This question seems to be massive these days. I’ve started here because this is this is the exact question that led to me where I am today. And believe me, when I look back at where I was a year ago I feel so grateful, because I wouldn’t wish an anxious brain on my worst enemy.
Anxious thoughts can feel really overpowering. They can stop you doing things and going places. Sometimes you can feel worried without even knowing why. I have always lived my life with a fair dose of worry, but it was when I started having panic attacks that I started to feel really out of control. I think for me, that was the worst bit. I felt like I was at the mercy of these thoughts as I didn’t know when they were coming, how I would react or if I could cope with them. Being able to think is amazing, but I also know that thoughts can be terrifying. When you are living in a state of anxiety it doesn’t matter if the thing you are scared of has happened or not. You are living in a reality where those scary, horrible things are truly happening. You are living the terror, right at that moment, and sometimes that moment can last for days or even weeks. It’s exhausting, not to mention a total waste of brain energy, because when bad things do happen, we always know exactly what to do. We are taken care of. But more about that later.
There are people all around us suffering and I feel I am duty-bound to write this in the hope that someone who needs this will stumble across it and feel reassured that there IS a way out of the anxiety pit. If you are ready for hard work, regular affirmations, lots of time, effort and meditation, then in 5 to 10 years you’ll be free of anxiety! WAIT, I’M TOTALLY KIDDING. PLEASE DON’T STOP READING! All it took for me were a few simple truths about anxiety to set me on the right path. I’ll try and sum them up for you best I can.
First, let’s get one thing straight. Everyone feels anxious or worried at some point. As humans, we are designed to feel anxiety because it has helped to keep us safe and alive on earth, so let’s thank it for that. Credit where credit’s due. The problem really arises when we allow anxious feelings and thoughts to take over. This usually happens when we don’t understand how our reality is created. I also want you to know that as humans, we have innate mental health. If you feel like you’ve lost yours somewhere along the way, please, stop searching. It is our default. It’s not gone anywhere. We have blips when we feel rubbish but the good feeling is our natural state, not the other way round. We are designed to feel up and down and then up again as it’s what the human experience is all about. The way that cuts heal on our skin, our body heals our mind too, without us stepping in to help. Our bodies are wise. They have a wisdom that our thoughts will never have.
Important point number 1. WE THINK.
That seems really obvious, but yes, we have the amazing, wonderful power of thought at our disposal. I’m not sure about you, but I used to be very attached to my thoughts. They were the voice in my head that kept me company, and I trusted them to tell me the truth about my life. I used my thoughts as a gauge to tell me how good my life was. They told me how much I was enjoying my job, how good my relationship was and how good a person I was. I put my faith in them to tell me what was true and who I was and wasn’t, never once pausing to question them.
However, have you ever stopped to think about just how unreliable your thoughts are? One second your thoughts will be telling you how much you love your job and then five minutes later they are telling you to find another career. In one moment your thoughts are saying that you should be grateful for your wonderful relationship, then seconds later they are telling you to find someone who appreciates you more. What a rollercoaster! Up and down and up and down. Which ones are true? Which ones are REAL? Well, thanks to our amazing brains, each thought seems 100% true in the moment you are thinking it.
Important point number 2. WE ARE ONLY EVER FEELING OUR THINKING.
Let me explain. Every single thing that we feel, first comes from a thought that has popped into our heads. That is how things work 100% of the time. If a sad thought comes along it makes you feel sad and a happy thought will make you feel happy. Depending on the thought that comes into your head, it brings with it a feeling which in turn creates your moment to moment experience of life. I hate when we are told to ‘think positively!’ because let’s just get one thing straight. We can’t control which thoughts pop into our heads. Try it! Do you know what you are going to be thinking in 30 seconds? No. Me neither. At first this seems like a bad thing. ‘But how can I stop anxious thoughts then?’ Let me tell you something and please trust me on this. You don’t need your anxious thoughts to disappear. Once you understand how thoughts work, you’ll suddenly find yourself starting to tune out the anxious ones that are of no value and make you feel bad. Your brain will stop constantly scanning for them. They will become mundane. They will no longer get the same rise out of you. Like a song on the radio that you don’t like much, you let it play and suddenly the next song is on. No big deal. You don’t turn up the volume, you don’t try to turn it off, because thoughts are designed to pop in and pop out. The less attention you pay to them, the less they stick around. Kind of like an unwanted visitor.
