By Maggie Lyon
Doctors have said for ages that a little stress is actually good for us. But when it comes to boatloads of stress and anxiety, well, that’s your average train wreck.
We all know the type, the highly anxious, highly edgy, highly fearful, and so totally jumpy person that you simply can’t be in their company. I’ve been both that person and been raised by that person. My crazy mother was extremely anxious. She was anxious about making shopping lists, about cashing checks—anxious about every single thing, anxious about LIFE. Some role model!
My own anxiety however manifested much more methodically over a long stretch of time. I was, unknown to my semi-conscious self, the ultimate definition of dis-ease. Though I’d been in therapy from age sixteen and talking about it for years, I really only began to treat my anxiety head-on many years later, while in recovery from a case of dysentery that knocked me out at age 32.
Not only did the illness make me terrified and anxious about anything that went into my mouth, but I also grew terrified of germs, of people, and of interacting with the world. I was in fact so urgent and frantic all the time that I became impossible to be around.
What’s amazing is that being that isolated in my anxiety forced me to turn intensely inwards and spend some serious time doing meditation, affirmation, visualization, and restorative yoga practices that totally saved me, and made me want to live again.
Almost five years later, I still practice a daily routine that works beautifully most of the time at keeping my anxiety (and me) mellow, so when I am periodically struck by bigger anxious waves, I know exactly what to do to calm myself down. And, I am also convinced that when you spend enough time looking at your own anxiety, you see that more often than not the anxiety is majorly irrational and about things that are actually not so catastrophic! Shedding light on anxiety’s ways helps tame it A LOT.
While it is true that certain acute and ongoing cases call for anxiety medication, it is equally important to trust in the subtler lifestyle choices and tools available in compliment to, or as replacement for, more aggressive treatment.
Here are my five favorite tips for managing and dissolving anxiety:
1. DO WHAT CHILLS YOU OUT.
It might be walking, journaling, practicing yoga, biking, drumming, painting, bathing, cooking, gardening, doing tai chi, relying on gentle homeopathic remedies and herbs, or any other such practice. The main thing is to fold these quieting things into your daily routine. By giving yourself custom chill pills on a daily basis you announce loud and clear your commitment to soothing your anxiety. When consistent in this, you will be awed at how effectively your practices soften the sharpness of anxiety’s edge.
2. SLOW DOWN…
by sitting down and unearthing the root of your anxiety. Meditation is key. Anxiety is after all made of a swirl of wild out-of-control thoughts, arising so fast that you are in major reaction before you even know what’s up. By getting quiet enough through sitting you consciously untangle anxiety’s negative snarl of thoughts and can then consider each fearful urgent strand at a time. This gives you the power to literally dismantle those strands.
your anxiety by creating positive affirmations in answer to each one of your anxious thoughts. Write these down! By filling yourself with these antidotal messages, you profoundly change your thinking by wearing new optimistic grooves into your brain, grooves that will ultimately make you feel groovy, and that totally dissolve anxiety’s sting. Saturate yourself with these stress-defying slogans and keep them with you wherever you go.
yourself as you move through your days. Get to know what sets you off. See who and what strings you out. Catch the anxiety early when you feel yourself succumbing to its sneaky ways. Take a few deep breaths and apply your affirmations immediately. They can be as simple as “I am OK,” “All is OK,” or “I am safe.” These phrases also support you in forgiving yourself for having been enslaved to anxiety all this time.
what you can by saying no to or modifying your exposure to the things that stress you out. Know simultaneously—as there are some things you won’t be able to change externally—that by getting in serious rhythm with healing your angst, you are always capable of transforming your own reactions and are fully equipped to keep yourself from getting too frenzied.
The more we weed out our anxiety and foster instead new seeds of evenness and calm, the more faith we establish in our innate capacities to smooth ourselves down when riled. In harnessing our reliance on, and belief in, self-soothing, we create systemic peace of mind that in essence detonates severe stress.
The true miracle comes when you start to laugh about your anxious tendencies, when they become so ridiculous in their attempts to undo you that you actually find them funny. This is indeed a brilliant feeling, because it signals that you have finally and fundamentally kicked anxiety’s butt.
Maggie Lyon is a writer on wellness and spirituality, a motivational speaker, and a holistic lifestyle consultant. A practitioner of Zen Buddhism and Iyengar yoga for the past twenty years, Maggie is committed to guiding others on their individual quests to awaken to the sweetness in life. For more on Maggie, check out her blog LyonLifestyle.com or on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.