While still in the throes of mourning the loss of her mother, Molly went for a routine breast exam when the news came, a diagnosis of stage three breast cancer. This was the same disease that took her mother.
Molly knew all too well what lay ahead and she was determined to remain strong, go through the necessary treatments and find her way to a different outcome–more time to live and love fully and deeply.
The problem was that out of nowhere, Molly began experiencing low grade and sometimes debilitating bouts of anxiety.
The first time we met, Molly emanated a sense of courage as she told me her story. She had spent her life being the consummate caretaker at home, with work and volunteering when possible. Now being the one in need of help she felt undone and out of control. Soon surgery and treatment were to begin and there was no time to waste.
The link between anxiety and mind-body or thoughts and physical reactions is well known. We can approach the treatment of anxiety either by learning to adjust our thoughts and emotions, or by training our bodies to respond in a healthier way to life’s stressors. Ideally it is best to practice methods that address both the physical and psychological dimensions.
The “cure” for anxiety isn’t easy but it IS inevitable when one commits to practicing certain strategies.
The more you commit and maintain a practice of these methods the more likely you are to succeed in combatting the dreaded feeling of anxiety.
What do you do when anxiety strikes?
Five Strategies to Conquer Anxiety and Find Peace:
1. Belly breathe.
Sit or lie in a comfortable position and intentionally belly breathe. No special equipment is needed and the practice of belly breathing can be done anywhere and anytime. It cannot be over practiced.
When you breathe in the belly goes out and when you breathe out the belly goes in. The idea is to maintain an even, rhythmical breath as best as possible–a steady rise and fall in the belly.
Start your day by practicing this breath while still in bed for a couple of concentrated minutes and then whenever you think of it throughout your day. This will help the mind to settle and the body to relax.
Regular exercise is nature’s anti-anxiety remedy. Physical movement calms the mind, fires up the release of ‘feel good’ endorphins, and helps with sound sleep at night. Whatever exercise you enjoy is the one to do as it’s most likely that you’ll stick to your commitment to practice.
Keeping a pair of sneakers accessible is one great way to assure that you’ll have what you need for a brisk walk.
3. Feelings are not facts.
Negative thoughts lead to negative feelings. This one is challenging because many of our negative thoughts are deeply embedded in the unconscious mind. However, when we make the unconscious conscious we are better positioned to shift around negative thoughts and emotions.
For example, if Molly wakes up and immediately thinks, “I’m sick. My body is failing and I’m going to die prematurely just like my mother did.” then she is going to feel a cascade of difficult and negative emotions.
On the other hand, if she pauses, takes some deep breaths, and challenges these thoughts, then she stands a much better chance of starting her day on a more positive and hopeful note. The truth is that Molly’s thought process is related to the outcome of her treatment and well-being in general. The more she can infuse her mind with positive thoughts the more resilient she will likely become mentally and physically.
4. Practice Gratitude.
Regardless of your situation, there is always someone or something to be grateful for. We let so much of the sweetness of life slip away in the here and now as a reaction to what we fear will happen in the future.
The truth is none of us know what is in store for us or how long we will live. Making each day count is an important practice for everyone, every day. One way of building your gratitude quotient is by recording whatever you feel grateful for every night before bed. This way you end the day with a positive thoughts and develop your ability to instill more gratitude into your unconscious mind.
5. Get support.
One of the most powerful ways to deal with anxiety is to connect with people that love and understand you. Their support heightens your sense of well being and improves resilience.
Isolation begets anxiety and leads us down a path of potential despair. Even if you tend to be private or introverted, tapping into your resources for a deeper sense of connection is vital for conquering anxiety and discovering inner peace.
What do you do to strengthen you experience of courage and joy even during the darkest times?
As always I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.