Stilling the Mind and Overcoming Anxiety

Update: I interviewed Chris Sha about social anxiety and exposure therapy. You can access the podcast on Spotify and through the website.


Dreams are a portal to the subconscious. The beach is one of my favorite places to be. However, I used to have recurring dreams about drowning in the ocean. The water level would start to quickly rise without warning, and while trying to escape, my feet would get caught in the sand and I would get consumed by the ocean. I eventually interpreted this as a message that I am feeling overwhelmed by an external force–something that’s “not me.” Meditation, breathwork, and journaling regularly have kept these tsunami dreams at bay.


Nobody else in this universe is YOU. You define yourself. Nobody can read your mind. It’s up to us to make ourselves known, speak our truth.


Overview:

  1. What is anxiety?

  2. What causes it?

  3. How can I overcome it?


What is anxiety?


1. Judgment


Humans have a tendency to project their insecurities onto other people. If we want to feel less like people are judging us, we need to start with being less judgmental towards ourselves. What if people are judging us--what does that mean about us?


2. Fear


Some people are afraid of truly being seen and witnessed in their full expression. They fear what would happen if people knew the "real" them. Some fear making mistakes or being wrong; they prefer to keep up the appearance of being perfect, even while crumbling under the pressure of unrealistic expectations. A drive for self-preservation motivates the ego and keeps us playing small and avoiding potentially uncomfortable social situations.


3. Misalignment


Sometimes we misattribute our bodily experience or emotion to an external situation, when simply our body is expressing its internal misalignment. Sometimes we will have to do things we do not want to do and face the stretch. Even though we hear the call, e.g. to jump in and contribute during a meeting, we may still hesitate or falter to act on it. The discomfort may be caused by the mind-body disconnect, but we may falsely tell a story that meetings are not safe places to share ideas.



What causes anxiety?


1. Early-life fear conditioning


Negative experiences with peers and family can be imprinted during childhood. Entertainment and media can also have a profound influence on identity associations.


According to The Holistic Psychologist, when weighing the value of someone’s opinion, ask yourself:

  • Does this person have a life I would want for myself?

  • Do they have high emotional well-being?


2. Emotional sensitivity and overwhelm


The understanding that everything is connected evaporates the separation between self and surroundings. If you are a highly sensitive person, you readily pick up on and absorb others’ emotions. This can be draining. As a coping mechanism, you may put up walls that prevent connection.


3. Holding on to past stories


Identifying with or attaching to memories can cause self-comparison and judgment. Lower energy, stressed out, or decoherent consciousness leads to lower quality mental performance.


4. Perfectionism/need for control


We as humans have little control, so we need to focus on things we can control and let go of things we can't.



10 Reminders and Antidotes to Anxiety


1. Grounding in the body


Anxiety manifests as physical tension: tightness, overwhelm, and stress in the body. Attend to your physical health through bodily awareness, attention to posture, breathing, and moving around regularly. This is all contributing to waves of flow transmitted by your spinal cord, your sympathetic nervous system. Your gut, heart, and lungs are connected via the vagus nerve to the brain. These organs are more afferent than efferent (they’re more of a transmitter than a receiver of brain signals), and they provide the window to the subconscious. This means you can essentially “reset” your brain by moving your attention to your whole body instead of your mind.


2. Connect with your heartspace - Meditate


Practice connecting with your heart so you can speak from it easefully and naturally.


3. Acceptance


Adopt a growth mindset and continually learn. There is no one else quite like you. Don’t forget where you come from, so you can be absolutely amazed at your progress.


4. Don’t blunt who you are


Anxiety can be a side effect of being an intelligent, empathetic, highly sensitive person. Be courageous and open to forming authentic connections with others.


5. Still the mind


We are constantly in flux on many levels (circadian rhythmically, hormonally, energetically). This awareness of balance allows the higher self to emerge. Stilling the mind and focusing on breath leaves no room for anxiety. Instead, consciousness builds and ripples with creative complexity.


6. Be present


You are always in the midst of a new beginning, a precise, unique coordinate of life in space and time. Your essence is revealed by flow and motion, not immobility and overthinking. When we let go and surrender to wonder and simple joys, we simplify the act of being, experiencing, living, and in the process, get closer to the essence of our selves. When we ground ourselves in being, we start to realize our untapped power and freedom to alchemize our destiny. Living in the present is the only way to guarantee you will live life to the fullest.


7. Letting go


Reduce your attachment to moments past, especially the small ones–mistakes don’t define you. Let go of “should,” projections, and the false observer. Let thoughts pass without holding on. Let go of being perfect. Ironically, surrendering need for control increases your power.


8. Observe


Holding space for anxiety doesn’t mean it will grow–just the opposite. Usually when we ignore something and hope it goes away, it gets bigger. Do not suppress or avoid it. Observe your ego and self-talk non-judgmentally. Understanding darkness helps us appreciate light. It may be uncomfortable initially, but observation builds the bridge that helps you align with your highest self. Pure awareness changes consciousness.


9. Who you are


Assimilating the external and internal can be a challenging process. Some things are meant to be unlearned, like TV/media programming that imbues us with a false sense of scarcity and separation.


10. Say yes to yourself


What is your soul magnetized to? What do you gravitate towards effortlessly? Practice self-care, and be kind to yourself. Tap into your real magic by living your passion so that the world can receive your greatest gift. Connect to yourself to build stronger connections to others. Do things for yourself, be your own best friend, respect your own boundaries, and you will truly flourish.

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