Do you ever find yourself thinking that everyone else seems to be breezing through life and “there’s something wrong with me because I struggle”? Spoiler alert! There’s nothing wrong with you! Anxiety is just a different mindset we find ourselves in for various reasons. Anxiety is “future predicting” – an imagined future with a negative, stressful outcome. The outcome (for me, at least) was constantly trying to anticipate, “looking around corners” all the time, mistrust (of myself mostly). It was no way to live. I got tired of being this way and I made changes. If this resonates with you, here are my thoughts on anxiety.
Alcohol and anxiety: I used to believe that alcohol helped my anxiety. The truth is alcohol is both a depressant and a sedative that affects the central nervous system. It’s a toxic substance and its true effect is that it overstimulates your brain. The brain then jumps into “protection mode” by trying to bring you into homeostasis. You can actually feel even more anxious as the alcohol leaves your system because alcohol changes your levels of serotonin (and other neurotransmitters) and your brain is desperately trying to find balance. A common reaction then is to have more alcohol to not feel this unease and agitation (which can result in even more anxiety), creating an unhealthy cycle. The brain gets used to this “fix” and over time requires higher quantities of alcohol to achieve the same effect. Alcohol is an addictive substance to all humans and it’s precisely these types of cycles where a dependency develops.
Mindset: The good news is that in the coaching environment we can talk about working on your mindset, your thoughts and beliefs – for example:
- Why are you feeling anxious?
- Let’s talk about a new way of looking at life, those situations or relationships that invoke this reaction?
One tool I found useful was instead of anticipating the worst, I thought about the best possible outcome (this takes practice but so worth it). I trusted that I would be ok, no matter what happened. By having a positive mindset, it helped me to let go and enjoy just being in the moment. That old saying that I’d survived 100% of my worst days… it’s true and a great mindset to keep in place!
I realised, too, when I have anxiety, I can be resisting something. I encourage you to let go; release expectation, release the future predicting. When you stop resisting and just let things unfold as they are meant to, when you allow them to just be, it really makes a difference to your mindset. You may also find that when you stop resisting, new ways of looking at the situation will appear.
A huge game-changer for me was when stopped myself from feeling like anxiety was a burden I was lugging around on my shoulders. I decided that my anxiety was actually a gift. When I have anxiety, it’s my body’s way of telling me something is off-balance. It makes me super aware of what’s going on around me. I ask myself: “What’s going on to make me feel this way? Is it true?” This is my signal to say to myself: “OK, what’s something constructive I can do to move forward from this moment?” Sometimes the answer is a physical distraction, sometimes it’s mindset.
New tools: We can also talk about new tools to distract or, more importantly, add to your lifestyle. Introducing these tools and their repeated practice, really make a difference to how you negotiate life. What kind of tools? A walk around the block can immediately take the edge off a lot of negative emotions. Having a good exercise routine that includes a range of “go-to’s” like strength training, stretching, yoga, pilates, various cardio exercises, jumping jacks, dancing or shaking on the spot (really!). Grounding and mindfulness exercises are terrific (have a search in Spotify or Google). Self-care is vital for maintaining a calmer outlook: journaling, practicing Havening; simple things like lighting your favourite scented candle or incense.
Anxiety and gut health: As my coach, Jolene Park (Jolene Park (@jolene__park) • Instagram photos and videos) says, “When you fill your body and your brain with booze, caffeine, sugary foods, empty carbs, and anything devoid of nourishment, the chemistry in your brain changes.”
The connection between brain and gut has been written about (and confirmed) a lot in recent years. Amongst the publications are The Harvard Medical School The gut-brain connection – Harvard Health, John Hopkins Medicine, The Brain-Gut Connection | Johns Hopkins Medicine to name just a couple.
The Harvard Medical School says, for instance: The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines. For example, the very thought of eating can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected. [April 2021]
Resources: Lastly, there are two books that I personally recommend (I have no affiliations with either):
“Own Your Anxiety” by Julian Brass Own Your Anxiety: 99 Simple Ways to Channel Your Secret Edge – Kindle edition by Brass, Julian. Self-Help Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. Julian’s book is very practical, sharing tools he uses to manage his own anxiety. I love the chapter called “Listen to what you listen to”. He realised he was listening to a lot of “hard-core hip-hop or beat-pumping dance music… pounding…” winding him up, triggering him, “inciting my flight-or-flight impulses”. Now he mindfully chooses music based on the mood or state of mind he wants to be in.
“First We Make the Beast Beautiful” by Sarah Wilson first, we make the beast beautiful: A New Story About Anxiety – Kindle edition by Wilson, Sarah. Health, Fitness & Dieting Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. Sarah’s book, her own journey through anxiety and depression, was pivotal in understanding my anxiety was truly manageable, that peace could be found.
I hope breaking down anxiety has helped. Let me know if you purchase either of the books. I’d love to hear your feedback!