Updated: Sep 10, 2021
What is anxiety?
A collection of physical sensations experienced from an emotional response to a perceived threat. The collection of physical sensations we label as fear or anxiety are often labelled as unpleasant signalling an immediate threat of harm, pain or danger. Fear tells us to pay attention, and prepares us for or induces the fight flight freeze response in the body.
Common undelying fears of modern life leading to anxiety
Fear doesn’t discriminate, we are all familiar with it. It can be crippling or empowering. As a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and business coach I see many clients and practitioners with fear based thinking and behaviour holding them back. I have learned to face many fears in my life because I don’t want to restrict myself my life or feel dis-empowered by fear.
Here are some of the common themes I’ve encountered as a therapist that you may relate to:
Fear of not being good enough
Fear of the unknown
Fear of failure
Fear of rejection
Fear of judgement
Fear of losing control
Fear of losing something
5 Telltale signs that anxiety is holding you back
So how do you know if you are being restricted by fear?
Are you focused on the negative? Anxiety selectively draws our attention to what could go wrong, what we could lose or the potential downside of any situation. The mind can get stuck in distorted thinking patterns of what if’s, disqualifying the positive, and imagining the worst.
Do you feel stuck? Anxiety tells us to avoid the new or and be scared of the unknown, even if we are not entirely happy with our present circumstances.
Are you avoiding discomfort? Anxiety constricts rather than expands us, and it feels uncomfortable. Emotional reasoning is when we treat our worries as if they were facts. If you have a low tolerance to this feeling it will continue to have power over you. If we let anxiety guide our version of reality we remain stuck.
Do you feel lost or not aligned with self? When anxiety or worry is present we often can’t hear our intuitive voice. Intuition is only available to us when we are relaxed and in flow with ourselves and the world around us.
Do you feel unable to make a decision? Anxiety freezes us and stops us making decisions or taking action. Often there is fear of making a mistake, doing it wrong, or failing leading to self doubt ruminating thoughts and anxiety. Are you experiencing analysis paralysis where over thinking leads to doing nothing?
How to successfully engage with fear and anxiety
Antidote to fear of the unknown: be aware that we cannot know all the answers or predict the future. Stay in the present moment and be mindful of automatic fear based thinking patterns. Trust you’ll be OK – you don’t need absolute certainty to know that you’ll manage, because no-one knows all the details of the future.
Antidote to fear of change: understand that change is inevitable, it is the only constant. Relax and accept what is, practice going outside your comfort zone. A wise person once said, “Choose a path or a path will be chosen for you.”
Antidote to low self esteem: Ask yourself how you would view this situation if you were feeling more centred, or more confident? How would the situation be different if I truly believed in myself, or knew i couldn’t fail?
Antidote to feeling stuck: Decisions can be made both rationally and intuitively. The conscious mind informs the reasoning brain of the rational choice and the subconscious mind informs the body about the intuitive one. Decisions can be made using both strategies.
Mastering fear and anxiety is empowering and gives us the hope, motivation and energy for action.
How to shift from fear to excitement?
Consider that fear/anxiety and excitement are essentially the same – it just depends on how the mind labels it.
Adrenalin and cortisol are chemicals released during moments of arousal to prepare the body for action. The chemical response to fear and excitement are the same in the body, it only changes when we label or give meaning to the sensations we feel based on how we interpret whats happening. So how do you decide?
We all have the power to change our responses to our present moment experience. We can decide to label it excitement, or anticipation instead of anxiety and fear. What we focus on is what we get, or what we become. Every thought, feeling and experience alters our brain wiring in some way.
Acknowledge, accept and respond to the feelings of anxiety
Be aware of your response, accept it and embrace the present moment with compassion. Use tried and tested methods to calm the nervous system.
Feel the fear and take fearless action
Fear is part of life. However you don’t need to allow fear to stop you moving forward. Remind yourself you don’t need to have it all figured out in detail. Know that whatever happens you will handle it.
Take charge of your story
Change the context. Take charge of your thinking and focus on the positive. If you tell yourself you’re exited and chances are you’ll feel more confident and empowered.
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They say life can be like a roller coaster, you can scream in fear or throw your hands in the air and enjoy it. First you have buy the ticket and get on it to experience the adventure.