Reduce Anxiety with Jeff and Ellen White
This post comes from life and relationship coaches, Jeff and Ellen. They are here to give us some great solutions for dealing with emotions, stress and managing anxiety.
Take it away Ellen and Jeff!
The topic of anxiety comes up a lot in our practices. Generally speaking, most of us don’t deal with emotions very well. We push them aside, minimize them, or deny their existence entirely; hoping they’ll just go away. But if emotions are not felt and processed, they come back with increased intensity. And the emotion will get expressed in one way or another. This is why sometimes we can feel like we’re drowning in emotions. One of the best strategies for reducing anxiety is having an ongoing conscious relationship with your emotions.
Emotions Aren’t the Enemy
Think of your emotions as your GPS to wellbeing. They help us notice what’s important and what to pay attention to. They’re trying to get our attention - like a toddler to a parent. When the toddler feels seen and understood they’re happy, but when they’re ignored and neglected, they act up and throw a tantrum. Welcome to anxiety.
Here’s how to build a relationship with your emotions:
- Regularly check in with yourself throughout the day and be honest with what you’re feeling.
- Name the specific emotions swirling about. Research shows that the act of naming your emotions can lessen their intensity - because now you know what you’re dealing with.
- Stop judging the emotion. Feeling anxious is one thing, but judging yourself about feeling anxious can really pile on the pressure. Be a curious observer. Adopt the mantra, “I can witness this without being swept up by it.”
You Don’t Have to Act on Everything You Feel
It’s normal to have coping strategies in place to help us manage stressful events. Distractions like watching tv, shopping, or exercise can give us a “time out” to help us get into a better space to deal with our situation.
Problems arise, however, when we repeatedly turn to those behaviours to avoid feeling anxious.
Avoiding negative emotions is a losing strategy because the more we avoid, the more anxious we become about facing difficult scenarios. We start to believe, “This is too big for me to handle.” And this way of thinking can drive unhealthy habits like tv or video game addiction, emotional eating, over-exercising, “retail” therapy, drinking or drugs.
Healthy living is learning to embrace life’s challenges.
Here’s how to develop your emotional regulation:
- Notice the behaviour you’re wanting to act on, and ask yourself, “Am I doing this to avoid being uncomfortable?” If yes, then know that this action will not bring you peace in the long run. So, consciously choose different behaviour.
- Put your emotion on the side burner. Show yourself that you can function in your day while you feel. Take your emotion with you, but don’t let it take over your full focus.
Put the Brakes on Your Stories
Anxiety has a fast pace to it. With the surge of emotion comes an accelerated heart rate and a quickening of our breath. Add to that the flurry of thoughts and stories that, like wild horses, have broken down the barn door and are now running rampant and unchecked, and it’s all the right conditions to put us into fight-or-flight mode.
When this happens our nervous system has been hijacked and we're unable to think clearly.
Here’s what you can do to slow the pace:
- Stop what you’re doing. Stop and be still for a moment and give your full attention to what’s going on inside you.
- Take back control of your physiology. Slow deep breaths. Prove to yourself that the anxious feelings don’t have power over you.
- Go slow with your story. Ask yourself, “What am I believing is true that is creating this anxiousness?” “Does this situation require me to be anxious?” Journal your thoughts to get the “facts” out. Admit that maybe you’re not working with a balanced perspective.
- Stay here in the present. Worries are about the future, so remind yourself, “That’s not happening right now.” And admit that you don’t know how it’s going to work out. Studies have shown that 85% of what we worry about never happens.
More Room on the Outside
Anxiety isolates. A story we tell ourselves is that we are alone in this. The truth is, lots of people have trouble dealing with negative emotions. We are not meant to go through life on our own.
We’re social beings and having a support network is essential to our health.
So talk it out with a trusted friend. Or find a coach or therapist. Getting it out in the open can help you understand your anxiety and be proactive about how to work with it.
In conclusion, make your goal not to end anxious thoughts and feelings altogether, but to have a healthy relationship with them. Make it less of a fight, and more like a walk with a toddler. Hold hands and go slow. What’s nice is that you’ll not only diminish anxiety, you’ll learn more about yourself along the way too.