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7 Ways to Fight Anxiety and Reduce Stress

By November 7, 2019 Food for thought

We don’t talk about anxiety enough. We don’t learn how to identify it, where it comes from or how we internalize it. We can take pills to suppress it, and before I get any further into this story – I fully understand that some people biologically, hormonally – require medication. I’m not trained or schooled in any medical way either.

I’ve just taken a lot of pills to try and fix me as a teenager and I’ve required them for anxiety after all three of my children were born. I haven’t taken any since, and I think this is why.

This is my story and what has been the best peace I’ve experienced in my constant thinking, high expectation, idea producing and hardworking mind since I was a kid without trauma.

I am confident that this has helped me drastically improve my health physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I’ve reduced my hives and no longer require 4-5 allergy meds daily. I’ve reduced any need to numb my mind through sleep, overconsumption of food and alcohol, and lost 20 pounds so far.

It’s a journey though. I’m still having moments but all in all, I’ve realized what’s important and trusting my instincts about people.

Here are seven things I’m doing – in detail. I didn’t start them all at once. I eased each into my life for sanity’s sake.

  1. Recognize the moments when anxiety sets in

Anxiety comes in many forms, but for most of us, it’s worrying or overthinking or fear – just to start. It’s hard to identify sometimes, especially when you are in the moment. So to start, try and recognize the environment you’re in like a 3D virtual tour of that house you saw on Realtor.com

Is your breathing faster? Shallower? Are you tensing muscles? Is your tongue tight against the roof of your mouth? Leg shaking up and down? Crying? Diarrhea? Try to correlate your body’s responses to your mind’s thoughts.

Next, look outside yourself. What’s happening? What you see, hear, touch, taste or smell can be triggering the pattern. Or what you don’t see, hear, etc. Sometimes it’s the absence of what’s happening that allows you to create your own pain or worry.

The more you can figure out what causes you to react and how you react can unlock a new awareness about yourself. It’s as if your five senses can transform you into a sixth sense self-preservation warrior.

  1. Tell that person inside your head to either shut up or be optimistic. Period.

Have you ever thought about the things you allow yourself to say to yourself? Mine used to be a straight-up bitch. If she were an external person in my community I would not want anything to do with her.

“You look fat. Why would you ever wear that? You’re too old for that crap anyway.”

“Why would you say that in the meeting? You’re so dumb. Now you’ll probably never get that raise. Stupid.”

“She didn’t text you back. Probably because she doesn’t care.”

“You don’t deserve to get published. There are thousands of writers out there who are better and educated.”

You get the point. Tell her/him to shut. Up. Say something nice or don’t come into my thoughts.

You have to mean it too. When the negative sarcasm, the uncertainty, the worst-case scenarios – catch her and say, “NO! Not Today. Be kind to me.”

Put real affirmations that you believe in on your mirror where you get ready every day. On your monitor at work – anywhere you know that voice is going to try to sneak in and be a jerk at the worst moment.

Make her stop and restate a more positive statement. Practice with her. She’s been in control way too long.

“Sure, you could lose a few pounds, but it is such a cute dress. And the color! Love the color.”

“They probably didn’t text back yet because they are busy. You don’t check your phone all the time either. It happens. Relax.”

“You’re probably going to get some backlash for saying that in the meeting, but you were honest and weren’t trying to upset anyone. Maybe others will start to speak up, too.”

It takes practice, but over time you can make your inner voice be a friend, no fluff.

  1. Food does matter.

I know, I know…let’s not talk about diets. I’m with you. I mean, there’s a reason why the first  three of four letters is DIE.

What I think is that whether intentional or not, America puts a lot of bad chemicals in everything. Everywhere. There’s no way to avoid them all but there are ways you can avoid some or moderate most.

Moderation is magical.

Why do we have peanut allergies? Gluten issues? Fod Map? Cancers are rampant. Do you know anyone who doesn’t know someone with one or the other? 30 years ago it was very different. We are also all very different with our bodies, DNA and hometowns. It’s a complex issue.

What isn’t complex is that you can spit in a tube or pull a hair and companies will determine what foods are not your friends.

I got sick on Keto. Felt horrible. My sister-in-law? Looks phenomenal and swears by it. I found out that saturated fats are not my friend. I can’t break them down like she does. Foods highly concentrated with sugar aren’t for me either. Makes sense. I’ve been told I am going to have diabetes someday since I was a teen mother with gestational diabetes.

