I spoke with experts, doctors, and spiritual teachers. I asked these high achievers about their anxiety and how they move through it to live the life they love.
Check out this interview with one of my heros, Derek Rydall.
"Derek, Tell me a short story of time you felt anxious "
Besides most of my life??? I remember a time early on in the development of my business where I wanted to invest in some coaching and marketing support but it was as much as my rent. I was very anxious and frustrated.
I was afraid I would make a mistake and go broke or be evicted.
But I felt this inner resonance that was trying to pull me into a bigger life. I resisted it for months, waiting to have more money, more answers, more something!
As a result my life got harder, I become more stuck...until
I finally relented and said YES to my inner yes.
A month later, I had earned back the investment. The next month I had earned 5 times as much -- and I never went back to that level. It taught me to live more by 'insight' than eyesight. And it has allowed me to grow my life over and over, regardless of conditions.
Derek, What are 3 concrete specific ways that you soothe yourself so you can enjoy the experience you are creating?
In general, my intention is to continually upgrade my life so that I live in an environment and have a 'way of living' that is in integrity with my highest vision. The more I do that, the more peace, love, joy, and abundance emerge!
Derek, Tell us, What’s new and upcoming? How can readers find you?
There's always a lot emerging around here! But if people want some powerful support in creating the best year of their life and fulfilling the deep purpose for which they were born, they can check out the following FREE resources: A free mini eCourse and audio course on the revolutionary principle, The Law of Emergence: http://www.lawofemergence.com/
Self expression is one of the pieces that is most often left out of anxiety relief programs.
Think about it. And you'll see.
When I was in grad school to be a psychotherapist participation was a REQUIREMENT. I knew I had to raise my hand and speak up once in every class or my grades would be negatively effected.
I set a goal for myself. I would speak in every class. Every time.
This is a really typical technique for working with anxiety called exposure therapy. Sometime I would really be fine. Sometimes the room would grow and shrink, I would shake, sweat and even cry from the physical symptoms of fear. I look back on myself at that time so lovingly.
My nervous system was so whacked out by my choice, but my will to thrive was SO STRONG.
You don't have to go through this like I did.
What I noticed was the following process:
1) I would have something to say or ask arise in my consciousness 2) I would feel my heart start to beat harder and sweat start to pool in my palms. I would start to be nauseous. 3) I would sit on my impulse to share. 4) I would get increasingly physically uncomfortable. 5) I would beat myself up for not sharing and for being anxious. 6) I would raise my hand and say the thing. 7) I would go over the thing in my head a million times after the fact trying to asses if I was okay.
This insanity was HELL for me. It was absolutely awful. But, it was how I discovered that authentic and satisfying self expression is an enormous part of living an anxiety free life.
I started my "Letters to an Ex-boyfriend" series after going through a bad breakup. All I wanted to do was get through to him so he could see and understand the pain I was going through. It was about as satisfying as hurling myself repeatedly into a brick wall. It didn't work. At all.
It was then that I sat down and began to write.
What I wanted was to share myself. I wanted to be seen as me in all my mess and wisdom, I wanted to transmute my pain into connection, belonging and growth. And this is exactly what happened.
It wasn't satisfying to share with him. It was incredibly satisfying to share with the world. I got more comments on my posts, more messages in my inbox, more communication about topics that were interesting and really mattered to me like self love, body shaming, anxiety soothing, and more. I got more phone calls, more opportunities to connect with people who could really see my wisdom that EVER before.
It felt like a miracle.
Weeks later an anxious but highly creative and successful friend went through a breakup and he asked me for advice knowing I had recently had my heart to the fire.
I shared with him my break through, about finding a way to express himself that would ACTUALLY be SATISFYING for him. He tried it out and it WORKED!!!!
For me it's not enough to just create my songs, or write. I want to share it. Then I want to talk about it with people. I want to share resources, and chew on ideas.
What would satisfying expression look like to you? Share below. Feel free to read through the "Letters to an Ex-boyfriend" series. It is a beautiful work of art full of gems on self love and actualization. It is a how to teaching on taking our most painful moments and transforming them into creative growth.
