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I’m pretty sure everyone nowadays is looking for the best ways to overcome anxiety.
And telling someone to simply calm down usually doesn’t help. But my hope with this post is that you understand what anxiety is, how it affects your body and most importantly how you can overcome anxiety when you feel it coming on.
So in essence, I will teach you exactly how to “calm down” so you can overcome anxiety.
What is Anxiety?
The biggest difference between anxiety and simple worry is that anxiety is felt in the body. Our bodies react well before our brains do.
One of the tricks to getting control of your anxiety is to recognize how your body reacts.
Knowing What to Do When Anxiety Hits
Of course, when anxiety strikes it can be fairly difficult to get your mind right enough to get out an anxious state. But it’s not impossible.
One of the best ways to overcome anxiety, when it happens, is to plan ahead.
Badass Step #1 to Overcome Anxiety – Plan Ahead to Prepare for Anxiety
To plan ahead, get out your trusty journal. Or better yet, sign up to get the Obtaining Bliss Anxiety Journal (FREE!).
This fabulous journal walks you through exactly what to document to prepare you for the next time anxiety strikes.
The beauty of planning ahead for anxiety is you’ll be armed and ready when it comes on the next time.
Answer These Questions When Journaling About Anxiety
Of course, the ideal time to journal about your anxiety is right after it happens. But we all know that doesn’t always happen. So to start with, you can just think of the last few times you had anxiety and jot down these things:
Where in the body did you feel the anxiety?
Describe what part of the body you started to feel anxiety come up.
Some examples could be:
- Feeling a lump in your throat, like it’s hard to swallow or difficult to take a deep breath.
- Tightening chest
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sweaty palms
- Tears welling up in the eyes
- Butterflies in the stomach
How did it feel?
Describe in as much detail as possible what you were feeling in that moment and the thoughts that were coming up for you.
Some examples could be:
- This situation made me feel like I was going to be ostracized from the group activity I was taking part in.
- I’m alone and an outsider.
- I didn’t feel heard, felt insignificant, and unimportant.
What specifically triggered you to feel this way?
Describe in as much detail as you can the situation you were in that triggered you to feel this way.
Examples could be:
- I started to get anxiety when my boss made me move into a different office with another co-worker.
- Anxiety really bubbled up for me when I had to go to an event I knew my ex would be at.
- I get anxiety when I am forced to meet new people.
Try to recall 3 – 5 events where you had anxiety or keep journaling when you have anxiety until you get several episodes documented. This is important so we can predict when anxiety is likely to come up for us.
If you have a hard time coming up with recent events that have caused you anxiety make a plan to journal everything over the next 5 days. In addition to asking yourself the above questions at the end of each day – I want you also document what you ate and drank.
How to Use What You’ve Learned from Journaling About Anxiety
Now that you have journaled all about anxiety, when it hits, what triggers it and how it felt in the body, you can better prepare for when it hits the next time.
Take a look at what you’ve journaled. Do you notice a recurring pattern?
If you really look, you will be able to anticipate when anxiety is going to hit. In fact, even before journaling about it, deep down you probably already knew.
However, now that we have this heightened awareness into when these instances happen, I’m going to give you the next steps to help you not just deal with anxiety, but overcome it.
BadAss Step #2 to Overcome Anxiety – Work Through Emotions
To really begin to overcome anxiety we need to work through the emotions that come up when anxiety takes over.
I want you to start to look at anxiety differently. Look at anxiety as your body’s way of telling you that you need to take action. Because that’s exactly what your body is trying to tell you.
The whole reason we can feel anxiety in the body is it’s your nervous system’s alarm system. So instead of masking what you’re feeling with anxiety, feel into it.
There are several ways that you can work through emotions. I’m going to share two of my personal favorites with you.
**Please only work through emotions that you can personally deal with. This means that if there are emotions or situations that are too overwhelming, these emotions should be worked through with the help of someone. I highly recommend finding a therapist that works specifically in trauma. EMDR Therapy and Brainspotting are two very effective techniques that therapists can use to help you process emotions in a safe way.
Working Through Emotions – Spiral Technique
Find something that bothers you emotionally at a 3 level on a scale from 1 to 10.
- Bring up an image that represents it for you.
- As you think of the image notice where you feel the disturbance in your body.
- Pretend that the feeling is energy. If it was a spiral of energy which direction is it moving in? Clockwise or counterclockwise?
- With your mind gently change the direction of the spiral in your body.
Notice what happens to the feelings in your body. If your feelings begin to disappear, continue until you feel comfortable. Note, if one direction didn’t work, try the other direction and see if it lessens the disturbance.
If the spiral technique had an effect on you, practice other situations in the comfort of your home. This technique can be useful if you stumble upon a situation or memory that disturbs you.
Starting at level 3 is a great place to start. If you feel comfortable, try this technique with another emotional situation at a level 4 or 5. As you practice this you may find that you can move up the scale a bit. But don’t push it. And if you ever start to feel too distressed, stop and use the BadAss Step #3 to get grounded.
Working Through Emotions Using EFT
EFT or Tapping stands for emotional freedom technique. Tapping is an effective tool to help you work through recurring negative thoughts and emotions you may be having.
Working through emotions is a crucial part of the healing process. However, processing these emotions can get very overwhelming. Using EFT and the above technique I outlined above can be excellent tools to help you process difficult situations and emotions.
