Finding Peace in an Anxious World (Part 2)
Does your anxiety feel like a never-ending cycle? If you read Part 1 of our blog series, you know that while some anxiety is common, it can also be overwhelming if left unaddressed.
Did you know you have the power to halt the cycle of anxiety, making way for confidence and hope? This power lies in how you respond to the fear-inducing situation. Yes, you have options and a choice.
To break the cycle, it’s important to understand it. The cycle of relentless anxiety typically follows this pattern:
1. We encounter a situation that could be threatening.
(I have to give a presentation in front of the class).
2. Our brain senses potential for danger.
("I may make a mistake and others will judge me").
3. Our body responds with physical symptoms. These symptoms can be intense and uncomfortable.
(Increased heart rate, sweaty palms, trouble breathing).
4. To minimize our immediate fear and discomfort, we find ways to escape the threat or avoid it.
(Decision is made to skip class).
What our minds and bodies don’t realize is this response is likely to exacerbate our anxiety when we face a similar threat in the future. Why? Our avoidance robbed us of the chance to effectively cope and manage the fear.
How do we break the cycle? It may be as simple as choosing to face the thing you fear. If your usual response to anxiety is avoidance, you already know where it leads. As Henry Ford said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
Next time you encounter something you fear consider trying something new:
1. Name and acknowledge the emotion you feel (overwhelm, fear, panic).
2. Allow yourself to experience the emotion for a minute or two. Unpleasant emotions, like waves, will come and go.
3. Try some self-soothing to address the anxiety, like deep breathing or positive self- talk.
4. If appropriate, take a small step towards the situation rather than away (practice giving your presentation in front of a trusted group of friends).
As you face your fear, you gain the opportunity to learn, problem-solve, and build your confidence. You may begin to understand which coping skills are effective and might be useful in other situations. Over time and with gradual exposure, the fear you feel may diminish and hope can grow.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” -Nelson Mandela
The decision is yours to make: will you pursue short term relief, or risk some temporary anxiety to achieve long term peace?