Anxiety. We all know this word. Too well in many cases. Those feelings of unease, worry, fear and restlessness can vary from mild to debilitating. I have been on both ends of those spectrums and everywhere in between.
It dominated my life for years. Anxiety about everything you can possibly think of. Social anxiety, fear of missing out (very contradictory, I know), fear of failure, worry about not being good enough, not knowing what I was supposed to do in life with my career, and the list goes on.
Anxiety on top of anxiety. These anxiety-inducing experiences aren’t just exclusive to me. Essentially every person on Earth has or is going through these similar types of anxiety.
I have done a lot of research on exactly why we have these experiences and nasty fights with anxiety. Each person’s situation is different from another which means that those “why’s” are going to differ as well. Quite often, when we cannot explain why something is happening it creates an even higher level of anxiety. This is why I aim to connect our anxiety experiences to tangible and biologically driven reasons.
EXPLAINING THE “WHY”
Anxiety is primarily a biological response to perceived “danger.” Your brain is triggered to protect you from things that can potentially harm you. Back when humans first roamed the Earth these danger’s we’re legitimate. Avoiding being eaten by a wild animal, hunting for your next meal and not knowing if you would make it back to your tribe alive.
Being protected from those dangers were essential to survival. As we have developed as a human race those particular dangers have subsided but now our brain cannot decipher the difference between the fear and unknown of being chased down by an animal and the fear of not being successful in life, just as an example.
THE POWER OF THE MIND
This is one of the most powerful tools that you have as a human-being. Your mind and more specifically your mindset. Having discovered the power of the mind has been the primary catalyst in helping me overcome the defeating anxiety that I was going through. Considering anxiety revolves around your thoughts and the potential threats that live in the World it makes sense that your mindset can combat those thoughts.
WHAT EXACTLY IS MINDSET?
Mindset is a collection of thoughts and beliefs that shape your habits, opinions and views of the World. Up to this point, especially at the beginning of your life, the collection of thoughts put into your mind was not controlled by you but by your environment. Your parents, family, teachers, coaches, etc. As you grew older and we’re able to form your own opinions and beliefs you we’re already biased towards thinking the same way those external influencers did
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT! Whew! Take a load off your shoulders. The mindset and anxieties to this point are not your fault. They have been engrained in you from birth and growing up as a child. This was a crucial finding for me considering I always thought my anxiety was from something I did. Just the way that I am and can never fix it.
MINDSET IS CONTROLLABLE
The most valuable lesson that I have learned and thank goodness I did, was the fact that mindset can be controlled. Your thoughts, beliefs and behaviours are all controllable. Just because you have a certain set of beliefs leading up to now does not mean that they have to continue. However, it is hard work. There is no way around that. It is going to take intentional effort, commitment to growth and a desire to improve every day.
HOW TO DEVELOP A STRONG MINDSET
Here are some action steps that have significantly helped me in developing a strong mindset and subsequently reducing my anxiety:
- Identifying the negative thoughts, limiting beliefs and sources of my lack of confidence
- Write them down, study them and embrace the feelings of resistance that they provide (this is key to begin moving past them)
- Developing self-awareness in these situations
- This will take time, but often when you are in these scenarios, you are on auto pilot. You don’t even recognize it until it’s too late. Knowing that you are in a situation that will trigger these negative emotions is key
- Create a “cue” or “trigger word” to stop the negative momentum
- This step was (and still is) a game changer for me. Once you are aware that you are in one of these situations in which the negative thoughts will begin, it is important to stop them in their tracks. My trigger word is exactly that, STOP! You can use words such as this or perhaps physical cues such as snapping an elastic on your wrist (don’t hurt yourself though!) or snapping your fingers. Whatever works the best for you
- Replace the negative thought with a positive one
- Now that you stopped the negative momentum, it is time to replace that with a positive thought. Let’s say the negative thought was that you can’t possibly work this work project as you feel you are not smart enough to do so. You’ve stopped that thought and now replace it with a thought such as “I have made it so far in my career and have completed difficult assignments before. This one is no different, I am smart enough and am going to put my best effort into this!”
- Take action
- A mantra that I absolutely love and is 100% true is “action alleviates anxiety.” Taking action on the situation that is holding you back in that negative frame of mind is a great equalizer. It is easy to get caught up in that downward spiral of self-doubt and negativity. When you take action and take steps (no matter how big or small) towards tackling those difficult situations you will immediately notice your anxiety levels decrease. Take that difficult work project example. Once you have replaced the negative thought with the positive one that you did in step 4, the next thing to do is take even just one step towards completing it. This will turn negative momentum into positive very quickly.
No doubt, anxiety is a tough enemy. Once I discovered that it can be overcome through the power of a strong mindset, it changed my life. Now I embrace my anxiety that appears because I know I have overcome it before and will continue to overcome it! I know you will do the same!