Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD
Finding your freedom by freeing your mind from anxiety
Anxiety is a part of my family history. Not something I shout from the rooftops, but a well-established fact. It's something that has controlled my thoughts since I was very young.
In grade school, I was anxious in social situations of any kind. I preferred to be by myself with a good book. In middle school, I was so afraid to come off as a nerdy type and in turn afraid the "popular" kids wouldn't like me. In high school, this trend continued with an added anxiety of trying to fend off rumors that I was "not into boys" because I had no desire to date anyone from the limited population of decent males in my graduating class.
Looking back, I know these fears were unfounded because I was lucky enough to have a core group of girls that I related with throughout my high school years. I had a supportive mother who had "tea time" with me every time I came home with tears streaming down my face and stood by me no matter what. I had an awesome sister who chose me over her friends when they tried to tear us apart in high school, and to this day is my cheerleader and supporter in all life events.
The problem with anxiety is that sometimes even with all that support, it still creeps its way into the mind and the smallest hint of fear or disappointment can trigger it.
So how do you quell this fear? How do you overcome anxiety? Is it even possible?
As I sat on my couch last night and watched "Miss Americana" I realized that no matter what level of notoriety, we all experience some level of anxiety in life. We all want everyone to appreciate us and appreciate what we do. A fear of being alone is always in the back of many of our minds.
The fortunate thing is that such mindsets are not permanent. If we choose, we can start training our mind as we would our bodies in the gym. We can turn old negative habits of thinking and replace them with more optimistic and confident thoughts. It's not easy, but it can be done for many of us. It just takes consistency, making time for self care, and support from others who have your best health in mind.
Reframing your way to less anxiety
Reframing your mind is the crucial first step in helping lessen anxiety. My therapist explained it as taking a negative thought and rewording it so as to train your brain to hardwire more positive thoughts. For example, I have a tendency to say "I feel so fat" since I have yet to get used to this 35+ pounds over normal weight that I developed over the past two years re: thyroid and pancreas health issues.
But instead, I try to say instead "This state of being is just temporary and my body as it is right now is getting me through perhaps one of the toughest challenges I've ever experienced. I am strong and I accept myself for the way I am no matter what."
Just use your difficult situations and negative thoughts to learn and grow. Experts suggest that reframing is not denying that life is hard, but is using those challenges as opportunities to experience life more fully. This can be easier said than done, but with practice, like with many things in life, you can teach yourself to have a more positive outlook over time.
This reframing can work with anxiety too. Psychology experts suggest that you can take anxious thoughts and internal inquiries and use them to face certain fears and resolve them. For example, if you are afraid to speak up at work about being unhappy with your current pay, and are afraid that you'll be fired if you ask, instead face that fear. Set up that meeting with your boss. Speak up and ask for a raise and see what will really happen. Chances are that you won't be fired. You may hear "no," but I doubt you'll be fired for asking a question.
One by one, you can use this method to face your fears and overcome thoughts that have become festering anxieties in your brain. Think of this process as spring cleaning for your mind to make room for positive thoughts and perceptions.
One way I've decided to deal with my fears is to write more openly. I used to write poetry all the time as a young girl in middle school. It was my way of expressing myself within the confines of my journal that no one else would see except for maybe my mom or sister. I wrote my first poem in about two years last night and will be publishing it as a special feature in this week's blog.
But it's just the beginning. Stay tuned for more as the journey of this thing called my life continues. Until then, here's to hoping you find your way to face your fears and reframe your thoughts so you can enjoy more positivity, healing, and transformation in 2020.