I have been getting asked a lot lately about how to get rid of anxiety. This is a hard question, because I don’t have a great answer. I don’t think that we can ever rid our anxiety. Anxiety has been given to us for a reason; it’s an alarm that goes off in our brain unknowingly, an alarm that nudges us to become aware, aware of what we need to do if there is a potential threat. That threat may be a fear that I am going to fail a test so I may have to study harder, or it tells me to get up and get going because I have an important function that I am going to be late for. It may warn me of a threat or danger, that someone is walking behind me and it doesn’t feel safe or may warn me if I am in a bad relationship.
Now, all of this is healthy anxiety. It serves a purpose. However, it seems like everyone has anxiety to levels that are becoming unbearable. What has happened to that feeling that we have been given is that it has been overused. We have created a society that has over triggered that anxiety sign, signal or whatever you want to call it. We no longer live in a cave man world where all we need to be anxious about is the tiger that could prey on us, or the stampede of wildebeests, or getting bit by something that could kill us. That anxiety was for survival. It kept us alive, by our body’s response to putting us into fight or flight, which is an automatic physiological response which gets our body ready for survival.
In today’s world, our culture and society is much more advanced, and we function at a greater capacity now, doing more things, creating more, and living with more. We live in a very stressed world, with information coming at us at all times between school, kids, friends, activities, dual working households, minimal communal support, having an “I can do it myself” mentality. The Internet adds to the constant information that my brain is getting, and due to the level of information coming, the anxiety and stress raises, and now my body is so used to that “fight or flight” that it can’t discern what is a real threat. We as individuals leave little room for discerning the legitimacy of if what we are being anxious over is something to really be anxious over. We are too overly stimulated, and when we pause for just a second, we think that we are being “lazy” and judge ourselves for taking time to breathe, and then create more anxiety through those negative thoughts.
Today, I feel that everyone who is “sick”has some kind of a mental problem that precipitated the illness. The constant state of stress and anxiety creates havoc in our bodies. We are worried about losing our jobs, how we look in the jeans we wear, the pressures of keeping up with how my Instagram pictures look, breaking up with a partner, getting everything done on time. This wasn’t the case back 100-200 years ago. Yes there were other worries, but the information didn’t come to us at millisecond speeds due to the internet. So this is how this works. Our mind believes what we see, what we feel. This brings us to fight or flight. Our body now is so used to stress that our survival instinct goes off more frequently. Our bodies are not meant to fight for life all the time. We have less time to think and process, so we can’t really tell ourselves if the threat is real or imagined. And if we do have the time to process, we are so used to sweating the small stuff, that we just think everything is anxiety producing.
Even me writing this is making me anxious!
How do we calm down from this overworked, over anxious state of being? How do we not be anxious anymore?
We can’t. We are hardwired for anxiety, but we can change the context in how we view it.
Acceptance to what is, that I have anxiety, that I may have a million thoughts going on in my head, but have a commitment to my values. Commitment to change is one way to relieve anxiety. How many of you live by your values? How many of you actually view your values and look at them when you are functioning day to day? What is a value? A value is knowing what matters. It is asking yourself, deep in your heart, what do you want your life to be about? What do you want your purpose to be?
I like to think of a value as a compass, it’s a way to our desired route. For example, I value compassion towards self and others. That will be something that I work towards every day. It’s aiming to live in a mindful way. Mindful and aware of the values we have, and intentionally living with purpose. When we can clarify our purpose, and learn our values, we can then set the way. Values are different from goals. Goals are things that I cross off my list. It’s not a way of living. Goals are steps on how to live by our values.
In this process we learn how to be mindful, aware of the here and now. It’s shifting from the “fast paced” to settling in to our current reality, not having to think 10 steps ahead. We learn to just sit and watch our thinking and detach from our thoughts. They are just thoughts, like sharks swimming in an ocean, just because we have them doesn’t mean we have to play with them. We accept the thoughts and observe the thoughts. It’s almost like closing your eyes, noticing the thoughts, and pretending you are outside your body noticing the thoughts. It is then we can discern what is real and not real.
When we live by our purpose, with observation and detachment from our thoughts that want to derail us, we become committed to our being. We then know what we want, who we want to be, and there is less anxiety because we have a deep understanding of who we are. Life is not going to be easy, and even though we know our values and who we want to be doesn’t mean we will not be challenged. But we will be living in our truth, and when we are in our truth, and in our knowing, we are less anxious about who we are and what we need to be doing.
Commit to yourself. Commit to who you want to be. And everything else will come along the way that it is intended to be for you. You will be able to cultivate what you want in your life just simply by committing to who you are; your life purpose, your desires, and your values.
*These principals are driven from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
Love, light, and peace,