Letting go of anxiety

Today seems like a good day to explore the concept of anxiety and how we can start the process of releasing its grip over us….

These days, with the news rife with information of one disaster after another, not only do we have to deal with the understandable angst of mother nature, but the media is full of stories of all manner of negative occurrences on the news. Add this to normal life issues, illness, financial stress and family troubles and the triggers for anxiety abound.

When we are experiencing times of high stress and news events as well as personal life problems bring up fear, it is hardly surprising that today’s world is so often fertile breeding ground for anxiety which is so prevalent nowadays.  If these fears are not dealt with, they can lead to destructive behaviours, such as drinking too much or creating problems in relationships, your job or manifesting in money troubles.

What we once used to call worry and have updated to ‘anxiety’, is a continuous stream of negativity that keeps interrupting your mode of thought that you find hard to get away from. It’s usually not focused on any one thing, rather, jumping from negative thought to negative thought. Worry drains and wastes your energy and makes you less likely to make good decisions. If you take that same energy you’re using running around in mental circles and do something productive with it, it will, in time, serve you better.

Let us observe the Zen concept of ‘beginner’s mind’ in the context of starting over. That is, to approach a new or difficult experience without expectations, willingness to learn new things, without the need to be an expert, but to perhaps feel uncomfortable and incompetent and to enjoy the experience of being a learner. This leaves one open to better experiences than would be otherwise possible.

‘Letting go’ is a powerful concept in terms of not trying to control things; making every situation easier to handle. Another word for it is ‘acceptance’. In the long run, we gain more control by letting go. Rather than fight what’s going on, and try to deny challenging things that happen, use your beginner’s mind to face it, do what you can, let go of what you can’t do and learn from it.

Letting go in the sense of acceptance is an internal, private process. You don’t need to let anyone else know you’re doing it. Take charge of your negative thoughts (that’s one thing totally in your control) and turn them around – Observe them, challenge them!  Put energy into it. What you can choose to focus on is to let go of the things outside of you that you can’t control, such as other people, life’s events, loss and disappointment.

Stop trying to change what won’t change, accept what is, let it be and live life as it is. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but once you get a handle on it, life itself is easier. Fretting about what you can’t control is an endless, useless waste of energy; energy you could be using more constructively.

If you’re doing a lot of negative thinking, why not do a reality check? Are the stories in your head about what actually happened, or about what you imagine happened?  Are you catastrophising?   Instead of pretending, worrying, being in the past or the future, focus on what’s real. Don’t waste time and energy trying to work out what someone else is thinking, especially what they were thinking about you. You won’t get it right anyway. Tell the truth to yourself, the whole truth, not just the negative parts. Make that commitment to being honest and open with yourself always.

When you face the reality, you must feel your feelings. Denying the truth is a way to avoid your feelings. When you just let it be, accept it; the feelings will come up, and they will heal you.  Feeling feelings and releasing them is empowering and freeing and makes for an easier journey through life.

If you tick the box of ‘late night worrier’, why not try to get out of the habit of using your brain as a memo pad? Why not try having a pen and paper by your bed to write down whatever is on your mind?  Alternatively, allow yourself 20 minutes before bed time to ‘download’ any thoughts/worries onto paper.  If you’re worried about forgetting something, write it down. If you’re anxious about something you have to do, organise it with a written plan or checklist.

“What if” = Worry. Fretting about what might happen? Work out what you would do in case the hypothetical disaster occurs. Answer the “what if” question factually. “What if I forget John’s doctor’s appointment?” Answer: “I’ve got a lot to do. I’ll start carrying a calendar with everything marked on it.”

Perhaps ‘endless replay worry’ is where you’re at. If you regret something you said or something that happened, then work out how you could handle that situation better next time. Practice it over and over until you feel confident you know what you’re doing.  The past is the past; we can’t change it, but we can change our view of it and we can most certainly learn from it.

To learn to let go, follow these simple steps for resolving your fear and anxiety:

1. Learn to recognise the signs of your own anxiety. If you can’t sleep, you worry a lot, you ruminate or obsess about negative possibilities, or you’re unusually irritable or needy, you could benefit from being aware of your thoughts, rather than allowing your thoughts to control you or run on ‘autopilot’.

2. Give yourself a chance to complain and express your fear. When you’re facing loss, problems or unwanted changes that are the result of a problem or someone else’s actions, you will have some resistance and objections. Allow yourself some time to complain and be unhappy about the situation. Express as many of the negative feelings and thoughts as possible, either verbally or on paper.

3. Evaluate your fears and complaints. Allow yourself some time to consider the points you made in your list. Is there anything that you can do differently? Do you want to? Have you made all the choices you can? Are you thinking clearly about the problem? Are you angry at anyone specifically? Are you resisting unnecessarily? If you have a choice, do you still want to change things? If you don’t have a choice, can you see some alternatives? Do your options look different to you now?

4. Befriend yourself to build trust. Discuss the problem with yourself as helpfully as you would with another friend. Brainstorm for ideas, realistic or even silly, about what you could do to make things better. Above all, be kind to yourself.

5. Do whatever you can to check the facts, and consider all the possibilities for taking care of yourself and those you love.

6. Review and decide. Once you’ve expressed your anger and disappointment, evaluated your feelings, brainstormed ideas and checked the facts, you will be feeling much more in charge of yourself and this situation. Review what you’ve discovered and make some decisions.

7. Focus on a positive outcome. Think of all the possible great outcomes of the changes you’re making. Consider what you will learn.

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