I could let that reformed mean chick in my head question that had I known this fact about myself 14 years ago… could I have avoided high-risk pregnancies and the recommendation to not have any more children? Could I have avoided a hysterectomy at 32? Ahhhh… anxiety. What’s past is past. The uterus is in a red bio bag somewhere in a landfill far, far away. We have three kids and are loving every moment with them.

I know now and that’s where the power of knowledge lies. I avoid processed foods, confectionary sugar stuff, and as many foods with a Sat Fat rating of 3 or more as possible. I feel better. So much better. Like a fog is gone.  Science links these chemicals in processed foods to creating more carcinogens and neurotoxins in our brain and higher likelihood of mental and hormonal balance.

know what else is a neurotoxin? Mean, rudeness. It’s no wonder that voice became so mean.

It’s not just because of the weight loss, but my thinking is clearer. My energy is higher. My mood is better.

I do believe we are eating too many chemicals that make us sick in every way and I believe that we are all unique to how we ingest certain foods. Probiotics and what’s in your gut is turning out to be a major factor in our overall health too. So consider this – becoming aware of chemicals and fake food and trust your gut needs some attention, too.

Another part attached to this food step is a colon flush. Think about it like this – why do we brush and floss daily but still need heavy cleaning from the dentist every 6 months? To remove the buildup. Why wouldn’t we need to do the same for the other end?

When I have a Saturday with no plans, I say get that Magnesium Citrate or the pre-colonoscopy recipe and a new Netflix series*. Enjoy. It’s only twice a year.

*Disclaimer again – that’s what I do – everyone is different and has their own chemistry in their bodies.

  1. Be curious – not furious.

This is a BIG one for me! When you are already on edge, worked up, living with stress, dissatisfied with someone or something in your life – you’re quick to react to any stimulus that pushes you.

Eminem, Just Lose It, Encore

Think of the saying, “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Instead of laying into someone, or your horn, or yourself – take a moment. Breathe. Try to hold back. There’s power in the pause.

I have that bitch in my head newly trained to the mantra, “Be curious. Be curious. Be curious. Now smile. Smile. What is motivating this person to do that? Stay calm, ask questions.”

Believe me or not, I bet more than half the time I get pissed at something someone says, does or chooses to do, they were not intending to piss me off. Heck, they may have been clueless that I was even bothered by it.

Most people are not intentionally trying to upset you. Many times they lack correct communication or motivation or capacity to understand the impacts of their actions.

You can’t control them. But you can control how you react and even if they are intentionally trying to get a rise out of you, or intentionally trying to help themselves instead of the good of everyone, you get to keep your power by keeping yourself together long enough to access the situation.

Trust me, as you practice it, you’ll feel better and they won’t.

For strangers who tick you off, I like this 9-minute video to remind me of why I should just let go, let God. At least if I yell at them in my car they can’t hear me and I’ll tell myself they had a good reason to do that to you.

Sometimes I make up stories to justify the button pushers.

That guy in the Mercedes who just cut you off and scared the crap out of you which pissed you off once you knew you were safe again… yeah, that’s Dick. See, Dick’s dad, Richard wasn’t around much when he was growing up. When he was home, he was usually tired so his mom was always yelling at him and his sister to be quiet and not disturb him.

Nowadays, Dick keeps a lot of himself quiet. His wife orders him around like the kids and the dog. She’s the CEO of our company, aka household and all activities attached to it herein. His CEO at work, IWearATie&Golf, Inc. is totally unrealistic and way too chummy with Steve, his cubical rival, who sabotaged him last week by not sending the memo about the meeting to choose the committee to plan the agenda for next quarter’s lead quota. Oh, Dick.

It’s ok. At least you get to deal with this five-lane traffic like me in your sweet Mercedes you splurged for. But if it makes you feel better about yourself and you like it, then go for it, Dick. Kudos to you! Except you didn’t look very happy when I saw your face as you whipped past me and in front of me.

That’s sad, Dick. I bet you were on your way back from a stressful job and home life you haven’t read my blog about how to process yet. I hope everything’s ok and you aren’t trying to rush to a hospital or you’re late … again… and dreading the cold shoulder you’ll be getting for supper tonight.

