I spoke this past December at Arrowhead Church for their women’s night. I was really excited about it and I wrote a mostly new talk for their event. I was more nervous than usual when I got to the church and I had a “moment” in the green room where I felt almost a little woozy.
I knew it was anxiety. My hands were sweaty. My heart was beating fast. I know many of you can relate to this so I wanted to share how I coached myself.
I’m not talking about crippling anxiety that you might need to see a professional for, I’m talking about the anxiety that most of us feel at different times as we’re just living our lives! We live with a lot of anxiety and a lot of stress and there are things that we can do to help ease that, to help manage that better.
Anxiety can be one of the emotions that kind of keeps us stuck and in a loop. If we’re not careful and if we don’t come outside of ourselves a little bit and look at what’s happening, it can overtake us.
Until the last few years, I haven’t had much anxiety in my life. Or if I’ve had it, I’ve been able to almost immediately talk myself into a more productive emotion.
But since I’ve been going through some hormonal changes, it’s not been as easy to do that. (HELLO PERIMENOPAUSE, I’m trying to love you.)
I don’t let it define me. And I just do the thing that I’m doing with a little anxiety with me. It’s fine. It’s okay.
I had to teach myself how to sit with anxiety. How to let it be with me and not resist it. How to name it, describe it and actually feel it.
Anxiety is usually an emotion we feel when we’re resisting the primary emotion.
I was probably afraid my talk wasn’t going to be good, so instead of feeling fear, I pushed that away and then was left with anxiety. But when I let anxiety sit with me for a bit, I was able to redirect my thoughts.
“Of course I’m feeling fearful and anxious. But, I’ve been preparing for this for weeks and I love these women and I know that what I have to share will bless them.”
And that was enough to allow my body and my mind to relax a little.
Instead of avoiding or reacting or resisting the fear and anxiety, I let them be with me. I could breathe them in and breathe them out. I said a prayer. I did some stretching to allow the anxiety to move around and leave my body. I didn’t judge myself for being fearful. I was patient and compassionate with myself.
Then, I focused on the people I came to serve. I thought about THEIR struggles and hurts and needs. I knew I was bringing help and relief and inspiration. I decided to interpret my emotions as excitement, as gratitude for being able to share in this way.
I want to share with you 4 skills that have helped me to feel better, to be more in control of my thoughts and emotions have served me so well!
One-Think it through
If you look up the definition of primary emotions and secondary emotions, primary emotions, most people will list four or six. Fear, anger, happiness, surprise, contempt, etc. There are these basic primary emotions and then there are emotions that we feel about those emotions.
Anxiety is a secondary emotion. It’s kind of a catchall and tends to be vague. We often get anxiety when we don’t know how to deal with the fear, when we don’t know how to deal with the anger, or when we suppress them. Anxiety is often a result of not processing our emotion, of not being willing to feel the emotions that we feel.
So think it through! Ask yourself lots of questions. What am I really feeling and why? What emotion am I avoiding? Right now I’m feeling anxious, but am I afraid? Am I angry? Am I scared?
Asking why is really important because we are going to want to blame our circumstances! It’s never the circumstances that cause our feelings, it’s always our thoughts.
The reason we have stress and anxiety is not because of anything that specifically happened. It’s because how we think about it.
How am I choosing to think about the things that are happening, or what’s giving me the anxiety? That means that there is another way to think about it! What are the thoughts that you’re having that aren’t true? I’m probably not going to die right now. I’m probably not going to forget all the words because look, I have all these notes. So examine your thoughts, really think about what you’re thinking!
Two- Be present
Anxiety is not the end of the world.
Anxiety is a flutter, a feeling in your body. If you’ve had panic attacks before, you may feel panicky, like, oh my gosh, I don’t want this to go to a panic attack. But I want you to remember that anxiety is a normal part of life. We all feel this way, so don’t make it worse by catastraphizing it.
You might feel short of breath, or hot and have sweaty hands. You might feel it in your stomach or your heart might beat fast. We so often have all of these physical things but we don’t put words to them.
What I did was I sat down and allowed myself to feel the anxiety. Just be with it. Just go, oh, this is what it feels like to feel anxious. Oh, interesting. I feel feel a little tight in my throat. Let me take some deep breaths. Let me breathe from my diaphragm. Interesting that my heart’s racing. Let me take some more deep breaths and let me just feel what it feels like to feel a little active.
I moved my body quite a bit so that the anxiety had somewhere to go. A lot of times when we feel anxious and stressed, we almost get paralyzed with our bodies and we carry the stress so tight. So I literally opened up my heart. I did some stretches, bent over and touch my toes, took a deep breath.
Three- Lean into discomfort
A lot of times what we do is we avoid the emotion.
If we don’t just allow it and process it, it’ll be some kind of reaction or some kind of explosion because we can only hold that for so long. But if you sit with anxiety and you let it be there, it usually passes fairly easily, especially if you don’t resist it.
In our society we have such a low tolerance for discomfort. We can almost always choose to not do the hard thing. And we often choose to buffer against it, with food or drink or distractions of some kind.
If you choose to buffer, you’re not going to get to the place you want to get to in your life. In order to get to where you want to get to, the version of yourself that you want to become, you have to be willing to sit with discomfort.
Why do I walk into things that are going to make me uncomfortable on purpose? I don’t have to. Because the best version of me is the version that walks into discomfort, who experiences it on purpose. Because I know that when I share my story and I’m able to connect with people, I am becoming a better version of myself and I’m using my gifts to bless other people.
Four- Look at the physical
There are so many things we can do to support our physical body’s own ability to manage stress and anxiety! Here are just a few:
- Diet- One of the very common causes for people who have a lot of anxiety and stress is hormone fluctuation from poor diet. Too much sugar, eating too many calories, always shooting your insulin too high, living with chronic stress where your cortisol is too high all effect how your reacts. Really deciding that for the sake of your body, you’re going to get it on more of an even keel with what you eat is so important.
- Gut health is very important. Are you doing probiotics? Are you taking care of your gut? Most of your serotonin is produced in your gut.
- Exercise is huge! There are so many studies that show that longterm exercise is as effective or more so than antidepressants for depression and anxiety.
- Essential Oils– of course as you know I love oils! I love trying to find natural treatments that really help with this. I have found Frankincense is super helpful, along with Peace and Calming and Stress away. One of the things that I did before I spoke is I took a couple drops of Frankincense and I just breathed it in really deep and I said a prayer of thanks and gratitude that I could be there doing this, that I have the ability to speak into women’s lives.
Anxiety is part of life and I’m thankful to have more understanding around it.
Don’t beat yourself up and don’t judge yourself. I hope these 4 tips will help you feel better! You’ve got this mama!
Want to dive deeper into our emotional and mental health? Get on the waiting list for my coaching program, Life Mentoring School, where I coach women on how to get unstuck and live with more passion and purpose!