How to do EFT
Like in the spiral technique you’ll want to come up with a disturbing emotion or situation. Pick something that is of a moderate discomfort level.
EFT Step 1 – Rating – Before starting to tap write down on a piece of paper the rating for this emotion or feeling. Measure on a scale from 0-10 (10 being the worst feeling). Another scale I like to use is the Emotional Scale. You can find this along with a print out of the Meridian Points in the Resource Library (sign up below if you’re not already subscribed).
EFT Step 2 – Beginning Phrase – You will start with a beginning phrase while tapping on the karate chop point of your hand (doesn’t matter which hand).
The beginning phrase directly correlates with the issue/emotion you’re working on. This is the guideline for your beginning phrase:
“Even though __[state the issue here]__ I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”
So while tapping on the karate chop point of your hand, say this phrase 3 times.
EFT Step 3 – Negative Rounds – Next you will move through the following meridian points (in the order listed) tapping 3-7 times at each one.
2nd: Side of eye/temple
3rd: Under eye
4th: Under the nose
6th: Collar bone
7th: Under the armpit
8th: Top of head
At each meridian point, you will state a belief surrounding the disturbing situation or emotion you’re trying to work through. Do this for 2 rounds.
EFT Step 4 – Positive Rounds – After going through the negative feelings and beliefs while tapping now you’re going to do 3-5 rounds of tapping stating positive beliefs. Basically, you can just state the exact opposite of the negative feelings you stated in the first negative rounds.
EFT Step 5 – Closing Statement and Rate – The closing phrase you will say while tapping on the karate chop part of the hand: “and so it is, and so it is, and so it is.”
BadAss Step #3 to Overcome Anxiety – Get Present
After feeling the emotions you need to feel from BadAss Step #2, you’ll want to get back to the present. Because when anxiety hits us, it makes us time travel.
What does this mean exactly? Cuz I know that probably sounds a little cray-cray!
When a situation triggers our anxiety our body is the first thing to automatically react. In fact, our body reacts well before our brain has time to even think about reacting.Keep life moving forward looking backward is only for time travelers. Click To Tweet
The reason our body reacts is due to the memory of a traumatic event. Even if our brains can’t remember exactly what the event might be, our bodies remember and automatically react accordingly.
In essence, our bodies are protecting us based on our past experiences, therefore, signaling the brain, in turn, to think you are in critical danger (even if you’re really not). That’s when the anxiety kicks in.
This is what I mean by saying we time travel when anxiety hits because we’re reacting to a current situation based on past experience.
Get Present to Overcome Anxiety
Based on the fact our behaviors and reactions are based on past experiences, it’s important to get in the here and now to overcome anxiety. This is also a crucial step when it comes to processing emotions, but that’s another post.
To get present in the here and now, we need to orient and get grounded to what is going on in the present moment. To do this follow these steps:
- Calm the vagus nerve by taking a deep breath in for 6 counts, hold for a count of 4, and slowly exhale for 12 counts. As you exhale make a deep, low vibrational ‘vuuu’ sound.
- Look around the room or area you are in and note three colors. Be as specific about the colors as you can. For example, the sky is periwinkle blue, the picture hanging on the wall has sunset orange, royal purple, and florescent yellow on it.
- Feel grounded by placing both feet on the ground and really feel what that feels like on the bottom of your feet and toes. You could even take this a step further and go barefoot in the grass or sand. Make sure to notice what those sensations feel like on your feet, noting them. How cool and damp the grass feels on your heels. The warm, soft sand sifting through your toes.
- Getting out in nature grounds really quickly. There is a positive vibrational energy we get from the earth that connects us to the here and now. Use nature as a way to reconnect to the present.
Badass Step #4 to Overcome Anxiety – Heal Trauma
I feel one of the most misunderstood pieces to becoming mentally healthy is healing trauma.
Trauma is something most people think has to be a huge or significant event for it to have an effect on our mental health. However, it’s not how big an event is that makes it traumatic, it’s how it affects someone emotionally and how emotionally resilient they are that determines how an event affects them.
A teacher making a comment to a student that since they scored in the bottom 25th percentile of the class they will never make it into college, can have lasting traumatic consequences throughout the rest of that student’s life.
While that may seem insignificant to some people, to that student, it was devastating.
Understand that an event doesn’t have to be as big as a death, car accident, loss of a child, sexual abuse, etc. to be traumatic. And while yes, those can be huge traumatic events, it’s all about how each individual processes an event.
If those events are not properly processed that’s when symptoms like anxiety, depression, PTSD, addiction, overeating and more come up.
Healing emotional trauma is just as important as healing a physical trauma and should be done with someone who trained and experienced in trauma work.
There are several modalities when it comes to healing trauma and several sources to do those through. Below are some of the current, most effective ways to heal trauma.
- Find a trauma-informed therapist to work with. BetterHelp is an online resource. You can also search for local therapists for an EMDR or Brainspotting trained therapist.
- Work with a trauma-informed life coach (like me).
Understanding how our own body and brain work cohesively is important to overcoming anxiety. There are different modalities that work for different people.
The biggest core takeaway I want you to get from this post is you DO have the power to change your situation. Even though it may not feel like it, you truly can. Because our thoughts create our emotions and our emotions determine our reality.
Change your thoughts, change your emotions, transform your life!