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.
What is anxiety?
What causes it?
How can I overcome it?
What is anxiety?
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?
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.
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.
The 3 Major Causes of Anxiety
1. Negative childhood experiences
The body holds memory of even the earliest events in our lives. Much of our subconscious understanding of the world develops in the first 7 years of life. Our response to these events generates an experience in our body that is used to tell a story about whether people can be trusted and how we relate to other people.
2. Transgenerational trauma
Epigenetics can also alter gene expression and make us more sensitive to negative childhood experiences. The body holds memories of events, and bodily responses to our parents' and grandparents' experiences can be inherited, predisposing individuals to mental illness. For example, trauma can lower baseline dopamine levels, sensitizing individuals to reward and facilitating development of addiction behaviors.
Ultimately, the belief that one is not good enough generates decoherence in the body because it is incongruous with the life an individual wants to create. Stress makes it much more difficult to attain clarity.
7 Reminders and Antidotes to Anxiety
1. Listen to your body
Release tension through bodily awareness. Grounding activates the parasympathetic vagus nerve, which connects the brainstem with the heart, lungs, and gut. These organs are more afferent than efferent (they’re more of a transmitter than a receiver of brain signals). This means you can regulate your autonomic nervous system by attending to your entire body, not just your mind.
2. Meditate and breathe
Practice connecting with your heart so you can speak from it easefully and naturally. Pay attention to your posture, and adopt a comfortable, relaxed position.
3. Practice gratitude and affirmations
Both of these practices reconfigure the subconscious towards a positive story you are creating. This positive story, one in which your life is filled with blessings and opportunities, opens you to receiving abundance and joy.
4. Be a self-advocate
Be willing to advocate for yourself and your interests. Courage will open you to forming authentic connections with others and will enroll the universe into bringing you people who can help you achieve your mission.
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. If you want to dance, dance.