Anxiety can feel so overwhelming and I am convinced that it is more prevalent because of our fast paced lives that leave little room for quiet contemplation. I have run anxiety groups for over 15 years and what I know to be true is that anxiety is ruled by fear. Fear robs women of a sense of power and control because it creates a sense of the unknown which feeds into the "what if" syndrome.
Some people suffer from generalized anxiety which means that they tend to look at everything with a sense of fear or trepidation. In thinking about a new job they may ask themselves "What if I am making the wrong decision?" or "What happens if it interferes with my schedule and I can't be as available to the kids?" Women who have this tendency will more often look at what could go wrong as opposed to how things might work.
Some women suffer from panic attacks which range from mild to debilitating. These attacks can occur when a stressor presents itself.....the boss calls you into her office, your best friend won't return your calls, your husband is missing for hours at a time, or it can awaken you from a sound sleep after having a really great day. My clients feel very angry when there are no identifiable stressors that create that unexpected panic attack which can include a feeling of hyperventilation, chest pressure, and sweaty palms. The fact that there is no known stressor creates extra anxiety because they fear future attacks making it difficult to enjoy the happy times.
The Physical Strategy
There are some simple things that you can do to manage your anxiety but they require that you do them diligently. I teach women that they need to both prevent and manage the anxiety. Often times techniques can be used for both. For instance, deep breathing with visualization, when used daily can help to prevent anxiety from becoming unmanageable. It only takes 3 minutes to do the exercise. Close your eyes and imagine breathing in a color that represents peace and tranquility...watch as it enters your nose, goes deep into your lungs and into your diaphragm. Then imagine a color that represents stress and envision that you are blowing out that color deep from your belly up through your lungs and out your mouth. Repeat this visualization 3 to 5 times. When you do this, you calm your central nervous system down and you keep it in a more relaxed state.
The Emotional Remedy
People who are prone to anxiety typically worry about the worst scenarios occurring. It can be very helpful to identify your fears and anxieties and soothe yourself as if you were talking to your child. If you are going to be late and you begin to feel anxious you can tell yourself that being late is not going to matter 10 years from now and things will be just fine....or if you fear that your co-workers are angry with you ....you might reassure yourself and say "I am going to let go and let God deal with this." When you use self-soothing statements life feels less overwhelming. I keep a list of coping statements at the office so that I can choose statements that are reassuring to calm the anxieties.
You have a lot of power to regulate your emotions....so the next time you feel anxious....choose and use a skill to manage the anxiety and see the difference it can make!