Do you ever experience the kind of anxiety that can really stop you in your tracks?
A lot of us get anxious sometimes. I know I do! There’s a lot out there to be anxious about! But of course, feeling anxiety — the tight shoulders, the beating heart, all of that — doesn’t really help you get safer from the things you’re anxious about.
You might try to get yourself to calm down and relax. Or tell yourself it’s going to be OK – that there’s nothing to really worry about. But does that help you? I’ve often found that the part of me that’s anxious isn’t even touched by that kind of inner talk. “Nothing to worry about! Ha!” it says. And grips my chest even tighter. Do you have that experience too?
In this episode, you’ll get an exercise to bring you support when anxious feelings challenge your inner peace.
My student Ashley struggled with anxiety, too. Ashley is an intelligent, motivated young woman – something that’s obvious to anyone who meets her.
But she wasn’t doing well in college — she has test taking anxiety. Before an exam Ashley would get anxious about doing well. During the exam she’d feel a terrible sense of pressure not to mess up. The anxiety kept her from concentrating so she couldn’t access the information and intelligence she worked so hard to learn.
It was torture.
Telling herself there was nothing to worry about didn’t ease the anxiety one bit!
So Ashley learned some things from me about finding inner peace with challenging emotions, and she decided to try them out with this anxiety about exams… She knew if the test taking anxiety could shift, her life would get a lot easier.
I’m going to take you through the same process Ashley did with herself, so you can see if it works for you too.
ONE: Recall something you’re anxious about. As Ashley recalled what it was like to be taking an exam her body tension shot up and it became harder to breathe.
TWO: Say the words, “I am sensing something in me is really really anxious…” and pause to feel that the anxious one is part of you, not all of you. Ashley needed to repeat this several times until it finally sank in that the anxious one inside was a part of her. At that point her breathing eased up slightly. Only slightly! But that’s still significant!
THREE: Ask yourself where in your body you feel that anxious part of you the most. Ashley thought at first it was her whole body… but when she really paused to sense, she could feel it was especially in her chest, gripping her breathing.
FOUR: Say to the feeling there, in that body place, that you really really get how anxious it feels… and you are here with it now. That’s what Ashley said to the gripping tension in her chest. “I really really get how anxious you feel… and I am here with you now.”
At first she felt no response. It was as if the feeling was so busy being anxious it couldn’t take in that she was there, talking to it. So she said it again, slowly, paying attention inside. And again. “I really really get how anxious you feel… and I am here with you now.”
Slowly she began to feel a response in her body, a bit of easing, a loosening… and a sense that the anxious part of her WAS starting to feel that SHE was here, with it.
If you’re trying this process yourself, did you feel some of that too? It can help to let a gentle hand go there, to the place where you feel the anxious feeling in your body. And stay with it!
Ashley repeated the process as her next exam got closer.
Her body let her know, loud and clear, when the anxiety was starting up again… and when it did, Ashley took the time to pause and let it know she could really hear how anxious it was… and that she was here with it now. Each time, the easing and loosening got a bit stronger.
On the day of the exam Ashley still had an anxious part with her… but she really knew it was a part of her, not all of her. What a different experience.
In fact, it felt like the anxious one was a younger part, and she could go to the exam while holding the hand of this younger part– which wasn’t the one taking the exam, anyway!
If you want a new approach to anxiety one where you have access to your full intelligence and abilities…remember that you can turn toward the anxious PART OF YOU and acknowledge how IT feels.
That is really different from having anxiety take you over.So here’s to you… having a more peaceful life.