I used to have anxiety a lot. In my late teens and early to mid-twenties pretty much anything could give me anxiety. Shopping for clothes, going clubbing with friends, going to a new gym, being hungover, my to do lists, being at a party with lots of new people, having no plans on a weekend, Sundays because the next day was Monday, starting to learn something new and realising how little I knew… I think you get the picture. Through trial and error, a strong desire and belief that I could conquer anxiety, hypnotherapy, reading lots of books and just getting wiser with age I have become a pretty calm and relaxed person. I rarely get anxiety and when I do it is usually warranted (e.g. driving a scooter in peak hour traffic in Bali 1 day after my first scooter lesson) or something has triggered an old anxiety pattern in me that I need to work on (when this happens I am thankful because if I work on it, it means I’ve grown and I’m a better version of me). As I look at my life now the five biggest things that have helped me to overcome anxiety are:
- Keeping my room/house clean- I used to be pretty messy, I never put my clothes away, never made my bed, left dishes in the sink and it felt awful to walk into a messy a room or to wake up to it. Often it would get to point where I would walk into my room or the kitchen and just feel so overwhelmed, anxious and even angry with the mess that I’d clean it and it would take me hours (especially my room). There’s a quote, “the state of your room is the state of your mind” and I believe that whole heartedly. Two things that really helped me change my habits were: A rule I read somewhere…that if it takes less than 2 minutes do it now, so I started to implement that rule and it works!!! I make my bed every morning, I put clothes away after they’re folded, I put dirty clothes in the dirty clothes basket, I wash up dishes as I use them. It’s so nice and calming to walk into a clean room every day and not to waste countless hours cleaning on a weekend. The other thing that really helped was this book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever– By Marie Kondo
- Meditating every day- I swear by this! Four years ago, I became a mindfulness meditation teacher and at the end of the five-day training I thought I better practice what I preach. So, I made a commitment to myself to meditate every day for 30 days and I would see what happens. It is now four years later and I still meditate every day. It is the first thing I do every morning, I just doing it lying in my bed. I started by listening to a short-guided meditation and then building from there and into my own practice. What I’ve noticed from meditating every day is that I’m a lot calmer, especially in situations that used to be anxiety provoking, shit doesn’t bother me like it used to, I’m a lot happier in my daily life because I’m more present and not in my head. For example, I now notice the small things in life like a butterfly landing on a flower or the wind on my face as I ride my scooter. I know it might sound cheesy but you really can find great joy and pleasure in the tiniest things.
- Exercising regularly- When I say exercise I mean move my body in ways that I actually enjoy. I hear so many people say, “I know I should go to the gym but I just can’t be motivated” or “I don’t really like.” My answer is, “Don’t go then, find something you actually enjoy, there are so many ways to move your body.” I personally hate going to the gym, if I tried going I would walk in and do two bicep curls and be done. I need someone else to push me and motivate me. I like to change things up too. I usually find something that I like and I get a bit obsessed with it for about 6 months (sometimes longer) then I get bored and try something else. For example. I used to be an avid yogi, then I got over that, then moved onto indoor rock climbing, after that was HIIT and 80s dance classes, now I go to this gym that only offers classes and they are so fun, intense and motivating, I also love dancing (I either go to ecstatic dance classes or hit the D floor with friends when were out) and of course… you can’t beat walks on the beach. Oh and I just remembered I’ve even done a trapeze class! So fun!!!
- Slowing down and saying, “No”- Again, I used to… pack my days and weeks and was often rushing around, and this made me feel really anxious. I used to think that if my days were packed I was a worthwhile human being and had a sense of accomplishment. However, it was exhausting, I didn’t enjoy half the things I was doing, wasn’t that productive and realised it was just a tactic to run from myself and from my emotions. So slowly over time I started to be ok with slowing down, doing nothing, being ok spending time alone, being ok with being me. These days I have a very balanced, slow life and am way more productive. The trick is to do tasks/work at your optimal times and to feel into it, if I don’t feel like doing something I don’t do it, I wait until I feel like doing it so it just flows (obviously there are things if life that you just have to do even if you don’t feel like doing it). I’ve learned the art of saying, “No” to things I don’t want to do and to say, “No” if it’s going to cramp my schedule. I spend a lot of time on my own (this charges my batteries for my clients and friends). Quite a lot of my alone time is spent just doing nothing, I feel my emotions, I lie on my bed and look at the sky through my window, I day dream. All of this has helped me to feel so much more grounded and a deep feeling of love, acceptance and connection to myself.
- Checking my thoughts and checking them again- Now, this is the BIGGEST one! I hate to tell you but anxiety is all in our minds (apart from the anxiety that protects us from danger e.g. if a car is about to hit us). Our thoughts are what start anxiety and are what feed it. If I even get a pang of emotional discomfort I immediately tune into my mind and listen to what I’m telling myself. We make up stories in our minds, we catastrophise things, we make assumptions about others and this all fuels the beloved anxiety. I have a range of tools that I use to check and interrupt unhelpful thinking. A couple of my favourite examples are, if I notice that I’m catastrophising or making an assumption about something or someone, I say to myself, “That’s just a story I’m telling myself.” If I’m perseverating on something, I interrupt the thinking by singing a song that has lyrics that will “stop” the thinking in the moment and make me laugh. The most common line I sing is “Stop collaborate and listen… Ice is back with a brand new invention” … you know Vanilla Ice’s song Ice Ice Baby (If you listen and ponder those lyrics, they are so fitting). Please note…If I’m perseverating hard I might have to do this multiple times.
And now today I take my personal and professional experience helping people to overcome anxiety and anxiety related issues. If you would like to know more about how I might be able to help you I offer a free 15 minute consultation, you can book in here or contact me here.