It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. Lean into your anxiety 1000% to feel better? Whaaat??
Stay with me.
Anxiety is rooted in fear. Your body gets a stress response to something in your environment. Maybe a tiger is chasing you. Or maybe you just got an email from your boss. One is life threatening (and the other technically isn’t, but apparently your body & brain don’t know that).
Anxiety vs. Stress
Either way, the external stressor can result in internal anxiety. Stress doesn’t have to cause anxiety or “stress you out”. What stresses one person out may not affect another person. Not all stressful things actually cause anxiety.
How is this possible? I’m still figuring that out. Full disclosure — I’ve had anxiety for 4 days now as of writing this sentence. I won’t get into the details here, but I will tell you my strategy to manage it when the anxiety strikes. It’s far more effective than anything else I’ve tried (& I’ve tried a lot of things).
How to Lean In
Lean in 1000%. Embrace is. Go down the rabbit hole to your deepest, darkest fear.
Allow me to explain.
When you really lay out what you think you’re afraid of. What’s got you stressed. Put that pit in your stomach and ache in your head and sweat on your palms. You might find that you’re actually dealing with something deeper than just an email from your boss.
Here’s An Example
Phase 1 is the thought: “My boss hates me, and I’m gonna get fired.”
Lean into the spiral. Phase 2. If my boss fires me, I’m going to lose my paycheck. If I lose my paycheck, I can’t pay the bills. I will run out of money. Then I get kicked out of my apartment. Then I’m homeless living under a bridge like a troll except my hair won’t even be pink like the toy trolls I’ll just be mangey because I’ll never get to take another shower again so I’ll look like that kid from the Peanuts. My fiancé will never marry a Peanut so obviously he’ll leave me so I’ll be homeless and alone and never be happy again.
Do you see where that thought process actually went when I let it go? What am I actually afraid of if I lose my job? Being alone and without a home.
So let’s think this through. This is Phase 3. What will *actually* happen if I lose my job? I get another job. My fiancé’s job pays the bills. I become a full-time businesswoman, & my company explodes because I can spend all of my time on it (that’s not such a bad outcome, right?). We put our stuff in storage & move in with the in-laws (mine or his). Maybe that’s a less attractive outcome than the last one.
But nevertheless, I hope you see where I’m going with this. Do any of the real endings to this stressor coming true turn out the way my anxiety spins it? No. I do not become homeless. My partner doesn’t leave me. Therefore, my *actual* root cause fears become a little more clear. And when that happens, it’s easier to face the real emotions. Cue Phase 4: healing.
A few deep breaths and a realization that what’s you’re truly afraid of it’s going to happen can go a long way. Do I want to get fired? No. Will I become homeless & alone? Also no. So then is it actually okay if I get fired even if that’s not the outcome I want? Yeah, I guess so. Life will move on.
Next time your anxiety strikes, I want you to face it 1000%. Keep asking “Why?” and dig into what you’re really afraid of. You might surprise yourself. And you might even find some healing.