Anxiety: My story about learning how to manage it
Updated: Apr 23, 2020
I am known in my family as the ‘worrier’, I wasn’t always like this, as a small kid I remember been hugely confident and outgoing, I would talk to anyone, do anything, try anything. As some point though, I lost a lot of this, I guess it was in my later years in primary school, where you start to learn that putting yourself completely out there can expose yourself to hurt, embarrassment, failure, etc. By the time I was in high school, I found myself in a constant state of worry and anxiety and it felt horrible. You know that feeling you get when you find out something really terrible, your stomach drops and you feel yourself getting white, this is what I was experiencing all the time, and over things that weren’t actually important and other people wouldn’t even give a second thought to. These feelings soon became ingrained in my identity and who I am.
As worry and anxiety comes from the fear of the unknown- the future, it was always the anticipation of things that tied me up into such big knots, and the longer I had to wait the more I would feel physically sick. In these moments, I feel extremely faint and weak, I can’t do anything, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep and if I can I get night terrors. By the time I was a teen, I had learnt two ways of managing this, first is that I needed to just do what I was worried about, as the issue is with the anticipation, once it’s done, regardless if it goes well or horribly wrong, it was done, there is nothing to fear anymore. So, if this was something I could control, I would make it happen now, not tomorrow, not next week but right now.
As you can imagine there is a lot I don’t have control over when it happens, that I couldn’t do just now. Like when my class speech was on, when my dance performance was on, when a job interview is booked, things with a set date that you are told about in advance. This is where strategy number two comes into play – finding a safe environment until D day. As there is nothing I can change or action I feel like my heart is doing overtime, and I know I am just not functioning very well, I learnt that I could ease these feelings enough to be able to stand the feeling for however long I needed to by feeling ‘safe’. In these moments, my way of feeling ‘safe’ is being in an environment where everything seems completely normal, average, standard. For me this was being around my parents, they are a really easy way to feel safe. They don’t have to interact with me, I just needed them around me, doing their own thing, pottering around the house, doing errands, etc. This sense of normality really helps me. Since I moved out of home, having them isn’t as easy so I find similar relief with trash TV, soap stories, sitcoms, rom-com movies, etc. This also gives me that feeling that everything is normal and ok.
These are still the two main methods I use today. My friends try to make me feel embarrassed for liking and watching the show Neighbours every night, but it really doesn’t bother me!! This was one of the first things that helped we when I started work full time and would come home to my apartment. It really settles me from a day of work and stops me worrying about what tomorrow will bring in the office. I am now totally a neighbours export!! As my responsibilities at work grew, I was finding it harder and harder to manage my anxiety levels, it got to a point where I started to get extremely faint all the time, I thought something was physically wrong but after testing it was concluded that it was stress and anxiety related. This is when I got into Yoga, and it seriously changed my life. I had forgotten what it felt like to be calm, clear and relaxed. This really has lead me to a space where I feel much more balanced between mind, body and spirit. This quickly became my third and most important method of anxiety management.
During my yoga teacher training, we dove deep into discovering and unraveling our core limiting beliefs, and needless to say Anxiety was a big one for me. It is the driving factor to my limiting believe that I am not important or safe. Though this process I learnt that while we can demonise these limiting beliefs as burdens is our lives, they also give you a gift. Understanding what the gifts are, and balancing it out with positive core beliefs is what will let you be a peace with its existence in your life.
So what gifts did I find? I would say that this method of doing things ‘now’ is what really shaped me over the years to be a ‘doer’. If I decided on something, I would just do it. I am not a slow mover, once I make a decision, I am starting it, and this has become such a natural response for me across all aspects of my life. This is a gift that anxiety has given me. I believe this is what has lead me to achieve what I have at my study, work and all other things I have set out to do.
Another gift I found was my willingness to take on challenges. I feel like a lot of people don’t step outside their comfort zone because of how scary it is, how uncomfortable and messy it can feel, but for me, these feelings are so normal. Although I didn’t feel like I actively choose to take on challenges, I did find myself in them often and wonder why I do this to myself! But after a while I learnt that what happens when you come out the other side is just so worth it. The personal growth is not only life changing but also extremely rewarding. So now I have made it to a stage where I actively take on challenges, things I thought I couldn’t do but always dreamt of doing, and each time I am lead to a new experience that I never would have come to without it.
During my yoga teacher training, we actually had to personify our balancing belief, a positive core belief we can use when a limiting one is consuming you. For me it had to be something that is the opposite of feeling unimportant and unsafe, that when saying it, it actually shifts the way you feel, to move you back into a space of balance. Mine is the mantra that ‘I am a Majestic Whale’! Whales aren’t scared, they are giants of the ocean but they also don’t need to create fear to feel safe and in charge, they just be. I remember work shopping this in front of 100 people on a retreat (ps. Public speaking is also massive nightmare of mine!) When I said whale, there were quite a few laughs! I guess it is pretty random!! But when I added majestic to it and put it in a “I am” statement, this is when people could visualise what I could about the harmony a whale has, and it was the first time I physically felt myself calm down while standing up in front of so many people with a mic. This is why I chose a whale as the logo for my Majestic Pod studio, it seemed very fitting! This process has since become my fourth method for managing my anxiety.
I am sure as time goes on I will find other ways to manage it. I encourage you to come face to face with whatever holds you back and start to work on ways of learning to cope and manage it.