Advertising
Advertising

How To Overcome Anxiety and Feel More at Ease (Part 1)

How To Overcome Anxiety and Feel More at Ease (Part 1)

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health challenge we face. Globally, an estimated 275 million people, or 4% of the population, were affected in 2016.[1] In the U.S., 18.1% of the adult population suffers every year and 30% of people will experience anxiety at some point.[2] Anxiety disorders touch 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old and women are almost twice as likely to experience anxiety disorders than males.

So if you’re feeling anxious or suffering from anxiety, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Not only is anxiety highly common, it is also highly treatable. Yet less than half of people suffering seek treatment.

Having been there myself, I know it is scary, confusing, frustrating and challenging. At times, it feels like it’s going to suffocate you or swallow you whole; and you fear you’ll never feel like yourself again.

I remember a time when I stood at the front door sobbing because I didn’t want my husband to leave for work in the morning. It was not me. I have always been laid back, easygoing and fearless. And all of a sudden I was anxious, scared and full of fear.

What made it even worse was feeling terrified I would feel that way forever. I remember calling a good friend on my way home one day from therapy. She’d suffered from anxiety too. I’ll never forget it what she told me. It was a turning point in my healing.

“It WILL get better; you won’t always feel like this. I know it feels like it now, but you won’t. I promise, you will get better”.

Those words resonated deeply and stuck with me through the toughest of times. I desperately needed to know there was hope.

Everyone I’ve spoken to who’s suffered from anxiety says something similar. I thought it would never end. I thought I was going to have to live like that forever (and I knew I couldn’t). I had no idea how I was going to get out of it. But they all got through it.

In this article, I’ll share real stories and recommendations from those who have been through anxiety, as well as tips and strategies from mental health professionals.

All of them share one common sentiment: anxiety is common and can be treated. If you can summon up the strength and courage to take a few steps out of the darkness, you will find light.

So if you’re out there wondering if you will EVER get through this, wondering if you will EVER feel like yourself again, wondering if this will EVER end…It CAN and it WILL.

For those of you facing anxiety on any level, my hope is that you find at least one of these stories, strategies or resources helpful and supportive in working through your own process and journey.

What Is Anxiety?

People use the term ‘anxiety’ to describe everything from a stressful feeling or situation to a severe feeling of anxiety, and even anxiety attacks which can come out of nowhere and closely mimic the same symptoms of a heart attack.

According to David Carbonell, PhD.(The Anxiety Coach):

“Anxiety is a set of emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations typically centered on some apprehension about a future event or potential occurrence. Anxiety is an ordinary emotion which is part of life. We would have trouble functioning without it.

An anxiety disorder, on the other hand, is a condition in which a person has literally become afraid of their experiences of anxiety and tries to resist and prevent those experiences in ways that make the problem worse rather than better. People develop an anxiety disorder for various reasons. It seems clear that there are genetic predispositions to develop them. People who score high on a measure of ‘anxiety sensitivity’ are more prone to develop one.”

There are several major anxiety disorders including Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and specific phobias of all kinds. When talking about overcoming anxiety, since there are such varying levels and degrees of what that means, there are also varying levels of treatment and support.[3]

    What Causes Anxiety?

    Here’s the technical answer from Jennie Morton:

    “The experience of anxiety emerges from a cascade of events that are triggered in the body by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (or fight/flight mechanism) in response to a threat. This is a very natural reaction that is designed to ensure our survival when under attack from a predator. An area of our brain called the amygdala acts as a kind of ‘smoke detector’ for environmental threats and plays a key role in triggering the fight or flight response.

    The amygdala[4] is also involved in emotional learning and, based on our experiences from childhood onward, will label certain places, people, situations, etc. as either safe or unsafe.

    So while for many the experience of anxiety may seem irrational or illogical, there will be a reason why the amygdala has chosen to spark this sensation. Somewhere along the line it put a red flag warning on an event or even just a particular aspect of a threatening situation which it is then conditioned to repeat.”

    In my experience, if you’re suffering from anxiety, something bigger is going on. Anxiety is not the problem. Anxiety is a symptom of something.

    There are many complex and varying causes for anxiety, including;

    • Life experiences and events (including trauma)
    • Genetics and upbringing
    • Brain chemistry
    • Medical conditions (including blood sugar imbalance, thyroid dysfunction and gut imbalance/food sensitivities), and
    • Forms of stress including unhealthy relationships, demanding jobs, and financial obligations.

    More often than not, anxiety is a sign you are out of alignment or out of balance in some way shape or form – mentally, emotionally, physically or even spiritually.

      It’s your body’s way of telling you something isn’t’ working. Something is not right. Our bodies are quite amazing. They have a way of telling us to slow down, do something different, pay attention or make a change. And if we don’t listen, guess what? They yell louder. And often, they speak the language of anxiety.

