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Letting go of anxiety and making space for change

09.07.2020

 

The problem of making any kind of changes to your life is that you have to find some kind of energy and direction. There’s also the business of letting go of how things are at the moment, which can be scary and unknown.

 

What if things get worse? What if I make a bad decision?

 

Often, we have to let things get to what we perceive to be our breaking point* before we are willing to do anything about it. Taking this view requires you to live in a state of anxiety, fear, unhappiness, ill health or a combination of these factors for a long time before you’re fed up with them, or a change is forced.

 

Our brains and bodies then gradually adapt to being more and more miserable. So if you walked in on your life now, as the person you were five years (or even ten years) previous, you would wonder why on earth you hadn’t done anything about it!

 

There are reasons that bright, intelligent beautiful people stay in abusive relationships. They are not stupid. They have adapted to survive.

 

As human beings, we are incredibly efficient survivors, and for many people experiencing ongoing anxiety, our thoughts will justify that being in a state of hyper-alert is actually our ‘motivation’, when in fact the stress is slowly eating away at our wellbeing and we are not as nice to be around as we think we are.

 

Anxiety as a driving force in your life is learned and can be unlearned. It can also be an incredibly selfish state. That may offend some people. But in my experience, it is true.

 

My whole family has had to suffer while I have mini meltdowns about attending something I haven’t wanted to go to, or I have wanted to, but then get into a massive self-destructive fluster about it. Everyone has been on the driveway, in the car ready to leave and I am crying upstairs about something or another. This was not a good way to live. It sent out awful messages to my children about where their needs sat on the family pecking order and I was miserable.

 

So what to do? Feeling that way was not my ‘fault’, but it was absolutely my responsibility to address. The very first step in addressing this kind of habit is to stop in the moment and slow right down. Stop analysing and justifying, overthinking, explaining, diagnosing, blaming and rationalising.

 

Stop and W.A.I.T.  Ask yourself; What Am I Thinking? What Am I Telling Myself? I’ve stolen this acronym from Louise Evans, but it’s a great first step towards self-awareness.

 

When you start to see the voice in your head that’s driving your behaviour is not actually you, suddenly you see you are in the land of choice…and freedom. 

 

Even if your stomach is churning and every ounce of your being says that the thing that’s about to happen (in my example above, a wedding reception) is too much to cope with, your fearful feelings are coming from fearful thoughts. Not because wedding receptions are dangerous places to be. Although in this instance we did almost get hit by some broken glass, but that’s beside the point!

 

People are incredible. Our bodies grow, heal, change and adapt. They also remember fear very well in a bid to protect us. But sometimes we don’t need protecting. We need awareness.

 

Feelings are important. But knowing they are coming from our thinking in that moment means that another thought will bring another feeling. Have you ever been furious and then something funny happens and you crack up laughing? Interruptions are a great reminder that we are caught in our own thinking sagas.

 

We need faith that just as our food will be digested automatically and our lungs will breathe without us consciously thinking about it, our cuts will heal if we stop picking them, and so will our restless and painful feelings. Our minds are naturally clear when we allow them to settle and let go.

 

Then see what happens; energy and direction come to you.

 

*breaking point is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as ‘the stage at which your control over yourself or a situation is lost’. Put simply, it’s a made-up thing for each individual person because control is your perception (have you ever seen people reading a book on a train while their children jump all over the carriage?). One person's lack of control may not even move another person. It can also change over time as you learn new things about yourself.