without it meaning you need to fix something allows you to get curious. You can view anxiety as a messenger and explore the emotions attached to the feeling. Are you sad, tired, or overwhelmed? Are you feeling angry or frustrated? Getting curious about the true emotion allows you to experience the feeling as your body relaxes and you are able to think clearly.
The goal in this process is to be able to allow the anxious feelings to be there without there being a problem to solve or a right answer to find. You current reactions might feel proactive or helpful but they aren't: they are keeping you stuck because each time you try to fix a problem that doesn't exist or you react by avoiding, people-pleasing, or fighting off a feeling, you tell your brain there is actually something dangerous or wrong. You're backing up the fear by trying to stay "safe". (You are already safe, you just feel anxious.) When you intentionally choose to respond differently or not at all, you teach your brain the truth.
Next time you feel your body giving you all of your anxious signals, check into the discomfort and allow it. Just like a fire alarm, anxiety in your body is telling you something needs to be addressed. Maybe it’s your stress level, your thoughts about what you should or shouldn’t do, or what you fear other people will think of you. When you stop to consider what you think you need to fix, or control, or do, you often find out the answer is “nothing”.
When there is nothing to do, there is nothing to do.
Life is 50% uncomfortable and 50% amazing and to really appreciate the amazing parts you have to be willing to experience the not so amazing parts too.
This is a process of feeling and listening to your inner dialogue is exactly what makes coaching so powerful! When we work together, you'll find all the places where anxious thoughts and habits sneak into your life. We learn the feelings and address the thoughts, then everything starts to shift!
The idea of sitting with anxiety or any other negative emotion might feel scary or even impossible. I want you to know that learning to do nothing and to choose differently is simple and powerful AND it takes time. When you give your emotions the attention they need, you’re allowing your brain and body to shift it’s focus from fight or flight, to love and power.
When you use anxiety to your benefit, you'll begin to find energy and opportunities throughout your life, in everything from your relationships,
to having more creativity at work,
more energy to move your body,
or to spend time with friends.
Let’s recap this process so you know exactly what to do to get started.
1. Decide to let go of your story. Stop telling yourself you’re born to be anxious, you’ve tried everything or that it’s too hard will keep you right where you are right now.
2. Identify how anxiety feels in your body and let it be there.
3. Get curious, remembering that anxiety is a normal feeling.
4. Choose responses instead of reactions.
Coaching is invaluable!
You get to see progress in your recovery by doing the things you want to do without anxiety stopping you.
2023 is YOUR year if you're ready to claim it. I'm all ears waiting for you to declare what is on the horizon for you and I'll be looking forward to talking with you very soon.