How to reduce stress and anxiety in our daily lives
Anxiety and stress seems to be at some peak of an epidemic these days. We are constantly living our lives from having too much to do and not enough time. The pressure to perform is often experience in our every day lives. Anxiety around money and relationships are also an area that creates anxiety. The constant demands of juggling a family and working life can create further stress. A often very subtle but strong fear can be what other think about us, are we being judged. This fear can keep us small, we feel a need to please others so we are loved and liked. It helps us to belong, yet within this fear often we can betray what is true for us, we begin to live a smaller life based on approval. This is a very subtle epidemic of our culture, which can create a place where we are living a life that does not truly feel in tune with our deepest desires and therefore a underlying sense of lack of aliveness and joy begins to penetrate our lives.
So what can we do to reduce this anxiety and stress in our lives?
I find it useful to address first, is how do we approach anxiety and stress in our daily lives?
There are the three mains ways we often approach anxiety and stress.
1) Avoid and deny.
2) We become entangled with our anxiety, creating more anxiety and stress. This can take the form of conflict and drama in our lives or we become deeply entangled with our own stories of the past/future or how life could turn out for the worst.
3) We face it head on. We confront it.
Now the third way of dealing with anxiety and stress is actually not explored very much! We tend to get caught in avoiding or entangled with the issues.
Ask yourself how do you deal with your fears and stress? Take a moment to explore this. I know for myself I have several ways of dealing with anxiety, one is propelling myself into action and also procrastinating/distracting myself. I seem to oscillate between these two opposite poles as my patterns when I am feeling strong anxiety and stress.
The problem is that if I act from my anxiety often the action may not be the right one because it’s coming from the fear rather then a deeper connection with what is authentic and true for me.
When there is a lot of anxiety I notice that often I find it hard to give myself self-care and actually this is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves when there is anxiety and stress. Self-care is essential to support the places that feel overwhelmed.
A question might be, What do you love to do? What gives you joy? I love to walk in the woods, I love to have a bath, I love a really good cup of coffee. See if you can at least find one or two things you love and really commit to doing that this week.
So now we are going to FACE/MOVE towards the fear together!
Put your hand on your belly
Let’s begin with taking 5 mins now to stop reading and ask yourself what am I afraid off?
Let several answers to this question just arise. Keep repeating the question and see all the ways you are afraid.
If nothing comes, you have gone blank, that’s OK too!
Just notice what is happening right now in your body. Fear can have a paralysing and numbing effect in the body, check out is this what is happening? Am I breathing? is it shallow? Is your heart rate up? Is there any knots in your body, tensions? Can I feel anything? Not feeling anything is also a feeling! It a numbness that many of us experience.
As you get to know your anxiety you can ask questions like, what do you need? What can I learn from my fear? What is your wisdom?
Don’t worry about trying to get this exercise right, just notice all the experiences that are happening right now, it’ all part of what fear feels like for you. Often fear can show up as pressure to perform, is that happening? You need to come up with the answer? Keep witnessing what is happening. See what thoughts are here now? Notice how these thoughts are impacting and making you feel.
I know for myself when I do these types of exercises, normally a little voice in my head says I can’t do it, she is also part of my fear. A fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, pressure to achieve. These are fears of modern life that we all suffer from in some form or another.
An important way to receive support around anxiety or stress is to talk to someone, if that is a friend or professional help. But sometimes just having space to explore, express and be heard can be a big relief for the anxiety that we keep to ourselves. A solutions and insights can be experienced when we share a little of what is happening for us.
Another way to explore anxiety or stress is to get creative! One way i find really effective is to shake my body. Fear often can be frozen paralysing place within the body, often we find it hard to think when the anxiety is intense. If you take 10 mins and create a up beat music playlist and begin to shake your body. Start with your legs, bouncing them up and down, shaking them and allow this energy to move up your hips,back, neck, arms, chest, head and for 10 mins just allow the body to shake and let go. After this amount of time, play something soft and relax on the floor for few minutes.
What I have discovered about anxiety is that when we really get to know what is creating our stress, we have more choices on how to deal with our difficulties. It is possible to challenge our belief systems, for example we might have a belief that we will fail.
A good resource for exploring our thoughts and belief system which often our the root of our anxiety is the work of Byron Katie.
This work explores an enquiry into our thoughts.
Byron Katie uses 4 questions
1) Is it true
2)can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3)how do you react when you think that thought?
4)what would you be without the thought?
These questions can be very useful in exploring the truth of our reality. Often anxiety has a spiralling out of control quality and takes us into future possible disasters of what could happen! or the anxiety stems from past experiences of what has happened. Anxiety actually is never really about what is happening NOW! These 4 questions can really challenging our thinking and beliefs of what is true in reality.
Byron Katie has some wonderful resources on her website.
A famous quote says the follow
Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear – George Addair
What does this really mean, everything you have ever wanted is on the other side of fear! Well for me it means that the more I move towards my fear, I become much more free and alive in my life. Fear does not stop me any more from doing what I really what to do. I have not got rid of fear and I have given up trying. I am learning to have a relationship with fear that is not entangled with the stories of what the fear is about. To have a deep relationship to fear we become warriors of fearlessness. It does not mean we are rid of fear. Living as a human being fear reactions happen, but fear does not stop us living true to the life we are born to live. We can become more comfortable, compassionate with our fears and see it has a opportunity to keep exploring moving towards what brings more joy, aliveness and connection into our lives.