(I just want to feel better already.)
I shared in my previous blog how feeling anxious is a signal to move toward the things that scare you instead of pushing back or trying to escape. In this post, I’m telling you why allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable is necessary, and what it means when you hear, “you have to feel it to heal it”.
When you are anxious, it's easy to misinterpret negative emotions as something “bad” or something to be fixed or solve for.
For example, sad might feel dangerous,
angry might feel vulnerable, or
overwhelmed might mean weak or crazy.
Feeling weak, vulnerable, scared, alone, embarrassed, judged or any other negative feeling can cue your brain to do its job by immediately coming to the rescue in the most uncomfortable ways. Your brain is fast and does an incredible job of keeping you safe and alive by filling your body with plenty of cortisol and adrenaline. Before you know it, you're foggy headed, your heart is pounding, your arms and legs might feel heavy or weak, you might feel sick to your stomach - however you feel, you are ready to fight, flight, freeze, or people please your way to safety. Mission accomplished, brain. Thanks a lot.
No matter how your body feels when you’re anxious, the process is the same.
You experience an event or a feeling.
You brain takes note and give you an abundance of cortisol and adrenaline.
And repeat... So how do you start to feel better if you're stuck doing the same thing over and over again?
Feeling better starts with knowing you’ve done your best up until this point, but now things get to change.
Intentionally choose to respond in a way that teaches your brain new ways of dealing with emotions or feelings that are uncomfortable or scary. It's out with the old knee-jerk reactions that have kept you incredibly safe and stuck so far and onto intentional responses, or even lack of responses that will create new habits.
All of the reactions you have depended on so far have been helpful in keeping you from being uncomfortable or feeling safe and secure but to truly start to recover and feel less frequent and intense anxiety, you have to be willing to feel the uncomfortable stuff.
Negative emotions have stories behind them which is why feeling these feelings might be making you more anxious. If, for example, you once got lost at a shopping mall or someone you loved left or passed away, you might feel anxious about being alone or abandoned. This feeling in your body will feel like anxiety but underneath the anxiousness there is sadness that comes out as a fear of being alone.
Whether the fear is from a big event or a normal life experience, your brain can associate the emotions with a past situation and respond in the same way. This is true for anger, overwhelm, fear of upsetting someone, fear of being judged; whatever your anxious brain is telling you, your brain prepares you for survival and safety. And, since your brain doesn’t deal with time or truth, if it feels something, it reacts as though there is danger NOW.
When you pause and feel the feelings of anxiety and the emotions in your body, you can start to notice a pattern and sense of normalcy in how your body feels and in the thoughts that come along with those feelings.
If you fear your heart speeding up, instead of reacting,
you can count the beats.
You can put your hand on your heart and feel it through your shirt.
You can even get curious about the emotion beyond fear; what is the story you are telling yourself about your heart speeding up. (This is where I can help you as your coach!)
Stay in your body and out of your head, just watching how everything flows without trying to figure out or stop anything. This might sound like a big ask if you’ve been afraid of how you physically feel, but when you allow yourself to be uncomfortable and get familiar with the sensations, you can start to pay attention to what truly needs your attention.
Your brain learns a new way to respond!
In only 21 days your brain starts to create the neural pathways to make changes.
By 63 days, those pathways have connected and new ways of responding and behaving are going strong. 63 days from today (January 10) means you can have less fear about how your body feels, more clarity of thought, and more confidence in yourself to know you are safe by March 14!
This is why my clients get results so fast after years of trying and pushing haven’t helped.
I’ve helped women who take meds, who don’t take meds, who have health anxiety, social anxiety, who are incredibly overstressed, clients who work as corporate execs, who work in factories, who are stay at home moms, and who are teenagers and they all have experienced shifts in how they react to how they feel.
It is safe for you to feel anxious.
It is safe for you to feel emotions that aren’t happy or positive.
It is safe for you to choose to let go and change.
(Your brain might argue but you know it’s true.)