Every once in a while I drink a little tooooo much and suffer the consequences of a hangover.
Read to the end for a habit hack to reduce use or quit drinking all together.
Often times people with anxiety use alcohol, tv, and other drugs, to numb out the intensity of your feelings. THEN the next day the anxiety comes back even worse because you've changed your serotonin levels and left yourself depleted.
I used to feel so ashamed when I did this. I would never want you to know this about me.
I used to beat myself up, globalize doom and gloom thinking and tell myself that I will never drink again etc etc.
Of course, that didn't work and I would still do what I do to relax. I have learned through loving myself to take such incredible care of my body.
Our behaviors are patterns of cues, unconscious action and reward. So when you want to make a significant change you have to work with the cues or the rewards. During the habitual behavior itself your brain activity literally drops! So here is that habit hack I promised you: I started to work with my hangover shame in addition to the drinking itself.
1) Find a replacement behavior for the habit. I drink fizzy waters instead of wine. There are lots of great calorie free drinks that make great replacement drinks.
2) Focus on changing one part of the entire pattern. If you zoom out the pattern might be larger than you were originally seeing. For me it was the hangover shame. I decided that when I got hungover I would treat myself really sweetly, love myself, talk to myself.
As a result of shifting my shame I now drink a lot less often, drink less when I do drink, and if I do over do it and get a hangover I take good care of myself so I am not feeding into the larger pattern of stress.
Let me know how you are shifting your patterns to live a healthier life!
Many people just aren't ready to do the work it takes to change. Are you one of them?
I am going to say something mind blowing to you in this post that will go against everything you currently believe about anxiety, but that will change it for good.
The nastiest part of anxiety is often that as much as we think we want to change, we are more committed to commiserating than growing.
Let's take an honest look at your behavior...
1. When people offer you solutions, do you try them or do you want to talk about symptoms?
2. Do you tend to think that something will fix, solve or change your anxiety? Do you think the next thing you learn will fix it? Are you always hoping person to person to try to find answers outside of yourself?
3. When someone asks you a question about your POTENTIAL do you respond with your perceived LIMITS? Do you explain WHY you can't change rather than contemplate how you can?
If this is you FREAK OUT NOW! Okay haha just kidding. No, don’t freak out. It’s okay. It’s just that your mind has practiced that route so many times it believes it’s the safest way home. And that’s not your fault. You never would have comciouslt created it if you could have helped it. And there are tools to get you off this track and onto a new one.
It is VERY common for you crave change but actually just want to stay the same. The limited mind actually thinks what you’re doing NOW is safer than any change you could imagine.
Our brains get habituated in certain ways.
Your mind thinks that by fixating on the "problem" - your anxiety - that it is solving the "problem."
It is NOT.
It thinks if it can just get rid of the anxiety that you will be restored to peace. This will not work. You cannot get rid of anxiety. It's not a problem to be fixed solved or eliminated.
Did I just blow your mind?
Yes, this goes against the medical model of prescribing meds to eliminate anxiety. Anxiety treatment is often best when we combine meds with treatment. Using meds to take the edge off can be helpful. But its not a long term solution if you don't change the underlying patterns.
The anxiety itself actually isn't a problem to be fixed.
Right now you are probably thinking
"WAIT WHAT!? You must be Fuck!ng kidding me! I can’t get rid of this thing?!”
Understanding this particular paradox has changed everything. This is where feel lasting relief comes from. .
Making friends with anxiety is the only way through the fire. It's okay to feel afraid!
The next time you feel anxious here is a little script for starting your new relationship. How would you start off any friendship? I have this conversation in my head or while seated in my meditation space.
1. Introduce yourself - "Oh hi anxiety, I haven't seen you for like ten seconds."
This joke belongs to Amy Hartman :D
2. Ask it if it wants or needs anything from you.
"What the hell do you want --- erm ... I mean --- what do you need right now?"
