For many years, anxiety was a part of my daily reality. I woke up in a panic and went to bed feeling completely drained from stress and fear. It wasn’t necessarily screaming all day, but there was often a quiet whisper of unease.
My anxiety showed up in may areas of my life, from my relationship to food, to my business. On my best days, it was a slight whisper. And on my worst days, I could barely get out of bed.
I know I’m not alone in this.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million Americans over the age of 18 are affected by anxiety — roughly 18 percent of the nation’s population.
You’ve probably experienced anxiety too…the sense of uncontrollable, panicked, intense worry. The racing heartbeat, the pressure inside your ribcage, the shortness of breath, the racing of fearful thoughts.
For many of us, anxiety is situational—it’s caused by a circumstance, environment, or person in our life. Recently, for me, it was my work. For you, it might be something else. Maybe it’s your job. Maybe it’s a social situation. Maybe it's dating. Maybe it’s something that triggers insecurity, like scrolling though social media or dating apps, or going to an event where you won't know a lot of people. No matter what it is, that trigger can feel paralyzing and it's helpful to have tools to get yourself back to a headspace of calm.
Ideally, we could walk away from whatever it is that brings up anxiety in our lives. But sometimes that’s not possible, and necessarily the right thing to do.
When I work with my one-on-one clients, they often share similar experience. It seems as if there’s an area in everyone’s life that brings up anxiety, fear, and dread.
There are difficult situations in all of our lives—it’s part of the human condition.
You don’t have to wait until your circumstances change for your experience to change. And while I always encourage people to seek to bring about change so that their lives are not filled with anxiety, it’s crucial to find a way to move through anxiety and choose peace in the midst of your difficult situation.
So, what’s the solution?
Even though I was still stuck in my circumstances, I was ready to let go of anxiety and release it from my life. I had no choice, I had to get out of bed, I had to show up. I was lucky, I had a bunch of tools that could help me get out what felt like paralyzing fear and into a state of action. I hope the tools below can help you to get out of the fear and into the action.
Here are some of the ways I reclaimed peace, joy, and light in my life. If you’re ready to take the first step towards reframing your mindset, keep reading.
"Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action." Walter Anderson
Action is the number one thing I need to do to get myself out of the anxiety. I recognized that as long as I could get out of my head and into some form of action, the fear would start to dissipate. After taking small steps to remove myself from the paralyzing cycle of anxiety and negativity, the attack would minimize. These steps can be so small, but so alleviating.
These small, first actions aren’t easy, so be gentle as you work on yourself. And in the midst of it all, repeat these words:
Either I grow, or my anxiety grows. It’s my choice.
Below are some of my go-to steps for getting myself out of fear and into action. Some days I use all of them, and some times just one. All of them, help to take you out of your head and into your body so that you can release the panic and move into action.
When the panic came on, I would immediately feel it in my chest. At times, it literally felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I knew I had to get control over that.
One of my favorite parts of my yoga teacher trainings was always the breathwork. I noticed that the more attention I put on my breath, the more control I had over my anxiety. So when the “morning scaries” would start, I’d start incorporating breathwork into my morning ritual and my daily life.
Conscious deep-breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system and brings our bodies into a state of deep, renewing rest and calm.
So, in the middle of an anxiety attack, conscious breathwork can be the most powerful action you can take.
Here’s one of my favorites breathwork exercises that you can practice on your own:
First, get into a comfortable position, whether lying down or sitting. Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly, and begin taking long, slow breaths. Pay attention to the breathe in your body. Really feeling it coming in on the inhale and letting it out on the exhale.
After a few breath cycles, start counting. Inhale through your nose for five seconds and then exhale through your mouth for the same amount of time.
Focus your attention on filling your belly, then your ribs, and then your chest…then slowly release. Really feel it filling you up, the warmth going through your nose, the fullness of your belly, ribs and chest and then the relief of slowly letting it out through your mouth.
In less than ten minutes, you will begin to enter a headspace of calm, grounded logic.
You can practice this in public as well. Many times, I’ve found a quiet restroom or taken a walk outside while focusing on my breath.
I have always believed that physical movement is a key part to handling my moods and fears. As early as I can remember I knew: the more I moved my body, the more I experienced peace and lightness. So I began incorporating more movement into my daily life. Studies have shown that regular participation in exercise decreases overall levels of tension, elevates and stabilizes one’s mood, improves sleep, and improves self-esteem.
Ideally, I shoot for one hour of dedicated movement five days a week. This can be riding my bike, yoga, boxing, or anything that feels fun and challenging.
I also noticed that short spurts of movement can help in the moments that anxiety is actually hitting. When I feel overwhelmed and have to step back, I have been choosing quick bursts of movement in order to move the anxiety out. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
So, I have found that blasting a high-energy song and either dancing around my apartment, bouncing on my rebounder, or doing jumping jacks can quickly change my mood into a place of joy that lessens the stories of all the worries.
It changes the energy of my body and my head. And while these steps didn’t rid me of anxiety completely, it became an important daily ritual that helped me stay centered, even during stressful situations.
There are times when the anxiety becomes worse, and doing the above just wasn’t enough. The stories of all my inadequacies, and all the worst case scenarios would get so loud that it would feel like forward action wasn’t possible.
In those moments, when my mind began to race with anxious thoughts, I’d pull out my journal. I’d write out all my worries about the future in detail—literally writing out my worst fears. Articulating my panicked thoughts helped me to recognize that most of my fears were completely unfounded and unlikely.
We often are so caught up in the fear of what might happen that we get overwhelmed. We begin to live in the terrible, negative energy of something that hasn’t even happened. This is why it’s so crucial to reframe your thoughts and choose a new perspective. We have the power to see things the way we want to see them. Claim that power.
Journaling was a way to see the craziness that I was thinking and dismiss it more easily.
By bringing these practices into my life, I was able to get to a place of "knowing" that my anxiety would leave once I got into action. Through breathwork, movement, and journaling, I could get back into my correct mind and accept that the fear I was creating was not real. I could choose to release the weight of anxiety and step into a place of peace.
And that’s my wish for you—that your life would be flooded with peace, even during the most difficult situations that you face.