How Can Anxiety Be a Gift?
Anxiety. When your mind is telling you terrible stories, when your heart rate is rising, when your breath is shallow... anxiety is an exhausting state to be in, both physically and emotionally. The nervous sensation in your belly or your throat pulls your attention to your worrying thoughts. What do you worry about? Everything. Everything you say and everything you don’t say, everything you do and everything you don’t do. Your thoughts consistently reflect the same pattern: you are not good enough. I know I am not alone in experiencing this shaky feeling in the body, these overwhelming thought patterns. Experts explain that, “Anxiety is a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one's daily activities. Symptoms include stress that's out of proportion to the impact of the event, inability to set aside a worry and restlessness.” The overwhelming thoughts begin to overflow into your reality, and it can feel like you'll never be in a state of ease again. I dealt with anxiety for years before I learned the term itself. The struggle was real until I became aware that it is a mental health condition that needs proper attention and care. Growing up in Russia, we did not pay attention to mental challenges because we are raised to “toughen up.” It has been a long journey to begin to accept the condition of my mind and develop a conscious relationship with it. What can you do to support yourself? These steps have been supporting me through my self development journey through the states of anxiety. 1. Awareness To create any change in your state of mind, you must become aware of the misalignment first. 2. You are not your mind As you become aware of the challenging thought patterns, you must realize that you are not the thoughts. You are the one who is witnessing the thoughts. This realization gives you the power to change your way of thinking. 3. Acceptance The most important step is to accept the sensation of the anxiety and train yourself to stay with the discomfort on the physical level, rather than get cut up in the endless loops of the mind. Acceptance of the condition will support the state of ease automatically. It will soften the anxiety naturally by releasing the extra resistance to what is happening within you. 4. Self care Take care of yourself with self compassion in the moments of anxiety. Hold a loving space for yourself. Do not judge the conditioning. Practice self love and self acceptance. 5. A personal mantra Develop an anchor for yourself, a mantra that makes you feel safe. Practice to repeat it for as long as you need to calm the anxiety. Sometimes I chant “I Am Enough,” sometimes I go to “I Love You.” Choose what feels right for you. 6. Breathwork There are many simple breathing techniques to calm the nervous system down. 7. A loving support system Turn to someone you trust and share your state. Lean on people who are there to support you when your mind is fluctuating. Know that you are not alone. There are many support groups, circles, communities who will open their arms for you. I now view the anxious feeling as a sign of growth. It is an invitation for me to be more present with what is going on in my environment and to show up more fully. Anxiety will demand your attention, but through acceptance and awareness, you will learn to be with it and eventually transcend it. Remember, anxiety is simply an energy that arises in your body and affects your mental state. Focus on the physical sensation itself, not the thoughts, and hold a loving presence for it to be seen, heard and loved. If you practice that, anxiety will become a gift of self compassion and self love. Irina is a Co-Founder of Evolve and an Awareness Coach focused on Addiction Recovery and Psychedelic Integration. Connect with Irina on Evolve here.