3. Ask it if it has anything for you. Keep asking until you get something actionable.
"Do you have anything for me?" Using the tool of your imagination, allow your anxiety to place the gift somewhere in your body, nourishing you. Or it could be words and information.
If your wise mind doesn't agree with what your anxiety is saying, like "We're not safe here." Speak to it like it's a little kid. Say, "I hear you that you feel unsafe. I think we are safe here. What could we do that would make you a little more comfortable?"
You might get a response like "wrap me up in a blanket" or "call a friend."
You are effectively learning how to nourish yourself.
You are learning how to RESPOND to rather than react to your anxiety.
I know it feels like the world is crashing down when you are anxious. It feels like you can't escape and you are going to die. I know. I have been there. Try on this practice, and trust me that it works.
When you start to give a part of yourself that you have been starving, trying to beat to death or get to go away, a little space in your life to offer you wisdom, everything changes and you will ge the relief you seek.
I will continue to share how to work with this part of you in future blog posts so come back soon!
“I have horrible anxiety and panic attacks. I feel like I am going to die. I feel beat up and my whole body hurts."
I work with creative people. Often these people are out in the world stepping into situations that challenge them on a regular basis.
I typically help clients with five areas to help surrender fear and step into satisfaction.
1. Self awareness (mindfulness) 2. Self soothing 3. Self love (us anxious tend to beat the crap out of ourselves), 4. Self expression 5. habit/ routine.
Anxiety can be physically EXHAUSTING. We use up so much of our precious energy just managing the intensity of the anxious state.
If you are in a state of high anxiety RIGHT NOW here are some basics to smoothing things out:
1. What were some of the thoughts that were going through your head? A lot of times we globalize doom and gloom. We think the worst and we also think we are going to die. It is important to get checked out by a doctor, but if it IS anxiety, the next step is to simply notice the thoughts. This cultivates a witness perspective that can hold your anxiety so you can start to soothe it.
2. Feel your hands.
A lot of anxious people will go to “my palms are clammy” or “I lose sensations in my fingers” or “I have pins and needles and MY ARMS ARE GOING TO FALL OFF!!!!”
I know it sounds funny but our anxious mind is scanning to see what is wrong. Having pins and needles in my hands after being sick from food poisoning sent me to google to find out if I had a paralytic version or botulism. This kind of self diagnosis isn't really helpful and I would have been better served to simply feel my hands.
We aren't looking for something wrong here. Instead, we are just looking for physical sensations. Clammy palms? Great. Zipping tingles around the finger tips? Great! Cool sensations on the backs of the hands. Great.
If you can keep ten percent of your attention on your hands - just the physical sensations, I have tested over and over again and found that you will begin to get your creative energy back.
Physical sensation. Be as descriptive as possible. Keep it super simple.
3. Emphasis on the out breath.
Great! I didn’t learn many of these self soothing techniques ’til grad school! I personally think that they should be taught in elementary but they just aren’t. So if you are a teacher do your students a favor and give them these emotional intelligence builders!
So when you are anxious I would bet your chest feels very tight and the tendency is to breath in and in AND IN!
Focus on your long breaths out.
Notice your state as you count breaths out. This is the type of stuff you will find in most anxiety relief programs. Breath work. The breath is a powerful tool for transforming your state.
Btw. If you’re feeling down and out, I suggest breathing out all your air, as much as possible and waiting for the in-breath to kick in. It will show you how your body values life. Please go talk to an awesome therapist though, if you’re feeling depressed.
One thing that is really unique about my perspective is that I believe that SO much about anxiety is that we are NOT expressing. We block ourselves and the "energy" manifests physically. Many people feel chocking sensations in their throat or a knot in their belly. The body is holding tensions it can’t process and it manifests as a certain chakra block when it’s really a systems issue.
If you have been to your doctor and there are no physical reasons for your sensations, explore with me. Notice, where are you tensing. You likely feel like you’re choking or that you are ill because you are squeeing your stomach or throat unconsciously. Noticing what feelings come up and see if you can identify them. No feeling can hurt you. Its just emotion. Energy in motion. Ask it what is has to say to you. You don’t have to agree with what it has to say. That part of you gets to have its own voice, and you as your wise self get to hold it in your awareness.