      Remember, anxiety is a message. To honor this message, look deeper into what may be out of balance in your body, as well as your life. This may feel scary at first, but remember, the life you want is on the other side of fear! — Dr. Kelly Brogan

      How to Heal Your Anxiety

      I’d like to introduce Erica Phillipson. Erica is a Graphic Artist, Yoga Instructor & Retreat Facilitator (and former Club DJ & Radio Show Host).

        Here, she shares her personal story and recommendations for overcoming anxiety:

        At the height of my anxiety, I thought I would never get through it. I didn’t just have anxiety, I had Panic Disorder. On bad days, I would have 6 or 7 panic attacks. They would sometimes last for over an hour and often it would take me a few hours to recover. The trauma I experienced took a toll on me both physically and mentally. Eventually, everything became too much for me. I didn’t want to get too excited/nervous/scared, I didn’t want to put myself in any situation that could trigger my panic, I didn’t want to leave the house. I felt like I had short-circuited. I even got to a point where I would worry that merely thinking about a panic attack was going to bring one on.

        I thought it would never end. But it did. It may have lasted 6 years, but I haven’t had a panic attack for over 6 years now!

        Advertising

        Having Panic Disorder pushed me to work through so much ‘stuff’. It forced me to really go deep within myself. Looking back at how much I evolved during that time, I can honestly say that my Panic Disorder has been one of my life’s greatest gifts. Without it, I would have stayed in a career that was not working for me; I would not have found balance in my life; I would still be saying yes when the answer in my heart is no. I would probably not be as grateful for the little things that make our lives so beautiful; I would not be the person I am today.

        I know who I am. I know what I want. I know what I am willing – and not willing – to put up with. I am happy! If I can get through it, you can, too.

        This anxiety you are facing is a tool for growth, but you need to be willing to work with it. Your body has given you anxiety because it is trying to tell you something but you have not been listening. It’s time to listen.

        As I went through my healing process, I tried every type of therapy out there, including: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Tapping, Vitamins, Homeopathy, Yoga, Hypnosis, Art processes, kundalini, Breathwork and medication (for a few months).

        I’m hoping that the knowledge I gained from these therapies will help you to heal quicker than it took me.

        The biggest thing I want you to know is that no one can heal you but you.

        Here are my recommendations:

        1. Know your triggers.

        Get to the root issue of what’s not working and what’s causing anxiety.

        For me, there were a few triggers. I was working too much, not sleeping, traveling every week and stressed out. I was afraid of flying (from a past experience as a child), so having to perform in a new city every week became a massive trigger for me.

        Living on my own became a trigger because I would arrive home in the early hours of the morning when no one was around (in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Johannesburg).

        My radio show also became a trigger because it was naturally nerve-wracking for me. DJing at clubs became a trigger for me because it’s stressful having to keep a dance floor full and happy.

        Compounding these triggers resulted in the perfect recipe for Panic Disorder.

        I also used coping mechanisms to keep me going. I would get ready to DJ a show by drinking Coke and a shot of tequila so that I was ‘awake and smiling’. Now this may sound extreme, but my guess is many of you have your own versions of this – taking medication for that headache every day, having one too many glasses of wine every night, taking sleeping pills so you can sleep or drinking way too much coffee to get through the next hour of work. All of those things are masking something that’s not working.

        Find out what they are and eliminate those things from your life. Make the changes step by step, and eventually you will begin to understand your anxiety and get what your body is trying to tell you.

        It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be a heck of a lot easier than living the way you are right now.

        2. Find what brings you JOY and add more of that to your life.

        Find what brings you balance, makes you feel good, or brings positivity.

        Do what you love. Find things that are aligned with your heart, your soul, your purpose.

        Advertising

        3. Surround yourself with people that ‘get you’.

        Unless you’ve had anxiety, you can’t really understand how it feels. Not many people got what I was going through.

        So many times I suffered panic attacks ‘in broad daylight’. I would be hosting my show, DJing to a thousand people, at a fundraiser for the “South African Depression and Anxiety Group” (ironic!), and wouldn’t tell a soul.

        Others would try and help by telling me ‘it was going to be ok’ or ‘I must think about something else’, but they had NO idea how dark it was. I thought I was going to die. I thought I was going to lose my mind and never come back.

        It’s important to find your people. Maybe they have gone through it themselves, maybe they just know how to support you unconditionally, maybe it’s a therapist who can support and normalize what you’re facing.

        My husband was my rock, his love helped me heal. My best friend was incredible, she took my panic attacks seriously and that meant the world to me. I also found immense comfort in my dog, Nala. She truly was my emotional support dog.

        4. Take care of your body.

        Eat healthy foods, practice yoga, journal, exercise, breathwork, sleep… These were critical in my healing.

