Don’t you hate it when you feel anxious? I do. The nagging thoughts, the distress, the body feeling jittery or nervous or unsettled. The sleep troubles (UGH!! I especially hate those!). So what can help? How can you find your way back to happiness again? (Cause I know you want to Feel Peace Now!)
- Name it and be nice to it. Anxiety is an ancient response to not feeling safe in the world. Somewhere, inside your wonderful brain, is a freaked out amygdala. And it’s trying to get your attention, because it believes you are in harms way. Now, you might wish this reptilian brainstem wasn’t blaring the alarm bells, but it is/was trying to help you survive. If you want it to calm down, you are gonna have to try the next step.
- Breathe. Focused conscious breathing can get us out of our old brain (see #1) and into the thinking-more-clearly parts of our brain. (Don’t you just love brain science!) As you pause and focus on your breath, you can again name the thoughts or feelings that you noticed when you felt anxious. If you use s-l-o-w & deep breathing, you will start to settle down. It will help you decide if you want to take action (or maybe just continue to breathe slowly). One great action you might want to incorporate is EFT/Tapping— it can work brilliantly to help simmer down the over-active amygdala. See here for information on Tapping.
- Practice gratitude. Purposeful, intentional awareness of who or what you are grateful for can shift your feelings dramatically. It is one of the most effective ways to change your brain! Anxiety is partly a learned response to the world, and it can be unlearned. Choosing to focus on gratitude will help your brain start to search for what you love and appreciate. Even the act of thinking about what it is you’re grateful for changes your brain chemistry. It can really help re-wire your brain.
YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR BRAIN. But you have to work at it! There are all kinds of great books (like Hardwiring Happiness, by Rick Hanson, or Uncovering Happiness, by Elisha Goldstein, or The Mindful Way through Anxiety by Sue Orsillo and Liz Roemer , just to name a few!) and websites (like this from Dan Siegal, or Project Happiness,) programs like the Greater Good Science Center’s The Science of Happiness, podcasts , and TED talks that teach us how to change our brains and be happier. But the thing with this accumulated knowledge is this: YOU STILL HAVE TO DO THE WORK.
This is good news! If you do the work, your brain will start to change. This is no different from knowing about eating well or participating in regular exercise – they will improve your life if you do them. And I know, since you are reading this, that you are at least somewhat curious and motivated (maybe a little? maybe more that a little?) to help make positive things happen in your life. And I think you would like to Feel Peace Now, just like me!
So get going– start making a concerted effort to have a daily gratitude practice. Take breathing breaks, and have a little chat with yourself about how you are feeling. When you notice anxiety, do the slowest focused breathing you can for a few breaths (long slow breaths in and out— go ahead, try some right now—> in……..out…….. in…….. out…….). What do you notice now? What can you think of RIGHT NOW that you are grateful for?
If you want some help with a deeper practice of how to Feel Peace Now. give me a call or drop me an email and set up a time to come in and learn more about how easy it can be change old patterns like anxiety. It gives me great joy to do this work and I would be honored to work with you.