Bye Dick. I hope you find you’re happy place.

I have many characters when I have to commute. There’s Bridget, Craig, Brad, Astrid, Monica, Frank, Cliff…. It causes a creative distraction while diminishing my stress recovery time.

Ever remember being mad and allowing it to stay there and manifest while you ended up telling people at work about it in the same angry tone and clenched jaw?

Hey, I’ll share a road rage story or driving experience just like the next water cooler person, but some are just, well….too common these days to get the better of you.

  1. Mow. Paint. Workout. Do Something.

Everyone can find joy in exercise – it just depends on which ones you en-joy. I have tried all kinds. I have friends and family who like all different kinds, too.

My husband weight lifts 3-4 times a week. I know people who swear by Orange Theory, Yoga, Zumba, Pilates, running…I like to get my physical exercise completing something else.

I don’t beat myself up for not liking structured fitness anymore. I don’t get mean at myself when I lose paid classes that expire or dropping off the membership roster. Not needing to wear a pad because I’m trying to wog (walk + jog = wog) and wet a little.

I appreciate and commend everyone who does. The 5 am folks getting their boot camp on. The marathon trainers. You. All. Rock.

I have reflected on when I feel the most elated while saturated with sweaty swamp ass. I’ve recalled when I worked out and felt the true mood improvement doctors say happen when you reach and maintain certain cardio levels that your Fitbit qualifies as active time.

Before and After project I enjoyed

I love yard work. I love home repair projects. I love painting rooms. I love what I see, smell and feel when I stand back at what I’ve accomplished with my physical exertion. I made the scene better for everyone. That’s my jam.

I like to take walks. Preferably outside. With the husband, kids, family or friends are welcome, but I am also ok with solace and great music, podcasts, audible books, a phone call or anything that would add to the sensory experience of fresh air and working out the stress from your body from the tension anxiety causes you.

Stress is inevitable, I mean, think about how we come into and out of this world! However, you can greatly reduce your stress hurting you unnecessarily when you know where it comes from and how to aid in getting rid of it faster.

  1. Get to the root of the problem

This one. Oh my. If you are in a decent place to do this, you could move it up to be a part of #1 above. Start with a composition notebook or even a tablet. Begin jotting down answers quickly and elaborating on them after. And keep doing it. Keep reviewing it. Share it with others.

Begin with the good stuff.

If you have old photo albums, or you’re like my kids and have an external hard drive of pics, go look at them. Find the pictures of you at every age documented. Look at your eyes.

Think about the times when you were at your best. Maybe that time was when you were thinner or stronger or healthier or wealthier. The times when you allowed yourself to feel more confident.

Write them down. What year it was. Where you were at. What music you liked. Who your friends were. On and on…

What other things were going on around you at that time that was deemed good in your perspective?

Reflect on the most memorable moments that you’re so thankful you had. Where you were content, at ease, driven, passionate, ecstatic…it could be milestones like marriage, children, or celebrations. Think about vacations, friendships or hobbies. A time when you allowed yourself to feel joy and gratitude.

Those are the types of experiences that exposed the values within you. The values you have that fuel authentic joy and confidence.

It’s not about wishing you could go back to that moment, it’s knowing the types of moments you can find that will allow you to continue experiencing more memorable moments in the future. Many times, you find sparks of joy in everyday moments among other people who share those values. You just have to know what they are so that you can recognize them.

Now, the bad stuff. Ugh! Same drill. Yes, you gotta go there – safely of course. I wouldn’t want to rekindle anything someone shouldn’t revisit if not in the right mental health to do so.

The goal is to think about when you feel negative feelings and what is happening around you that you can change or identify to do less of.

We all know we don’t like lying, manipulation, abuse, etc.. Those values are the big arteries of our broken hearts. This is a dive into the ones that build up. This is more about frustrations, fears, uncertainties, anxiousness, and self-doubts that manifest into health issues affecting your heart slowly over time.

I wrote mine up a couple of years ago after going through this exercise.

I still get the tinge of these bad emotions, but when I connect my emotion I’m feeling to the value I’ve identified – it’s a game-changer. I can stop, breathe and see who or what is happening that is making me feel uneasy or joy.

Some I can’t change, I know. But some I can. For example, I figured out I didn’t like email. I can’t change that. I have to check it regularly. But I was getting so much of it that I would have to sit all day just to keep up with it and that’s not realistic for me. I have too much going on.

