In this article, I discuss the feeling of anxiousness and how to overcome it in just 6 simple steps.
It is perfectly normal to feel jittery about an upcoming speech that you are presenting. It is normal to feel a little uneasy about a costly investment you are considering. It is perfectly normal to feel anxious about leaving your steady employment to pursue your dreams.
It is not logical nor optimal, however, to allow this anxious feeling to stop you from moving forward in your business and your life. So what can you do to overcome it?
There is a way to channel your feelings so that they serve you better, rather than halt your growth and progress; and that is to understand what you are feeling, why you are feeling it, and to consider the circumstances so that you respond to the situation, rather than react.
A simple process of introspection and assessment can help you to overcome mild cases of anxiousness. By examining the thoughts and bodily responses behind the feeling, you can change how you perceive the situation. When our perception is altered, more choices appear- and when we feel we have choices, fear subsides.
**Disclaimer: I don't normally believe in following a step-by-step guide, as I believe that feelings are not cut and dry - to break down one's thought processes and actions into a simple "how-to" downplays the significance of the feeling - our feelings are there to inform us and play an important role in our success. Each situation calls for intuitive reflection, and only the individual involved can do this. However, it can be helpful to have a guide on the basic structure of change - it is up to you to adapt it to your individual needs and goals.
1. Listen to your body
Don't listen to your mind at this point - it is lying to you. Your mind has an amazing ability to concoct a story about the situation you are facing. The story it has made up may not be accurate. Look further, into your body, to observe how your physical self is interpreting the situation.
When you first notice you are feeling anxious, take a second or two to ask yourself how your body is feeling. Is your stomach doing backflips? Is your heart racing? Are your palms sweaty? What is your BODY telling you about its state?
2. Now, ask your mind
Question what it is that you are anxious about. Usually, anxiety is based on an event or occurrence based in the future, ie; say you are about to go on stage to present a speech for your business. You are suddenly gripped by fear, and your mind says, "If I get up and speak, I may forget what I am supposed to say and I will look like a fraud." This event hasn't occurred yet - you aren't even on the stage. You may not forget your content, however, the possibility of it occurring has caused feelings of anxiousness. You are having a feeling about something that has not, and may not, happen (I know this fact does not change how you feel about the situation though).
3. Are you catastrophising?
Ask yourself, "What is the worst thing that could happen?", and if it eventuates, could you live with it? Would it kill you or someone else? In the example above, the worst thing that could happen (as specified) was that the individual forgets the content. They then conclude that people will think them a fraud as a result. Will this kill the speaker? Of course not - sure, they will feel embarrassed and possibly humiliated, but it is not the end of the world now, is it? Even though it is hard to remain logical when you are experiencing overwhelming feelings of anxiety, bringing logical context to the situation helps by buying you time to move through the feeling, as well as redirecting your brain to the logical side.
4. Flip that feeling - Our bodies do what our minds tell them to do.
Once you have identified how you are feeling, and why you are feeling that way, think about another time you felt those bodily representations of anxiousness (the racing heart etc.) This time though, think about a time you were excited about something - for example, when you first laid eyes on someone you were very attracted to. How did your body respond? What about when they first spoke to you, or asked you out on a date? What about that suspenseful moment before the first kiss? What was your body doing then? Chances are, your heart was racing, your palms were sweaty, and your stomach was doing backflips!! Our body's respond the same way to anxiousness and excitement, because it is the same bodily system responsible for the feelings- the Sympathetic Nervous System. This system releases the same chemicals in both states of excitement (anxiousness is a state of excitement; it is excitement of the sympathetic nervous system). By flipping what you are calling the state, calling your feelings excitement instead of anxiousness, your body will believe that is what you are experiencing. Telling yourself "I am anxious. I am nervous. I am so scared" will reinforce those exact feelings, whereas repeating to yourself "I am so excited that I get to speak about my work!" changes the way you perceive the situation.
5. Take five
Take five deep, slow abdominal breaths, as you repeat the phrase "I am excited I get to...". Taking control of your breathing helps to disengage the excitement-system (sympathetic nervous system) and engage the relaxation-system, the Parasympathetic nervous system. You may still feel the same bodily sensations of the racing heart and sweaty palms, however, because your mind has "flipped the feeling" from anxious to excited, your mind can approach the scenario in a different way. Think about it - how do your actions differ when you are in a state of excitement, versus a state of anxiousness?
6. Feel the fear and do it anyway
I know you've heard it before, and there is a reason for it; it works. Feel the fear and do it anyway. When we avoid what makes us feel uncomfortable, it reinforces the cycle of fear/avoidance/more fear/more avoidance. Alternatively, when we are calm, have assessed the situation as not being life-threatening, and then taken action, it reinforces the cycle of fear/assess/take action/achieve/succeed. Positive, action-taking behaviours are like a muscle, they need to be worked on regularly, to grow and become strong. What you do repeatedly will determine what becomes the habit - the habit of avoidance (and consequently sabotaging), or the habit of succeeding. It is your choice which habit you adopt.
I have explained the "why" behind the steps because you are a smart woman - you deserve to know the rationale behind why I suggest these steps, rather than just telling you what to to without any context.
Obviously, in applying these steps, it does not mean that you will no longer feel anxious, it simply means that feelings of anxiety will no longer hold you back.
In short, the six steps to overcoming anxiety are:
1.Listen to your body
2.Ask your mind
3.Are you catastrophising?
4.Flip the Feeling
6.Feel the fear and do it anyway
Being anxious, and having anxiety, are two different states with two different meanings. To feel anxious is a normal and reasonable feeling; being anxious can signify concern or nervousness - perfectly normal and appropriate.
Anxiety, however, is a diagnosed emotional and cognitive disorder. It is not healthy or optimal to be in a constant state of anxiousness, or to feel anxious about every day events and occurrences. Anxiety can prevent people from achieving their goals, making important decisions, and can also limit the chances of being happy. Anxiety can impact your daily life, and in a significant way - which is not healthy.
If you would like help to overcome anxiety in your business so that you can reach your potential and your goals, I offer private coaching sessions, either in person or via Zoom. I have both personal and professional experience in dealing with anxiety and I can help you to overcome it, as I have.
If you feel as though you have tried to release anxiety and it is still greatly impacting your daily life, I urge you to seek the advice of your licensed practitioner.
Kelly Brealey - Clinical Hypnotherapist-psychotherapist
Resolved Wellness & Behaviour Centre