Anxiety is a natural biological response to a perceived danger.
How you react to that feeling can become a habit.
I was thinking back over the past year in appreciation of all the changes and growth I've experience in my body, my mental health, and in my business, when I remembered what was going last July. In a flash, I felt that sad squeeze in my chest that reminded me of my sweet Georgia - you met her a couple of weeks ago too in a previous blog post. Georgia was our black Mastador (half lab, half mastiff). She was the queen, the best puppy and girl, and I still miss her floppy jowls, her sad eyes, and her baby soft ears every single day. She passed away in December after a long and mysterious illness that left me exhausted and reliving some very intense anxious feelings from my past. The entire five month experience was a test of my focus, my ability to stay centered, and my heart.
As I bounced from vet to vet last year, trying to come up with answers as to why my doggo was so sick I expected to feel anxious about what would happen to Georgia. After all, anxiety is a response to a perceived or actual threat and this was definitely a threat. This was normal anxiety that everyone in the world experiences from time to time. Did you catch that?
Everyone in the world experiences anxiety from time to time. When Georgia was sick, I felt scared, helpless, and desperate for answers on how I could make her well. It didn't take long upon walking into the emergency vet office to notice that my body had gone into it's typical anxious state and my brain had already followed up by focusing on old stories I had created about my own body and health.
As quickly as I could, I called out the feeling for what it was and repeatedly pulled myself back into the present time, doing my best to avoid all of the "what if" stories that my brain offered up about my dog and myself.
The anxiety alarm had gone off my those old habits that consumed me for years were back. You see, your body stores feelings like Polaroid photos in your nervous system. As soon as my brain recognized Georgia's sickness as a threat to my safety, my body remembered exactly what to do and from that point on, I had to actively choose NOT to react.
What is weird about this situation is that the threat had nothing to do with my safety, (other than my heart was breaking) and I quickly flipped into worrying to only about Georgia but also about my own health. My body told my brain that something was wrong with ME based on old responses - it wasn't the thoughts and THAT is important!
The first time you have an anxious reaction, that moment gets tucked away in your nervous so each time you feel the same sensation, you brain knows exactly what to do. You're quickly flooded with adrenaline, epinephrin, cortisol and in less than a blink of an eye, the thoughts start in.
This is where change has to happen. This is where you have to learn to come back into the present.
You've felt this before.
You've feared things that have never come to fruition before.
You've survived every single anxious thought and feeling before!
Consciously reminding yourself that you are safe albeit incredibly uncomfortable is always step one.
During the weeks and months that my dog was so sick, It was challenging for me to let go of some of my old thoughts and urges that had nothing to do with my dog. It seems silly but I repeatedly reminded myself that I was find. I allowed the thoughts to be there without giving them anymore energy than they deserved. My reaction to anxious feelings and anxious thoughts became conscious instead of switching to auto-pilot. I changed the game. I pulled myself back into the present again and again (and again). I journaled my thoughts. I talked myself backward as I breathed in for 5 seconds, held my breath at the top for 5 seconds and exhaled for 7 seconds. I meditated. I allowed myself to feel and to let go.
I refused to seek constant reassurance of consult Google and my parents. Yes, those old habits were still there trying to keep me safe, but this time, I chose a better way and I made it through, without panic, without having to call my parents to tell them my irrational fears about something that I worried about 20 years ago, and without spiraling into a pile of goo on the floor. We never found out exactly what was wrong with our sweet Georgia but I did learn a powerful lesson on how far I have come and how I can continue to help my clients. The past might come back to peek into your present but you don't have to make it your reality! You can choose to think differently and create new habits. You can feel anxious and not give into anxiety!
I hope this post is to encouraging and keeps you moving forward when anxiety tries to pull you back. The habits that have kept you safe can be replaced with new habits that free you from the cycle of anxiousness that is so exhausting and terrifying! My friend, you can choose to think and act differently and to let go of what isn't serving you anymore.
Take a few moments today and think about what you want your life to look like.
What do you want to let go of and what do you want to do instead?
I am cheering for you, as always.
P.S. Teen anxiety is at an all-time high. Have you checked in with your teenager or a teen in your life recently? You can use THIS LINK to schedule a consult for them as well!