Alright. We’re here. Let's do this.
First, let’s get really clear on what anxiety is… and isn’t:
The body’s automatic fear response. It’s simply a chemical reaction triggered by thoughts.
It comes in many forms, such as stress, panic or severe overwhelm. They’re all basically the same. They all stem from fear of an unwanted outcome or from feeling out of control.
How our species got where it is today.
Anxiety used to mean we were in real physical danger. In primordial times, it was a fight, flight or freeze response that aided in our survival.
Think about it: our species may not be here today if it wasn’t for our good friend anxiety making us alert and reactive in life or death situations.
Of course, we don’t need today it in the same way we needed it then.
Future trippin’! It’s all about imagined possibilities, none of which are actually happening right now in this moment. The thoughts that cause anxiety are just thoughts.
Chew on this: whatever is giving you anxiety… doesn’t actually exist. It hasn’t happened yet. It’s one imagined future outcome out of hundreds of possible outcomes.
Remember that the next time you feel compelled to solve a potential problem by running various scenarios through your head. It’s almost crazy thinking, isn’t it?
The truth is, problems come our way everyday, both expected and unexpected. And guess what?
You will always summon the wisdom and resources to handle them when they arise. Life never gives you anything you can’t handle.
After all - if you’re alive, breathing, and reading these words - that’s proof!
Something that can be magically cured and never experienced again. We don’t overcome anxiety once and then it’s gone forever.
Anxiety, stress, fear, overwhelm, doubt - these are all simply emotions on the spectrum of what humans experience day to day. Emotions come and go. It’s whether or not we choose to attach to them that determines our experienced outcome.
Culturally, we’ve labeled certain emotions as good or bad. While anxiety doesn’t feel good in the moment, it’s there for a reason.
The point isn’t to eradicate all negative emotions. The point is to learn how to recognize and receive the lessons they possess, and then release them.
It isn’t your body.
It isn’t your life.
It isn’t your reality.
It’s just a feeling.
It doesn’t mean stop.
It doesn’t mean don’t.
It doesn’t mean run away.
Really hear me when I say this: you can’t trust your body’s automatic fear response to guide you on important decisions!
Anxiety is not the same as intuition, gut instinct or inner knowing. It’s just an emotion. The good news is, the real wisdom that lies beneath it can be harnessed with some practice.
What’s the big secret behind anxiety?
Anxiety is a gift.
In fact, it’s one of the greatest gifts of your life.
If you follow the anxiety instead of fighting it, you won’t only survive, you’ll thrive. It isn’t here to stop you. It’s here to grow you! It’s here to show you something you need to work on.
You will never stop experiencing anxiety and its sister emotions (stress, overwhelm, uncertainty) with such crippling intensity until you do the work.
By “work” I mean the inner work that will push you to your next level of confidence and get you closer to your truest self.
You CAN do this. Take it from me… If I can overcome anxiety, anyone can.
I’d always struggled with fear-based thinking and self-doubt throughout my childhood and teens. Only, I never recognized it for what it was.
I thought I just lacked confidence or self-esteem (and that was surely part of it.) But I kept these thoughts mostly to myself, occasionally journaling but getting nowhere. Finally, I got my wake up call.
I was two years into the best relationship of my life with my then boyfriend (now husband), Cody. We had just moved in together, which we considered a very serious step, when he surprised me with an engagement proposal.
(Yep. Completely out of the blue. Anxiety much?)
While I’d never for a moment wanted to end the relationship, and I’d always assumed our next steps would be marriage and parenthood, I was suddenly stricken with paralyzing doubt and fear around making such a big decision.
Could I really trust myself to make this choice? What if it was the wrong one? What if we took a chance on marriage and it failed?
My head was spinning. I immediately sunk into an anxious meltdown that pretty much, uh, ruined his whole proposal.
Staring at the ring on my finger against the beautiful backdrop of downtown Seattle, I started hyperventilating and asked to go home. Instead of feeling joyful that this amazing man I loved so much wanted to commit his life to me, I sat crying on our kitchen floor. I listed to him all the ways in which I knew our relationship must be flawed and unworthy of this big step.
And, it didn’t go away. Even after I’d calmed down (realizing that we had a healthy, perfectly imperfect relationship and I’d be honored to marry Cody), my anxiety stayed with me.
It would have its peaks and valleys. Sometimes it would rush over me like a wave, and other times it seemed to disappear almost entirely. But my engagement anxiety stayed with me up until the wedding day. It even made occasional returns after we’d been happily married for years!
What got me through these tough times were the countless hours I spent plunging into my own inner work. I didn’t entirely trust myself yet, but I also knew deep down that I couldn’t trust the anxiety, either.
No matter how scary it got, or how many times I just wanted to end my engagement to “feel safe”, I never gave up. I stood by my anxiety and kept asking it what I needed to learn next.
It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It required many days, weeks and months of practicing new beliefs and thought patterns.
And when I look back now, I wouldn’t change a thing. Other anxiety triggers have come my way. Every time they do, I recognize another opportunity to grow and connect deeply with my highest self. I see what a gift it all is. And I say, “fine. Let’s do this.”
The big-hearted warrior I am today would have been unrecognizable to my pre-engagement self.
That is the kind of change each of us is capable of cultivating.
If you’re experiencing anxiety in your life, guess what? You’re in for a real treat.
Yes! It’s true. This is a wonderful time, worthy of celebrating!
So, what’s the gift in your anxiety, and how the heck do you use it?
The following exercise will help you find out. All I need from you is your commitment to go deep and stay open.
First, write down one situation or area of your life in which you’re currently experiencing stress, anxiety or uncertainty. Then, answer the prompts below to the best of your ability.
Don’t overthink this. You can’t do it wrong. Just start writing and see what comes out. The great thing is, you can use this exercise again and again. It works on almost any problem big or small.
Briefly describe the situation causing you stress, anxiety or uncertainty.
Now, answer this: what is your anxiety trying to teach you or communicate to you? What might be the learning in this? Really give this some thought. If you overcame this anxiety, how would it help you be a better person - with yourself, with other people, and/or in other situations?
What is it time to let go of? What old belief or way of thinking isn’t serving you anymore?
What is it time to embrace or get curious about? What might be a new way of thinking about this situation, and/or similar situations?
What’s one actionable thing you can do this week to implement this new way of thinking?
For your answer to #5, make it real. Put it on your calendar for a specific day and time this week. Don't let your hard work sit forgotten on a piece of paper. It works if you work it!
Now, give yourself a pat on the back. You did it! You looked closely at something scary, and that takes courage and discipline. That's exactly what you'll need to become the powerful warrior mama or papa that you're meant to be.
Stay tuned for next week's email. You'll receive a Simple Tool to Calm Your Anxious Mind - Anytime, Anywhere!
Love + abundance,