As a child, I was called a “worry wort.” I would cling to my bunk bed riddled with angst, refusing to go to school. I was always worried about something: going to hell, death, earthquakes because I grew up in the Bay Area and one year a fire in the Oakland hills.
As an adult, money worried me until I started working at a bank and learned how it worked. However, working at the bank added even more worry and anxiety to my life…
It was 2008, the market was experiencing a drastic down-turn and clients called daily with panic. I watched people lose their homes to foreclosure and come into the bank to yell and vent their frustrations. As I drove down the street towards work, I could feel my blood pressure rise and tears well up in my eyes. I would hyperventilate as I parked my car and wait for the wave to pass so I could go to work. The waves took longer and longer to pass as time went on which led me to seek help and try to get a grip on my escalating anxiety.
I had to join a support group as a requirement from my insurance which added even more anxiety for me. Listening to other people talk about their worries did not help me find relief. I eventually left my job because I could not function. I began looking for other alternatives for coping and this is when I found the practice of meditation.
At first, meditation was difficult. I had a hard time sitting still and quieting my mind. I would make lists, start thinking or get distracted by noises outside. Although, the more I practiced, I was able to find my inner silence and soon my intuition. In the silence, I have found peace, balance and answers.
My anxiety levels have dropped dramatically since I began meditating. I took the practice further and started writing down my fears. I found that transferring all the restless thoughts out of my head and onto paper helped alleviate the mental chatter.
Later on I learned about transforming my fears into strengths and finding ways to redirect the thoughts into something that served a purpose. Fear is a gift and arises as an alert. I began acknowledging my anxieties and looking for ways to transform the negative into a positive feeling or thought. I also realized that I was taking on people’s anxieties and reacting negatively. I implemented one of the Four Agreements as a daily practice. “Don’t take anything personally” and started to react less and less.
Learning to listen to my intuition and take a break to breath during stressful moments has changed my reactions. I have been told that I hold my breath when I am stressed or extremely focused. Mindfulness has help me become more aware of my breathing. I can use my breath to slow down my heart rate, focus and send much needed oxygen to the places where I hold my stress. The power of breath is transformative.
The daily practice of meditation has curbed my anxiety for the most part. However, there are situations where it still rears its chaotic head. When this happens, I go back to the tools that have helped me.
I have been practicing these 4 steps for a few years each time anxiety arises and they have helped me reduce worry and stress. When I feel the familiar inner flutter of anxiety, I start with these steps and repeat them daily until I find my balance again.
- Breathe: Sit with your breath for 5-10 minutes. Close your eyes in a comfortable seated position and breath in and out through your nose. Listen to your breath. Focus on taking even breaths. Count the inhale and exhale to even out the breath. Allow silence and peace to take over. If needed, time yourself to make sure you are getting a full 5-10 minutes of breathing.
- Reflect and Write: What is the root of the anxiety? What triggered the reaction? Write down every thought that comes to mind. There doesn’t need to be a structure, just get it out of your head and onto paper.
- Transform the thought: How can you restructure the negative thought into a positive one? Remember that fear is a gift and it serves a purpose. How is this serving you? Write down your observations.
- Movement: Taking a walk, running or even stretching can transform the energy. Redirect the nervous energy with movement. Get your blood flowing and capitalize on the oxygen that was just sent through your body through deep breathing.
With practice, these steps have helped transform my anxiety into something manageable. If you would like more information on meditation, writing exercises or transforming thoughts, please email me at email@example.com