The reality is; stress affects all of us, and at one point in your life, you’ll feel anxious. Whatever the cause – a looming deadline, office politics, relationship drama – try to remember there’s always a way through it, even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time. To help you guys tackle stressful situations and decode your anxiety head-on, we spoke to life coach, global writer, and speaker, Kira Jean. She gave us the full low down on dealing with anxiety, which btw is the most common mental illness in the US – so remember you’re not alone. She also shared with us four helpful exercises, so the next time you feel like stress is getting the better of you, take a minute for yourself and prioritize your mental wellbeing with one of Kira’s five-minute tasks. Here’s everything she told us:
What is Anxiety?
“Anxiety is a psychological condition that elicits a physiological response in the body. It’s most commonly felt as worry, nervousness, or unease. Anxiety can be acute – short-term and often directly related to a particular event or situation, or chronic – it’s persistent and on-going, and not related to one specific event or situation,” Kira told us. Everyone faces stressful situations, but if the stress is ongoing or affecting your sleep, mood, or having a physical impact (breathing problems, panic attacks), then this is often considered an anxiety disorder.
What Are The Main Causes Of Anxiety?
Perfectionism: “Perfectionism and anxiety go hand-in-hand. It can be both a cause and symptom of anxiety. Perfectionists believe they can never be good enough, and that unfortunate or difficult circumstances are the result of their own flaws. When anxiety is in control, the perfectionist suffers from procrastination, exhaustion, and a lack of focus, which stops them from achieving their goals. This then feeds back into their belief system that they are not good enough. This type of self-judgment fuels anxiety.”
Trauma and big life changes: “Past or recent trauma, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional, can trigger both acute and chronic anxiety. Things that have the power to rattle our sense of self and stability, such as a medical illness, relationship breakdowns, abuse, or increased pressure and uncertainty at work, can fuel anxiety both short-term and long-term if it is not addressed.”
Learned behavior: “If we grow up around anxious adults, we can develop a learned behavior, whereby we respond to events, circumstances, or thoughts in the way we have grown up seeing others respond.”
How Should Your Tackle Anxiety?
“One of the most important things you can do to shift your anxiety or worry is to ask for help. Of course, not everyone experiences anxiety to the point that it becomes damaging or destructive, but in the event it does it’s important to get the right kind of support to help you turn things around. If you are suffering from anxiety that is having a negative impact on your life – no matter how small that impact may be – ask for help from a friend, colleague, or a medical professional.”
Four Exercises To Help You Process Your Anxiety
“When creating any kind of change, we need to look at the ‘four bodies’ – our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual/energetic bodies. When we address change at the level of all four bodies, we can create change that is all-encompassing and easier to maintain. While anxiety and worry are feelings, they begin in the mental body and trigger a response in the physical body before becoming an emotion. So there are two ways we can manage worry and anxiety with regards to the four bodies. Firstly, we can shift our mental and physical state where the anxiety can take the most hold, or we can shift our focus onto our emotional and energetic bodies where we can clear the feelings.”
1. How to shift your mental state: “Take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle to make two columns. In the first column write out as many answers as possible to the following question: I feel anxious when I believe _____________. In the second column write out as many answers as possible to the following question: I feel confident and relaxed when I believe _____________.”
2. How to shift your physical state: “Move your body or change your environment in some way. Step outside the office for ten minutes or go for a walk in the evening when you get home. Join an exercise group that is fun and not attached to a specific outcome, or play some uplifting music as you get ready in the morning.”
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3. How to shift your focus onto your emotional body: “Close your eyes and take ten deep breaths. Notice where the anxiety is in your body. Notice how it feels – sense it or see it. Notice how big it is and how it feels in your body? Notice if it has a color or shape to it. Continue to keep your attention on the part of your body where you feel the anxiety lives for a minute or two. Allow yourself to feel any emotions that arise and keep your attention on the place of the emotion in your body. After some time, as you breathe, imagine that feeling is starting to dissolve. With every breath, it gets smaller and smaller or starts to break up and dissolve into little pieces. Continue to stay with this practice until you feel the emotion has dissolved.”
4. How to shift your focus onto your energetic body: “To shift into your energetic body, you need to move only a few inches: from your head to heart. When you feel anxious or worried, take both hands and place them on your heart, and then take ten deep breaths. As you move out of the practice keep 10% of your awareness on your heart as a reminder to yourself that you are going to let your heart lead for now.”
We know these exercises may sound simple, but we promise they can make such a difference. We also recommend chatting to your friends or speaking to a doctor about managing stress and anxiety – sometimes just talking it through can be such a relief. Feel free to share how you deal with stress or anxiety in the comments below.