—Keith R. Sbiral
We’re addressing stress and anxiety this week on the Apochromatik blog. Before tomorrow’s weekly post addresses overcoming anxiety around writing, we’re looking back at one of our first posts, when I wrote about ways to calm down when you have a big meeting or other project causing you anxiety.
Many of our most successful coaching clients experience anxiety, and learning to manage anxiety and move past it can free yourself up to achieve even greater success.
Anxiety shows up differently for different people. For some people, they know they are anxious when they experience certain thoughts, often focused on a worst-case scenario. (What if I don’t make my targets and lose my job? What if I never meet the right person? What if I get up to give my presentation and blank?)
For others, in addition to certain thoughts or sometimes without expressly knowing they are experiencing certain thoughts, they may experience a physical response, such as feeling cold and clammy, having a racing heart, or having stomach discomfort. Chemicals in the body and emotional reaction to a stimulus can combine to cause those physical responses.
Regardless of whether you experience thoughts, physical symptoms, or both, know that your anxiety is real, and that you can address it. The key to moving beyond anxiety is often rationalizing the situation and the passage of time.
The first step is to take yourself out of the moment. Whatever is causing your anxiety (assuming it is not a physical threat) is not going to cause you immediate harm. So develop a few go-to tools that you can use to take yourself out of the anxiety-inducing moment.
Different tools help different people, but here are a few you may want to try: Counting (backwards from 10, and backwards from 100 in increments of 3 are two common ones), moving to a quiet place alone where you can focus yourself away from distractions, running cold water over your wrists, engaging in physical activity, or slowly drinking water and focusing on each sip as it moves from the glass down your throat.
Another increasingly common tool is meditation. You don’t have to spend an hour on a cushion to benefit from meditation as a way to react to anxiety; even just two minutes doing deep breathing can be beneficial. While meditation is an exercise that increases in effectiveness with practice, even if you don’t normally meditate, you can still benefit in anxious situations. For example, the Calm app has a variety of meditation exercises, including 2, 5, and 10 minute “Emergency Calm” exercises that you can do to quickly shift your focus and calm down enough to think rationally.
Once you have used one of these or another tool to calm down and focus, you can rationally consider alternatives to the anxiety you are experiencing.
Rather than ignoring the underlying issue causing the anxiety, focus on the situation.
Asking yourself a few questions, possibly even repeatedly, can help bring you to a reality where you understand that your anxiety isn’t an effective tool to solve the problem that you are facing. That process of asking a question can give you the break you need in your moments of anxiety to “reset” and better understand your reality.
To clear your mind, ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do RIGHT NOW, in THIS MOMENT, that will affect the outcome (good or bad) of the issue that is causing anxiety?” Most often the answer is no. You can use meditation to help yourself understand that the “NO” answer is real. If there is nothing you can do, then the anxiety is unfounded and is only harming you.
Once you have moved beyond the anxiety, go over what happened, what caused the anxiety (every person is different, but in our own clients, we’ve found the cause is sometimes as simple as a combination of too little rest and too much caffeine), and what was effective about moving beyond it. Recognize what worked for you, and congratulate yourself for addressing it, rather than ignoring it. As you learn what works for you to address anxiety, and what stimuli can bring it on, you may find that you are eventually able to minimize the effect anxiety has on you, which allows you to redirect that energy elsewhere.
If these ideas resonate with you or if you would like some assistance working on anxiety in your personal or professional life, please contact us at Apochromatik.
Of course if you have repeated episodes or they become serious you should talk to your doctor.