5 Strategies to Decrease Anxiety in our Changing World
In the past year we have all experienced anxiety like never before. For some of us the anxiety increased and became a constant companion. For others of us it was new and popped up at critical times throughout the last few months and weeks. I would dare say that in the last week everyone experienced some levels of anxiety.
And we are still facing it. Why? Even when it seems that things are turning a corner and the first layer of stress has been lifted. The short answer is change. Change, we can all agree that it needs to happen. We can all agree that change is hard. Yes, no matter how local or global a change is needed, the actions start within you first and that creates anxiety.
When it comes to change we first wonder how is it going to affect me? And no matter if you want to label it good or bad change provokes anxiety within us. Most anxiety is centered around fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the what ifs, fear of looking deep into ourselves. Fear of how we need to show up, fear of how relationships are going to change, and fear of losing the identity we have created for ourselves.
That is a lot of information right there. So, let’s not create more fear and in turn increase anxiety. Instead let’s focus on what we can do right now and for the long term to decrease our anxiety as we move through the changes in our lives and in our nation.
First a quick lesson in anxiety. Anxiety is a symptom of our emotional state. This can be conscious and subconscious emotions and it is also biology at work. Remember the fight, flight, or freeze response? Well here is where biology comes into play. When we feel anxious or fear our body goes into protection mode. We are ready to defend ourselves at a very basic level. When it comes to change, this is often an emotional and environmental shift. Our biology does not realize that there is no physical threat, but it still reacts that way. So we have an increase in our heart rate, blood pressure creeps us, we have an increase in stress hormones, our breath becomes shallow, etc. You could probably name a few more.
We know that our biology is reacting to something. Now how do we move through these unconscious reactions and overcome or decrease our anxiety? I have 5 simple things you can do starting today to start feeling better.
These first two things are immediate strategies to decrease your anxiety.
Do something physical. Yup! Your body is reacting in a physical way. Give it a physical outlet so that your increased heart rate and blood pressure are a natural response and you can naturally lower them when you are done moving. Here are some options: take a brisk walk, go for a run, dance in your living room, jump rope, or have a pillow fight with your couch. Anything that will get your heart rate up for a few minutes.
Breathe. Once you have burned up a few minutes with being active, let your system slow down with purposeful breath. Take another few minutes to breath slow and deep. Focusing first on long slow exhales. Do this for about a minute or two and then another couple of minutes of belly breathing. Imagine breathing past your lungs and into your belly as though your belly were a balloon that you can gently expand on the inhalation. As you exhale relax your belly and your breath. As you do this your biology realizes that it is no longer in danger and can start to relax.
These last 3 strategies are part of the long term plan to help reduce your anxiety.
1. Increase Awareness. Take notice of what is going on when you start to feel an increase in anxiety. Are there particular patterns, people, circumstances, feelings, thoughts, etc.? Take note without judgement. Let your mind be open and look at yourself as though you could witness yourself without getting caught up in emotions. Be as honest with yourself as you can, dig deep and be brave.
2. Create Boundaries. Now that you have noticed any patterns and consistencies, you can make a plan. What do you need in order to have less anxiety? Do you need to limit your media? Say no to certain people or plans? Set boundaries that are going to be helpful to your well-being. Once you know what you need, tell people to get support and continue to decrease your anxiety.
3. Change your beliefs. How can what I believe be causing anxiety? Do you remember when you were increasing your awareness. Did you notice the what ifs? Any pre-judgement? Those are based on belief of what might be true. Ask yourself, is this true? What if it were not true? What if it were true? Give yourself a few minutes each day to write about the things that you think are true about yourself and process the reality. Again, without judgement, just noticing. If something is true and it causes anxiety, what can you do to change that? Be open to possibilities.
Sounds simple enough — right? Actually it can be and it can be a lot of work. The most important part in this work is to be patient with yourself and ask for help when you need. I have helped a number of people work through their anxieties and belief patterns and I know that these strategies work. Change is hard, especially when it comes with anxiety. We can all work together to make our world better place for everyone. It starts within our own selves and moves out from there.
If you are interested in learning more about overcoming anxiety, changing your beliefs, or living the life that inspires you reach out, I would love to share this work with you.
Kimberly Allen is a Certified Lifestyle Prescriptions Health Coach and Yoga Therapist. She holds a degree in Exercise Physiology and a Masters in Non-profit Management. Her practice is helping women decrease anxiety through meditation, yoga, and health coaching.
Kimberly can be reached through her website www.KimberlyAllen.net
By phone at 207–590–0082.