This article was originally published on The Huff Post.
I could list off a metric tonne of behaviours and mindset shifts one could adopt to drastically improve their relationship with anxiety. Paradoxically, that might terrify you and induce even more anxiety. Welcome to the world of self-help, where everything appears complicated and the mind of a newbie is overwhelmingly over-stimulated, resulting in a prophecy of destruction causing anxiety levels to spiral out of control.
Much of anxiety is individualistic and subjective to many variables. A quick intervention with someone who recently started having panic attacks is often enough to abolish them, whereas if your anxiety stems from deep-rooted traumas, more work will be required.
Sometimes being an adult sucks because regardless of how you ended up here - only you can do something about it.
Your life. Your body. Your health. Your responsibility.
Here are three tips I believe will help you find a greater peace of mind without divulging into the nuances of it all and second guessing your circumstances.
Next time you see a baby, observe how they breathe. Their full diaphragmatic breathing is flawless - just how our engineer intended. But then life happens, postures get bent out of shape, and the breath becomes shallow. Meditation isn’t just about “spirituality.” You don’t have to be an “enlightened soul” to practice. Address whatever misconceptions you may have because the benefits are very real. And yes, you CAN do it.
It’s not about emptying your mind. All you’re doing is focussing on your breath and the sensations in your body. That breath plays a vital role in controlling emotions and keeping anxiety at bay.
Let me quickly draw your attention to the amygdala - a little nugget in your brain that gets pissed off when stressed, and instructs the adrenal glands to trigger the dreaded ‘fight or flight’ response. As I’m sure you know, there’s a lag in human evolution. While a boost of adrenaline might be beneficial if you bumped into a Grizzly Bear and her cubs, it’s not altogether necessary for a viewing of Eat, Pray, Love on Netflix. Meditation has been shown, through brain scanning imagery, to turn down the amygdala and therefore reduce anxiety and the probability of you freaking out watching a chick-flick. If that’s not incentive enough to light some candles and breathe - I don’t know what is.
2. MAKE A DECISION
A decision’s a decision, and sometimes not making a decision is the worst decision of all. One decision has the power to change your life. Yes, it might not work out. If so, learn from it, and make another. You must move forward and not cling to the past or remain in the present because you fear something might not work out in the future.
A friend was dealing with anxiety and depression lately. In two swift moves, she was able to abolish it. What did she do? Got a new job and ended her relationship. Good for her. Those two decisions drastically improved her quality of life. Now ask yourself, what decision could you make to transform your life?
3. EMBRACE YOUR INDIVIDUALITY
“You were born an original, don’t die a copy” - John Mason with sound advice.
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is permission to be yourself. Stop comparing. Stop imitating. Stop trying to appeal to others by being someone you’re not. So much energy is wasted trying to look good for others - to have the perfect career, partner, car, house, etc. Living a conceptual life might work for others, but it’s detrimental to your health. The stress of all this is palpable, and the evidence is all around you.
By embracing your individuality, you open yourself up to a world of people that will accept and appreciate you - for you. And therefore, your quality of life will shoot up. Yes, some might not like the new you, but don’t let that be your concern.
Don’t opt to be miserable for the sake of others. Quit your job. End a relationship. Address the source of your stress. Stop taking shit from people who put you down, and find the one’s that lift you up.
Nobody’s opinion should carry the weight of your health. It starts and ends with you, and it sure as shit won’t change without you calling the shots. Get clear on your values and start living by them. If that means saying “no” to a networking event to stay home and play video games, then who has the right to tell you otherwise? This is your mental health. And only you can improve it. It might not be easy, but a little work goes a long way, and it’s far better than your other options.
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