Within a few minutes I declared that my world was falling apart. I looked at my son and I realized that something was terribly wrong. He was in trouble, close to the brink of death. I had to intervene or else.
My heart was pumping erratically, my hands were sweaty, and my breath was short. My belly felt like I had a ton of bricks in it. My son was dying and I had to do something! Someone was going to kidnap him while he was hanging out with his friends.
He was late calling to check-in.
Well, my anxiety got the best of me. I made all this up in my head. The only truth to this was that my older son was late calling to check-in. No, it wasn’t hours late either. It was a few minutes.
Have you ever done that? Made up a whole story in your head in a matter of minutes and suffered from crumbling anxiety that cripples your ability to think clearly and act rationally?
It’s crazy, right?! My older son was a few minutes late calling to check-in and he was on the brink of death!
Years ago, I didn’t even know what anxiety felt like until my first yoga class. The teacher asked me to feel things in my body. I was like, “What is he saying… regular people speak please.”
After some practice, I got it. After a lot of practice and studying, I understood how we feel emotion in the body and, more importantly, I learned how to kick anxiety to the curb and gain confidence in the most tough situations.
I want to share a few tools with you so if you, like me, have struggled with making up crazy stories in your head and suffer anxiety from that process going on in your mind, then you too can learn to kick anxiety to the curb and gain the confidence you deserve in all situations. Even the toughest ones.
Curb Kicking Anxiety Tips
- Ground Your Feet
If you aren’t a yogi, then this probably sounds kinda weird. It has nothing to do with “ground meat” by the way. We aren’t chopping your feet off to get the mind to think about another kind of pain. What I’m talking about is intentionally pressing your feet into the ground with a gentle, firm pressure as if you are trying to root them into the earth. Imagine gently planting your feet into the ground.
You don’t have to take your shoes off for this. You can imagine a lot of crazy stuff I bet, I know you can imagine this. You must do this seated at a desk or standing. Breathe deeply (long, slow, deep breath on the inhale and exhale) and press your feet intentionally into the ground. Do this for several rounds or more as needed.
Why does this work?
The earth emits a magnetic force close the to the ground surface that is calming. Also, intentionally pressing your feet into the ground gets your mind out of your crazy story and into your body. Healthy distraction accomplished!
- Counting Breath
Telling yourself to breathe deeply may be too abstract. I mean, really, we breathe automatically every day and it may be hard to keep the mind focused on your deep breath without a bit of practice. So, counting breath to the rescue! When you do a mindful breath you can’t have sloppy posture.
I mean, you can… but, that defeats the purpose of shifting your anxious energy to confident energy. Sit tall or stand tall. Relax your shoulders. Remember the basic elements of a mindful breath – long, slow and deep breath on the inhale and long, slow, deep breath on the exhale.
As you get into a rhythm (it may take you a few mindful breaths), begin counting silently to yourself on the inhale with 1…2…3, then count down on the exhale silently to yourself 3…2…1. Repeat several times.
Why does this work?
This works for two reasons. It gets you out of your crazy mind story and has your mind focus on your deep breath + counting. That requires some laser focus. We can’t count and breathe deeply and think of our crazy anxiety-inducing story at the same time.
Deep breathing also helps slow down the part of our brain and nervous system that has been activated (although only perceived and not real, but it can’t tell the difference!) to get us out of a dangerous situation. It regulates our heartbeat from crazy to normal.
When we get our heartrate down, we can begin activating the part of our brain where we can think more clearly and rationally.
- Anchor Thoughts
You know how anchors hold ships in the water right? They even have tiny anchors for kayakers so when they want to drop their fishing pole in the water without moving their boats, they can keep the boat still.
The most important word in that story is “still”. Anchor thoughts are going to help you keep your mind still. Remember, your anxiety-inducing crazy stories, right? Or, at least you have mine as an example. Our brains and our minds are not still in that state of alert.
So, we have to be intentional here as well. Think of a positive image where you are having fun, relaxed, and calm. Maybe it’s having hang time at the park with your family. Maybe it’s making art. Maybe it’s your family eating dinner together. You get the idea. Think of that fun and cheery thought.
Why does this work?
Again, it helps you distract your mind from the crazy story that you are making up that is causing the anxiety and it gets you to focus on an image or an experience that is positive, fun, and calming.
Remember when I said that the brain and mind can’t tell the difference between a real or perceived threat? Well, the reverse is true, too. It can’t tell the difference from a real or perceived positive experience as well. Happy thoughts kick your anxiety to the curb.
Now that you know how to kick anxiety to the curb, you can put it into practice in all sorts of situations. You can’t be anxious and confident at the same time. It doesn’t work. As you practice these 3 tips, you will learn in the process that tracking your anxiety will give you clues where you are holding back in voicing your ideas and concerns to anyone.
I just said a new word I really want you to notice. I said “tracking”. Remember my story about my yoga teacher saying notice what’s going on in your body? May seem strange if you’ve never done it before and that’s ok if you feel that way. Try it. You will see what I mean. Track the sensations (tightness, heaviness, butterflies in the belly, etc.) in your body when you are in tough situations (either real or perceived) and use your curb kicking anxiety tips.
Yes, you may feel real anxiety in your body. But, the story that ignited the anxiety is likely not real. You won’t kick your anxiety to the curb overnight, but with practice you can learn to track how and when it shows up in your body and you can outsmart it. Use your anchor thoughts to shift your energy state (from anxious to confident).
It’s not simple. But it can become simple with time and practice.
Enjoy the process of kicking your anxiety to the curb. It’s kind of entertaining noticing all the crazy stories we tell ourselves. In time you will gain confidence and perhaps, a few extra laughs along the way.
If you need a little extra help, I created an anxiety curb kicking tracking sheet. Though I would normally send you to my website to grab this free resource, it’s under construction at the moment. So, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org I will e-mail you your free tracking sheet resource.