Important point number 3. THE MOOD THAT WE ARE IN WILL DICTATE HOW WE FEEL ABOUT THE THOUGHTS THAT POP INTO OUR HEADS.
There are lots of things that can affect your mood. For me, being tired, hungry or hormonal can really wreak havoc on the quality of my thoughts. When in a good mood your thoughts tend to be of a good quality. Things appear light and rosy. A thought that was worrying you yesterday suddenly looks laughable. However, in a low state of mind or a bad mood, a comment that yesterday you would have brushed off can hurt you deeply. It’s enough just to know that to take the scariness away. When you are having horrible thoughts, they are not telling you anything about the quality of your life! Only that your mood is low. Nothing more. Ride it out. What goes down will always come back up. It’s human nature.
Important point number 4. NO THING, PERSON, OR CIRCUMSTANCE CAN MAKE YOU FEEL ANYTHING.
Oooo this one is a biggie and can seem quite controversial and I’ll write more about this soon. All our lives we have been under the impression that things outside of us can make us feel things. I’m here today to set the record straight. My boss made me angry. My kids make me happy. It doesn’t work that way round! No person, thing or circumstance can MAKE you feel anything. If it could, would everyone not be terrified of wasps like me? Wasps make me scared, but do they make everyone scared? No. This shows they don’t have any real scaring power. You can take the same thing, person or circumstance and expose it to someone else and they will feel differently about it. Can you think of any examples in your life that prove this? Is there something that scares you that your friend or partner is uneffected by? Understanding this really opens up the door to knowing that every person, thing or circumstance out there is neutral. It has no special power to make you feel anything. The only thing wasps can do is provoke scary thinking and thoughts in me. This is brilliant news, as it means that my experiences of things come from within ME, not from the thing itself, so I am only ever one new thought away from a different experience. In fact, having been terrified of wasps for years, I have suddently this summer found myself having much less scary thoughts about them. Without even trying to. If there is a thing, or person, or circumstance in your life that you think is making you feel anxious or scared, think again. You do not need to change your life circumstances in order to be OK, because you are already OK. You needn’t always have same thoughts about the thing you think is scaring you. Once you understand that it has no power to affect you, it will stop looking so scary.
Important point number 5. WE HAVE ANOTHER BUILT-IN NAVIGATIONAL SYSTEM THAT WE CAN LISTEN TO.
We spend our days listening to our thoughts, but there is more in there. There is an energy, a wisdom that lives inside us that keeps us on the right path. We can’t see it with our eyes, but we are aware of its presence because it’s the energy that knows how to grow trees effortlessly, it creates babies from cells, it heal wounds. We are permanently plugged into this endless source of energy that buzzes inside us. It’s wise. It knows how to do things that we could never do ourselves. You can call it what you like. Energy. Wisdom. God. It doesn’t matter what, it’s there regardless. In an emergency it’s the calm voice that tells us exactly what to do when we never anticipated we would know. It’s always got our back and when we listen to it and trust in it it always sends us in the right direction. How reassuring is that? Once you realise it’s there and that it can be relied on at all times, have a listen out for it. It’s not a loud, insistent voice that makes you want to take immediate action, it’s a quiet knowing about what to do. It’s a new and creative idea that pops into your head when you are least expecting it. Turn down your noisy thoughts and see if you can tune into your internal sat nav. It won’t fail you. It’s always for you. It’s your absolute best friend, but it’s also YOU.
And that, my friends is the end of my answer. I hope that it has given you some new things to think about when it comes to anxiety. If you are as anxious as I have been, chances are you are so bored of listening to your negative thinking that you’ll appreciate some new material. It’s like having the same, rubbish song play constantly on the radio, without realising that there are other stations. They come with new songs, artists and interesting programmes and just reading this post will have kickstarted a retune of your internal radio. Keep listening out for new stuff, cause the old stuff is stale. Think about what you have read and look for examples in your life. Tell me what you see.