In this special episode, after an update on Ella’s exploration of cold exposure and the vegan dating scene, you’ll discover powerful strategies to help you engage with the root cause of anxiety.
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Anxiety has been a relatively constant destination for much of my life. It is as familiar to me as my hometown or any neighborhood I’ve ever lived in. That fact is that as uncomfortable as excessive worry is, there have been periods in my life when it was actually more comfortable to be in an anxiety loop than to be out of one. And if I was out of one, I would be worried about not being in one because that would somehow mean that I had missed something…I was late to the worry party…I was forgetting a key thing to worry about…I had missed the anxiety train.
I’m guessing there’s a number of you laughing right now. First because, when said out loud, it sounds ridiculous. But, second…because this shoe fits you, too. You can relate to the endless hours or days of energy spent in useless cycles of anxiety, trying to be prepared for any and all outcomes. You see, us worriers, we keep the world together with the power of our anxiety alone. We have prepared for every single unlikely event by thinking our way into a frenzied state so that everyone around us can be calm, cool, and collected. Don’t worry world! We are doing it for you!
But let’s break this down a bit more seriously by looking at the thought processes that keep us locked in this train to nowhere. Our brains get stuck when something isn’t quite tracking. We have to come back to that incongruity over and over again because our brains like things to make sense. When we engage in thoughts that produce anxiety, that is a signal that things don’t meet the logic test that our brains are built for; therefore we keep coming back to the spot where it doesn’t make sense in light of our experience of the world.
Most of our anxious thoughts come in the language of “What if…?” We lean into the sense that something is wrong when the reality is that we are only posing the question to ourselves of “What if…?” What if’s have no basis in the present and therefore, no basis in the objective reality. What if’s are based in the future. We are placing our minds in a future state trying to prepare for events that are not actually taking place. We are trying to control the uncontrollable. The truth of what if’s is that those gloomy scenarios and outcomes that we find ourselves trying to prepare for mostly never actually become reality. BUT the effects of this rumination DO become reality by taking their toll on our bodies and minds.
There are a number of physical ways that we can be completely hijacked by our anxious feelings and sensations within our bodies. Headaches, digestive problems, shaking, nausea, tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, tightness and aches in the muscles, fatigue, brain fog…these are all physical manifestations of anxiety. Anxiety triggers our sympathetic nervous system, flooding our bodies with powerful hormones which are supposed to be reserved for actual, in the present threats to our safety. Further, we can engage in unhealthy coping behaviors to deal with this anxiety that leads to other physical problems such as turning to unhealthy substances or overconsumption. I don’t know about you, but I used to think a few brownies was essential fuel for my fight or flight response. Oh Not So!
Anxiety, by its very nature, can be all-consuming. We become overwhelmed with a sense of dread. We can be too locked into that loop that thinking rationally seems nearly impossible.
BUT…there can come those moments of clarity when we come to it. We can control the destination and step out of the anxiety train. We realize that though we may not be able to control every thought that pops in our heads, we can control our responses to those thoughts. In this way, we finally come to the proverbial fork in the road. This is where we can choose to employ some strategies to bring relief and congruence. We can get unstuck and get on to more productive thoughts that have a basis in the present.
Of course, one strategy that we teach our clients, and we’ve presented on our podcast is our self-empowerment coaching system. This is a system that helps build a framework for challenging those thoughts. I would encourage you to go back to those episodes and lean into that powerful tool.
But, sometimes you need some tools before you can get to the logic. The first one I will suggest is breathing. Simple, easy, you’re doing it anyway, so focus in. This works because breathing is always in the now. It removes us from the future state. Focus on the in and out of the breath by breathing slowly and deeply. This can have immediate and major effects because it is actually calming and slowing down all of our entire systems. By calming the physical effects of anxiety, it allows us the space to then engage with the root cause of the anxiety…our thoughts.
I would suggest doing this by using a self-inquiry method. This is from the work of Byron Katie. I highly recommend her book, Loving What Is. And it is just a checklist of questions to ask yourself to challenge the accuracy of your anxious thoughts:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know it is true?
- What happens if you believe this thought?
- Who would you be without this thought?
This checklist allows us to challenge whether or not our anxieties are based on facts and reality. It then asks us to reflect on the harmful effects of choosing to believe the anxious thoughts. Finally, it invites us to analyze how much better we’d feel without the anxiety…who we would be able to be if all the energy we are using in engaging in the anxious anxiety loop were placed somewhere else.
Challenging the thought brings us the benefit of breaking free from the thought. It becomes so easy to think that our anxious thought is what is really going on in the world. But the problem is that that thought is only what we THINK is going on in the world. Yes…there are real-life issues, but when our thinking is clear. When we are present. We are actually better equipped to manage real-life, real-time issues rather than being locked in those made-up scenarios in our heads.
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Owner at Sexy Fit Vegan®
26-year vegan veteran, Ella Magers founded Sexy Fit Vegan® in 2012 to bring veganism into the mainstream. Ella runs a transformational coaching program that empowers clients to build a healthy relationship with food, their bodies, and themselves as they create a fit, vegan life they love! Check out her FREE Master Class: https://sexyfitvegan.com/masterclass-registration
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