I have found understanding how anxiety "works" is a key component in dealing with it. Once we understand it, we are able to "deal" with it effectively. And we are also better able to be compassionate toward ourselves and others.
Here's how I understand the anxiety.
Something (situation) or someone (person) outside our control provokes us. What or who provokes us is the "trigger".
I use quotes around the word trigger because when we dive deeper into our subconscious we realize the trigger is actually a belief that no longer serves us. More on that another time!
Let's take an example of a trigger:
Example: Family Gathering
In this case both the gathering (something/situation) and family (someone/person/people) may be at play.
Even before we get to the gathering, we start to feel anxiety in the present.
Our thoughts and emotions start gaining (usually negative) momentum as we project into the "future" what we "think" will happen based on the "past".
Why does this happen (write this one down!)?
The mind doesn't know the difference between a real event happening now, or an imagined event, either past or future.
Once we are "triggered", what happens next?
2. Behavior - Mental & Emotional
We may feel contracted, jittery, confused, angry, fearful, overall, not good! These emotions feed our thoughts. We think things such as, "this is going to be miserable", "I don't want to see this person", etc, etc. We get ourselves all worked up because the thoughts we are having in the present, about the past, we are now projecting into the future. These negative/catastrophic type thoughts that are rooted in past experience cause us to think the future experience will be the same. These thoughts continue to feed our feelings and voila, we are officially in the anxiety loop. There's "nowhere" to go when we are in this loop except deeper down the rabbit hole. We may act out by not going to the gathering at all (avoiding behavior) or create drama (attacking behavior) leading up to or even at the gathering.
Note: Other avoidance behaviors include abusing alcohol & drugs, smoking, overworking, overeating, etc.
Why do we do this to our self?
Wouldn't it make sense to simply learn healthy and effective ways to deal with our "triggers"? Yes!
However, until we rewire our brain, the trigger elicits a behavior that feels like a reward/payoff.
In this case of the family gathering, if we take the avoidance track, the "payoff" can be anything from making others wrong, now we are victims -- to the attacking track with a payoff of we are right and defending our point of view. There are many more variations of this and our payoffs. That said, usually the payoff is connected to being right, looking good, staying comfortable, and being in control (AKA Ego). Once again I use quotes around the word payoff because in truth it isn't a true reward. We still haven't faced the root of the anxiety. We have merely put a band aid on it. Is this starting to sound familiar?
Learn how to deal with the anxiety "trigger".
Keep in mind "trigger" can also be our thoughts about the never ending to do lists at home, at work...in life as well as comparing ourselves to others. Our triggers vary and are many!
How to Deal:
1. Presence / Awareness
I use the words presence and awareness interchangeably. For me these words means being aware of what is happening in the present moment without resistance or judgment. Meaning, we accept what we are thinking and feeling, even if we don't like it. We are observing our experience.
Until we are aware of and accept this anxiety loop, nothing will change.
Once the energy of resistance and judgment is freed up, we consciously choose to focus our attention on dealing with the anxiety loop. The trigger is there, at least for now. Accept it.
Now it's time to re-evaluate the payoff. Is it really a payoff?
Ask yourself if avoiding or attacking behavior is really what feels good? Is that how you want to live? Avoiding or attacking? Perhaps there is a better way. Ask yourself if you can be absolutely sure, meaning 100% sure the payoffs are working for you. Spoiler alert: it's likely these payoffs are also directing other areas of your life.
If you can find even a .00000001% chance that there is a better way keep reading.
Even a sliver of possibility that there is a better way to manage the anxiety loop is an incredible start. Good for you! Acknowledge yourself for that. In this step you get to redirect your attention on things such as observing your experience, being compassionate with yourself (and others!) and changing your relationship with those payoffs. Meaning, you realize they are not in fact payoffs. In truth these "payoffs" actually keep you trapped in the trigger and therefore the anxiety loop.
If you resonate with this, and would like additional support on any of the above, please reach out.
I am passionate about showing people how to experience more health, happiness, and freedom to live the life of their dreams. Peaceful, prospering, connected...thriving.
Thanks for "listening". We go this!
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