        5. Acceptance.

        When I stopped fighting my panic attacks and faced them, they moved through me much more quickly.

        Being aware of what has triggered you and how you are feeling will help you to gain perspective and slowly. But, surely you will understand that you are safe and nothing is going to happen to you.

        6. Get to know yourself.

        This was the single most important factor of my healing. So much of my anxiety was caused from being out of alignment with who I was, I had to get REAL.

        I found myself in a life that was NOT working for me. I was in a job that wasn’t me. It was glamorous, fun and amazing from the outside; it looked like the dream job. But it wasn’t me. It wasn’t what I wanted to do or how I wanted to do it.

        I had to look at who I was, what I wanted in life and what truly made me happy. I had to dig into my beliefs, values, and moral compass.

        Please, as you go through this, don’t be so hard on yourself. Be gentle and nurturing. This is a process and takes time. There is no one way to heal from anxiety. The root cause is different for different people and the solution will be as well. Try everything. Note what works and let go of what doesn’t.

        Lastly, consider that the universe might just be giving you a gift. Maybe say to yourself:

        “Here’s a gift. It’s called anxiety. Let’s see what it brings me”.

        I wish I had that perspective and I hope it helps you.”

        Conclusion

        I love Erica’s incredible story and am so thankful she’s shared it with us. It’s a poignant reminder that there’s a reason you have anxiety and that there are things you can do to overcome it.

        Personally, I addressed my anxiety from an integrative, holistic approach as well. I stepped back and assessed my life and looked at what needed to happen mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I went to therapy, worked with a coach, made some important life changes, got bodywork, read books, did yoga, and practiced meditation.

        Advertising

        I learned grounding techniques. I changed my eating. I cut out alcohol, caffeine and artificial sweeteners. I tried everything I could get my hands on. I kept what worked for me and let go of what didn’t.

        I was able to work through my anxiety too…and though I can’t pinpoint exactly what helped the most, I know it was this integrative, multi-faceted approach that made a difference.

        Today, I wouldn’t say I’m back to my old self. I’d say I’m happy to be my new self.

        As Nietzsche so wisely said many years ago, “That which does not kill me makes me stronger”.

          It’s true. My experience with anxiety has helped me evolve into the more conscious, thoughtful, connected and compassionate person I am today.

          For those of you facing anxiety on any level, my hope is that these stories and recommendations are supportive in helping you work through your own process so you can move forward and uncover that ‘gift’ Erica spoke about.

          Your next step? Take a step forward — any step. That may mean trying one of the techniques you’ve read here or reaching out for help. There are many forms of fantastic therapies that can help – but they can only work if you do.

          Don’t miss PART 2 of the Anxiety Series which includes additional stories and lots of great strategies from mental health professionals and experts.

          And below are some additional resources to support you in your healing.

          Resources and Websites

          Therapists

          If you’re experiencing persistent and excessive levels of anxiety, I highly recommend you reach out to your doctor, therapist or specialist for support.

          To find a therapist near you, reach out to someone you trust who can make a recommendation, contact one of our professionals above or find someone here:

          Additional Websites

          Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Our World in Data: Anxiety Disorders
          [2] Anxiety And Depression Association of America: Facts & Statistics
          [3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Understand the Facts
          [4] Science Daily: Amygdala

          More by this author

          Tracy Kennedy

          Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

          how to stop being a perfectionist How to Stop Being a Perfectionist (Step-by-Step Guide) 10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When Feeling Stuck Take Back Control of your Life with Positive Emotions off track Feeling off Track in Life? Here’s How to Stay True to Yourself Effective Decision Making Process: How to Make Wise Decisions

          Trending in Mental Strength

          1 The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Critical (And How to Strike a Balance) 2 What Is the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Living With Meaning 3 How to Stop Being a Perfectionist (Step-by-Step Guide) 4 5 Reasons to Follow Your Heart to Live the Life You Want 5 How to Change Your Self-Perception and Untap Your Hidden Potential

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on October 20, 2020

          How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

          How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

          You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

          We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

          The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

          Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

          1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

          Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

          For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

          Advertising

          • (1) Research
          • (2) Deciding the topic
          • (3) Creating the outline
          • (4) Drafting the content
          • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
          • (6) Revision
          • (7) etc.

          Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

          2. Change Your Environment

          Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

          One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

          3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

          Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

          Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

          My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

          Advertising

          Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

          4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

          If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

          Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

          I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

          5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

          I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

          Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

          Advertising

          As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

          6. Get a Buddy

          Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

          I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

          7. Tell Others About Your Goals

          This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

          For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

          8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

          What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

          Advertising

          9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

          If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

          Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

          10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

          Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

          Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

          11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

          At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

          Reality check:

          I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

          Bonus: Think Like a Rhino

          More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action

          Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

          Read Next