What do you hear most often as you depart from your friends, family, and cohorts? “Take care” or “Be careful.” Obviously, your friends and family care about you and are expressing a desire that you be safe. But the general idea imparted by such phrases is, “Hey, it’s dangerous out there. Look out! Keep your head up and watch out for bad stuff.”
Unfortunately, this also sends out a message that taking risks could be harmful. However, building personal power, venturing out into the world, and taking healthy risks are all part of your endeavor to respond to worry in a healthy and positive way. It’s time to adopt a different frame of mind such as, “Take a risk,” “Try something new,” or “Get out there and start doing.” Taking a risk doesn’t mean being foolhardy and doing dangerous or stupid things. It does mean trying, exploring, and risking.
Embrace the Unknown with an Open Mind
Start simply by simply starting. You do this by taking small risks and challenging something that you have avoided or about which you have felt uncomfortable. Then, you gradually empower yourself to do things you thought you could not.
A key element is to make it fun. Don’t grit your teeth, clench your fists, and push through your fears while fighting with yourself to do it. Practice in your imagination first. See yourself doing it and being happy. Create imagery and internal statements about the activity you wish to do. Place power statements on your mirror so that they are the first things you see every morning. This is your internal practice time. See it, believe it, do it!
Embracing the unknown means going through a challenging experience with an open mind that seeks to learn and grow. Taking a risk, whether chosen or compelled, and changing your perspective helps elevate you into a higher consciousness of learning from life’s experiences. This offers you a chance to push back the barriers of limitations, and empowers you to handle not just some but all the uncertainties of your life.
Three Simple Steps to Stop the Grip of Anxiety: Stop, Look, Listen
Chronic worrying can keep you tense, on high alert, and lead to anxiety attacks. When stresses become more challenging, you can help yourself by using the “Stop, Look, and Listen” technique to quickly regain the reins of control.
Step 1: STOP.
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First, recognize and accept that the feeling is anxiety. Next, take charge of your breathing and immediately begin to breathe slowly and deliberately. Remember belly breathing? This is the time to do it because it can help reverse your body chemistry and restore calm.
Now, stop the runaway train of emotion. You can consciously veto maintaining the fight-or-ﬂight response. Acknowledge the worry but recognize that, in this case, any fear is merely a False Emotion Appearing Real.
Step 2: LOOK.
Don’t try to control or fight your symptoms. Accept them and remain determined that you are going to ride them out. True power over your worries comes from learning to accept the feeling and not letting it move beyond the initial fear response. Remember, “Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered, and no one was there.”
Move around if at all possible, and look around you. Focus on the external, rather than the internal sensations. Ground yourself by focusing on your feet and legs, and gradually move up your body with progressive relaxation. Keep in the now by looking at the details of life around you. What are people wearing? What are the interesting details of your surroundings? Can you speak or joke with someone? Take five full minutes to name things you see. If you find your vision is disturbed, focus on your breathing instead to help restore the normal biochemistry of your body that is thrown off by shallow, anxious breathing.
Step 3: LISTEN.
Talk calmly to reassure yourself. Say your power phrases: “Okay, I feel afraid, but that’s all right. I can handle this. Am I in a truly dangerous situation? No, I’m not. I simply refuse to fuel these fires. I’m okay. I’m done with this. I have choices here. I refuse this response. I am totally safe and I am okay. In fact, I am a coping machine. My safety is in my own belly button. I refuse to do this.”
You can also create and carry cards with your power phrases. They can be phrased as if they were something you would say to a scared child. How would you comfort her or him? You can trust yourself. You really can.
Expanding Your Comfort Zone: Facing Your Fears, Little by Little
When I was overcoming anxiety, I practiced driving farther distances from home. I feared being away from the supposed safety of my home. Because of that, I mostly stayed within a comfortable distance so that I could get back home if I started feeling anxious.
As I was working on changing myself inside, I planned small trips. I practiced mentally to prepare. I envisioned how I wanted to feel. I saw myself doing it enjoyably. I also looked at maps and found different routes. Finally, I started driving.
If I started to feel uncomfortable, I would launch into the Stop, Look, and Listen technique. To stay in touch with the present moment and connect with people, I stopped at stores or roadside stands. I brieﬂy chatted with people and practiced feeling comfortable. I listened to audio books while driving, which helped me focus on something other than my churning fear. I brought along water and snacks. As I kept practicing, my anxiety began to lessen.
As you begin to face your fears little by little, your comfort zone expands. The more you practice, the more you build on your successes. Sometimes you may stumble in your practice and skip it or cut it short. Each time that happens, you may feel bad. But you must learn to continue challenging yourself despite setbacks, to forgive yourself for not being perfect, and to remain committed to trying and rebuilding.
©2012 by Kathryn Tristan. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission from Atria Books/
Beyond Words Publishing. www.beyondword.com
Why Worry? Stop Coping and Start Living
(previously published as "Anxiety Rescue" - revised and expanded)
by Kathryn Tristan.
There always seems to be plenty to worry about, and worry we do — from nagging concerns to full-blown anxiety. It’s time to stop worrying and instead create a more peaceful, powerful, and purposeful life. Kathryn Tristan’s hands-on, solution-oriented book empowers you to break free from constant fear, worry, and anxiety. She shows how to eliminate automatic doomsday thinking and take back control of your own life.
About the Author
Kathryn Tristan is a research scientist on the faculty of Washington University School of Medicine. She has written or co-authored more than 250 articles in leading health or science publications including PARADE Magazine and Scientific American Medicine. Kathryn writes and speaks on overcoming worry, anxiety and fear from a deeply personal as well as professional level. For many years, she struggled with anxiety while unsuccessfully trying traditional routes to overcome her challenges. Finally, she found a way to recover permanently by doing things differently and working from the inside out using holistic strategies for the mind, body, and spirit. Visit her website at www.whyworrybook.com