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We all have fears. We all have anxiety. But for some people their fears and anxiety get in the way of them living their life the way they want to live it. If this is the case for you, it is important to recognize that you can learn tools to help set you free from the fear that holds you back from living your life more fully.
It is important to learn how to manage feelings of fear. Part of doing this is creating the ability to separate the true signals of danger from false alarms. For some people, their brains fire signals that indicate they are in danger when they we really aren’t. Some examples of this are:
- Having a panic attack when there is not immediate threat to your safety. For example, in a grocery store. At that moment your brain is telling you that you must flee- that you are in danger. When in reality, there is no real threat to you.
- Feeling a sense of dread or extreme fear when you encounter germs. Although your intellectual mind may know that not every germ you encounter is going to kill you, it feels as if you are in immediate danger. The danger feels very real.
- Something in your environment reminds you of a past trauma and you immediately feel that you must fight or run. You may feel a sense of danger and extreme fear even when you are in a safe environment. (This frequently happens to people who have experienced terrible trauma or have PTSD).
Panic attacks essentially are a false alarm. The brain is sending off the fight or flight signal, when no real danger is present.
Anxiety has been coined as “a disease of uncertainty.” If you suffer from anxiety, you may be plagued with feelings of self doubt. You may not know what you feel or what you truly want. You are likely to be out of touch with your own desires and needs and, as a result, may find it hard to trust your own intuition or decisions. This leads to an overactive mind that is constantly thinking, questioning, and worrying about what the “right” decision is. You may spend countless hours trying to think through decisions before you make them and you are likely to feel stuck and indecisive.
One of the things that can keep you stuck in feelings of anxiety is self judgment. Often people judge themselves as an attempt to try to get themselves out of a rut they are in. They may say to themselves “You shouldn’t be feeling anxious right now! Snap out of it!” Or they may be even more self-critical and put themselves down for feeling anxious or fearful. The result of this kind of self-talk is that you end up feeling more anxious, rather than less. Each time you tell yourself that you should not feel a certain way you are actually increasing that emotion you are trying to rid yourself of.
One of the most important concepts regarding anxiety is that it feeds off of avoidance. The more you avoid, the more anxiety you will experience. This is a basic tenet of anxiety management. Avoidance can take the many forms such as: procrastination, withdrawal from activities and isolation from others.
If you are like the millions of others who suffer from anxiety you may feel helpless and scared. Because of all the ways anxiety can end up taking charge over your life, you may end up feeling powerless to make changes. You may feel like the anxiety is ruling your life and you have no control.
Mindfulness is one way to effectively decrease symptoms of anxiety, panic and worry. A regular meditation practice and a mindful outlook on life will help you to increase your awareness of what you feel, want and think, and as a result your feelings of uncertainty will decrease and you will increase your ability to trust your intuition. One of the main principles of mindfulness is decreasing self-judgment. Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral techniques can be very useful in transforming unhealthy judgment and criticism into feelings of self love and kindness. You may find that when you begin to take a stance of kindness towards yourself when you feel anxiety, worry or fear, your anxious feelings soon become less powerful and the one who feels powerful and in control is you. By slowly beginning to decrease your avoidance you will find that your anxiety loses its power over you.