4 Steps to Help Transform Anxiety

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 emily@soulsadventures.com

 

A New Definition for Success

planeI silently sighed as I saw my impending situation for the next fourteen hours. I was going to be in the middle seat. My seat mates were discussing how one preferred the aisle over the window, and I just stood there while the seating arrangements were decided. Either way, I was going to be in the middle.

The flight was from San Francisco to Manila. The first layover en route to Bali. “This is an easy flight” the old man sitting next to me said as he adjusted his Bose earphones. He asked if I was headed to the Philippines and I let him know it was a layover.

For the next several hours, I had a lovely conversation with him. He trains teams in emergency response all over the world. He was flying to the Philippines to teach residents how to reclaim their water and drill new wells. He asked me where I was headed and my plans for the trip. I let him know that I had recently quit my job to travel and figure out my next step. He nodded and then went into a long explanation on how life is supposed to be lived now and to not wait for the future because it may never come.

His background was in the military as a paratrooper and said he never felt fear until he went on a ride at a fair with his daughter where he was scared for her safety. “I jumped out of planes into war zones and nothing compared to the fear I felt in possibly losing something I loved.” This was a turning point for him where he decided to live life fully.

The conversation was rich and we discussed gifts that each person has and I told him that I could tell his was service and encouragement. He told me that I had encouragement too because he was inspired by my story. This surprised me because I had been battling some doubt on whether or not I had made the right decision.

Then he said something to me that I will never forget, “Now you need to go from success to significance.” He explained that success is only a portion of happiness, what really matters is living a life full of significance…a legacy (even if you don’t have children). Forward thinking and how one acts after unexpected events is key. How we react shapes what happens next.

I was so grateful to sit next to this man. I think back to how I felt when I realized that I was going to sit in the middle for a long flight and how a negative thought turned into a memorable conversation. It was serendipitous to meet this man and have such a meaningful conversation about direction just a week after I quit my job. I didn’t know what was next. I knew I wanted to make a difference, but I was still in the mindset of success by any means. Changing my mindset to significance and making a difference by helping others completely transformed my life.

I began living my life with intention, striving to make a difference and using my gifts. I have had 2 career transitions in my life and this time, I feel like I am going after my true desires. Taking the time to listen to my intuition and striving for a life of significance is a new definition of success for me. The anxieties that I felt with my first career break are not present because my focus is on something greater.

Everyone has a special gift to share with the world. Seeing significance as success definitely requires a change of thought. When we are  living the life we are meant to be living, success is measured in non-tangible ways.  My gratitude is boundless to the universe for the middle seat and the wisdom I learned on that plane.

How can you add significance to you success story?

For more on living with intention, click here.

Live Your Summer with Intention

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I am so excited to announce the creation of an Intentional Summer Program and I’m kicking it off today! Join me this summer on an intentional adventure. Make things happen and learn how to set intentions and go after what you want. This 3 month program will help you set intentions, create a plan, determine your core values and define your personal mission and vision statements.

There is so much emphasis on goals and measuring achievements, but sometimes one of the most important factors can be missed: Why we do what we do?

In this program, you can expect:

  • Clarity
  • Self-Awareness
  • Defining your Personal Mission & Vision Statements
  • Determine your core values
  • Learn how to effectively set intentions
  • Coaching Sessions to help uncover your true desires
  • Prioritize what is important to you

Choose which statement resonates with you the most…

1) “I’m pretty independent and just need the basics”

  • 3-monthly Coaching sessions
  • Weekly email support
  • Worksheets
  • Personalized Plan
  • 2) “I want to stay on top of it and need a little guidance”
  • Bi-monthly Coaching sessions (6 total)
  • Weekly email support
  • Worksheets
  • Personalized Plan
  • 3) “I want an accountability partner”
  • 12 Weekly Coaching Sessions
  • Weekly email support
  • Worksheets
  • Personalized Plan

Let’s get started today! Your intentional life awaits! Sign up through August 1st to take advantage of the package pricing.

To sign up or for more information, please email me at emily@soulsadventures.com