Be willing to explore the sensations.
Feel them physically.
Feel them emotionally without reacting to them.
Hold them in the loving bowl of your awareness.
What is it that you have to tell me? What is it that you need? What do you have to say?
Speak these answers out loud or grab a journal or your computer and write them down.
This is when everything shifted for me. My angst in a breakup became some of my most wise and intelligent writing. I have tested this time and again and it works! Find a way to express that is SATISFYING for you. It has to be satisfying for you. For me it meant writing from my wisdom perspective and sharing it with the world through facebook - thereby getting support and engaging in conversations. For others it has meant writing a letter and putting it in the mail or giving a particular person a call. Find what works for you. If you can’t, I can help you figure out meaningful ways to self express.
For me, I needed to work with another person to do this work. My body simply did not feel safe enough to work with on my own. This is because I was working with TRAUMA.
If you don’t feel safe in your body, or know that you have a history of trauma, please reach out to me or another therapist and they can help guide you through this process. It is possible to feel safe in your body. If you are willing to do the work, you will like reach Post Traumatic Growth, which is the ability to launch further and faster BECAUSE you were traumatized. It is the amazing gift that the worst of life’s experiences often allow us to thrive in ways others simply can’t imagine.
If you are in a place where your body doesn’t feel safe, professional support can help.
A lot of times when we feel anxious we feel like we are victim to the anxiety. We feel powerless and like we cannot stop the sensations. In a lot of ways we are correct. We have conditioned ourselves so strongly to respond in this way our neural pathways have to change in order for us to feel relief.
This is why mindfulness practices work so well. The stop the conditioned state and LITERALLY rewire the brain.
It is miraculous how malleable our brains are.
If I can do it. You can do it.
The thing is, a lot of people are more committed to their problems than the solutions. Which camp are you in?
Though I am trained as a therapist, I call myself a coach.
As a coach, I consider it my job to... 1. Explore your gifts.
What are you best at? What could you be best in the world at? What do you love love love to do with your time? How do you want to feel?
2.. Support my clients in discovering what it is that they care most about.
What do you value? What do you love to share? What do you love to learn about?
3. Habituate a lifestyle around allowing those values to express.
It is my job to help you express who you are and what you care about through the gifts that are unique to you in this life. Do you value health? Relationship? Leisure? Business? Once we define what you care about we can start to play with defining how you believe you would feel if you had what you wanted. If you know how you would feel you can determine which activities already make you feel that way. I.e. If my business was supporting me financially I would feel proud and accomplished. I now feel proud and accomplished when I complete my workout routine. Therefore, I want to habituate my workout routine into my daily life (6 days a week). Thus, I begin to feel the sensations of pride and accomplishment more often.
4. Define what the difficult points are. We all have unconscious patterning and we will all hits bumps in the road.
In my mind, emotion is easily translated to “energy in motion.” Whether it is anxiety, self doubt, hopelessness, despair or anger, as humans, we contain the full spectrum within us. I teach that if we can love all our parts then we can use them as the very fuel that makes life so beautiful.
5. It is my job to help you continue to find the channels for moving emotion, rough patches, and chaos in a way that supports your thriving (rather than destroys you or throws you).
Since you have been alive a little while I know you have strategies - some that are super effective - and some that have more difficult consequences - that you use to self soothe and care for yourself. If you can master the art of creating an alliance with your emotions you can use them to support you in creating a life that you love.
If you want to know more about what it might look like to work with me, get in touch and we can schedule a session.
There are many free resources here - please feel free to explore. Try things on and let me know how they are working for you. I specialize in soothing anxiety and self doubt, singing, songwriting, business and more. You can call me at 207.664.9220 to schedule a session or sign up at www.calendly.com/ellen7e to schedule a free consultation. I also offer a special discounted price for referrals.