What I realized about myself is that when I wasn’t checking it I knew I was letting people down who were waiting for some response and weren’t getting it any time soon. I felt anxious and couldn’t give my full attention to what else I was doing that was way better than checking email.

That goes for every way someone can message you now, too. Think about all the alerts, notifications, texts… I don’t check Facebook messenger. Or LinkedIn messages. There are just too many ways to monitor and the highest spam places deter me. Those notifications are turned off. If you want to reach me, that way won’t work.

I have a colleague who managed projects and had a more ‘desk type position’ and didn’t mind email at all. It did not have the effect on her like it does on me.

She helped me make rules and auto filings for spam, and would monitor my inbox for me while I was in meetings or on the road and clean out the ones I didn’t need to worry about.

It. Was. Amazing.  It wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t connect anxiety to physical response of it. It really wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t openly communicate my personal journey and have a friend who cared enough to help me find peace.

My anxiousness quickly improved, I felt relief and I became more productive in the absence of worry. I also shared my story in hopes of other people in offices and jobs everywhere can see what stresses them out about their day.

Those bad behaved coworkers or bosses? The ones you might not be able to change? At least you will know what values of yours they rubbed against that caused you to feel unhinged at times. Value conflicts are usually the root of disagreements.

You’ll have a clearer picture of what you can do about it if you don’t see their behavior changing anytime soon. You can decide your next path and not feel guilty for it.

Why does it work? Here’s my best guess:

It either reminds you of an experience that is connected to the emotional trauma that you don’t want to feel again or you’re witness to behavior that pangs at your values. You can’t speak up or stop it but if you can pause long enough to recognize the changes happening in your body – tensioning, sadness, despair, anxiousness, procrastinated, hopelessness, anger, rage, etc. – and breathe, keep your shit together and figure out quickly what in your current environment is setting off this crap again.

Chances are, the more and more you try, the easier it gets. I think it also elevates your intuition or gut to read a room. Super powers unite!

  1. Get spiritual

I believe in a kind, infallible and purposeful God. I have faith that there is something much bigger and greater than I will understand or comprehend. I’m not picking apart religions or cultures. I am saying I prefer being Christian as I was raised and it brings me joy with comfort iced on top.

However you connect with the understanding that the universe is much bigger than we can explain, do that. And meditate. And pray. Then pray more. You don’t have to be knelt by your bed in a structured process. Praying connects you closer to your purpose, of being open to find your way. You have a plan, after all. We all do.

Praying could be a discussion with God in the car or the couch or the office. Maybe it’s five seconds maybe it’s five minutes. Possibly a fast snap chat or a detailed blog. A novel or a post. Any time, day or night. Give yourself that quiet time to reflect and communicate.

You can’t help but ask for help while digging into the inner workings of who you are, and I am confident our God has the answers.

You never know…. You might just finally realize what He’s been trying to tell you to do all along…..

Final Thought….

I hope if you’re still reading at this point it’s because you have found ideas to try for yourself. I want to put it out there because I think it’s something that everyone wants to get rid of but aren’t sure how because so many people have so many recommendations.

Maybe these won’t work for you, but they sure have for me. And they’re not specific to me, they’re purposeful to your why. That’s why it’s crucial to figure it out. Everyone has their own story and its inside those stories that unlock why things bother you enough to tear up your body and health over it.

Remember that you are within one small moment of your time journey. It’s ok to pause, breathe deeply and rhythmically until you notice your shoulders lowering naturally. This too shall pass.

Don’t hide the stories of what causes you anxiety from others. Being vulnerable allows others to talk about theirs. If they’re not comfortable sharing, they’ll still appreciate you trusting them to share yours.

If neither of the above happens, still great! Maybe they just haven’t realized what theirs are yet. You planted the seed to their self-discovery. Heart attacks and strokes due to stress is a number 1 killer among us. That means everyone keeps a lot of shizz tight up in their minds and hearts and guts too long and hard. Sharing your stories help others.

Or they’re just an emotionless eff stick, but I doubt it. 1-3% at best of our population are that way.

Remember – if we all suffer from stress and we all have a high risk for high insurance deductibles, it has to start somewhere. There’s not a pill to figure out that.

 

Take care, everyone,

 

Heather

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