There’s so much to do; so many unmet deadlines and yet you’re frozen on the couch for hours not doing anything. Anxiety has kidnapped your mind and body – robbed you of living your life. You think you’re the only one with these destructive behaviors but, please know that you are not alone.
Anxiety – that unwelcome guest who overstays its welcome, whispering worries and doubt while also conjuring improbable and intrusive disasters in your mind.
It can be misunderstood as mere nervousness when in fact it is a tangled, complex web of emotions and physical sensations. We’ve all experienced moments when our hearts race, palms sweat, our minds run wild with several anxious thoughts and the overwhelming sensation that something terrible is about to happen. But what exactly is anxiety?
Anxiety often stems from a fear of the unknown which can manifest in various forms. It might be the apprehension before a significant life event, the persistent worry about trivial things snowballing into catastrophic scenarios, or the uneasiness of meeting new people. When fear intertwines with anxiety, these feelings intensify the emotional response, which often leads to avoidance behaviors and the development of specific phobias.
For example, the jittery anticipation before a big presentation or a fear of public speaking could be rooted in the anxiety of being judged or criticized, and can evolve into a full-blown social phobia. Believe it or not, anxiety can also occur in sexual relationships! In terms of sexual performance anxiety, one study found that adults who belong to Gen Z are having less sex due to high levels of stress and anxiety. With all this in mind, individuals then continue to avoid social interactions altogether which could lead to an unhealthy pattern and a lack of self-confidence.
Similarly, the fear of flying can grow into aviophobia, triggering overwhelming panic attacks at the mere thought of boarding an airplane. This type of anxiety can prevent someone from exploring different countries, having a sense of freedom and achieving their goals.
We often hear our clients say, I never had a negative experience with “______”, where did this phobia come from? Or, I used to just be afraid when “_____” but now it seems everything is anxiety provoking for me. Why? Anxiety often creeps up on us. It starts with an uncomfortable reaction to one thing that then spreads like a virus over time. For example, it may start with a discomfort of small elevators that then becomes anxiety in rush-hour subways that then becomes panic attacks in social settings. How did this escalate so quickly? The subconscious mind is always out to protect us. If I felt a discomfort in a small elevator but exited safely, I am confirming to my subconscious that the discomfort kept me safe. Now my subconscious will want me to have discomfort in closed in places. The discomfort then grows into anxiety. The more I am anxious, the more I am training my subconscious that the anxiety is keeping me safe. And thus, I have done a fabulous job in turning an uncomfortable elevator ride into multiple phobias and anxiety.
Here are some other forms a person can experience a wide range of other anxiety:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common form of anxiety that involves persistent and excessive worry about daily life events, often accompanied by physical sensations such as having difficulty with focus, feelings of muscle tension and restlessness.
Or have you ever felt the sudden flush of embarrassment in a social setting, fearing judgment and scrutiny? Well, that’s social anxiety kicking in which is characterized by an intense fear of social interaction and performance, leaving individuals feeling isolated and misunderstood.
Panic Disorder is marked by sudden and recurring panic attacks, which leads to a fear of experiencing future episodes. People can have pain in their chest, shortness of breath, and a rapid heartbeat accompanying this unexpected surge of terror. Oof!
Then there are specific phobias ranging from fear of spiders, enclosed spaces, and a fear of heights that prompt an intense feeling of anxiety and avoidance behaviors which causes people to go to great lengths to evade these dreaded triggers.
6 Personal Strategies for Managing Anxiety
While navigating anxiety might seem daunting, thankfully, there are several effective strategies that have helped me, and others, in managing these overwhelming emotions. Here are a few tried-and-tested techniques that you can incorporate into your own set of coping strategies:
Mindfulness and Meditation: Cultivating mindfulness through meditation helps in acknowledging anxious thoughts without allowing them to spiral out of control. It allows for a non-judgmental observation of thoughts and feelings, fostering a sense of inner calm and control. Additionally, we are re-educating the mind that the natural mental state is a calm state.
Breathwork and Relaxation: Engaging in deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, helps in alleviating physical tension and calming the nervous system.
This technique (along with meditation) has helped me tremendously when I began feeling claustrophobic when riding the subways in NYC. I usually never felt “nervous” or “scared” to be underground or simply riding on the MTA before – but there are random moments where the feelings of “oh no! I’m stuck inside this train, doors are closed, and it’s crowded with so many commuters. I can’t breathe….” tend to creep up!
The worst is when I’m holding onto a pole surrounded by people towering over me during rush hour (for context, I’m a proud 4’11” new yorker) and there’s just no room to breathe! However, closing my eyes and focusing on deep breathing relaxes me and allows me to take control of my emotions.
Exposure Therapy: Having gradual exposure to feared situations, (recommended to be under the guidance of a trained therapist or professional), can help in desensitizing the mind to specific phobias. This process involves systematically confronting feared stimuli, gradually building resilience and reducing the associated anxiety.
At Self Empowered Minds, one of the most recent success stories we’ve encountered involved one of our clients overcoming their fear of needles through hypnosis! This person noticed a HUGE difference compared to when they first started on day one and can now confidently hold a needle, let alone look at a needle, without flinching or having intense feelings of anxiety.
Hypnosis: Through hypnosis the subconscious mind is being retrained or taught that it is safe when relaxed. As was experienced with our client with the needle phobia, using a combination of hypnosis and exposure therapy, she was able to go from complete panic attacks at the sight of a needle to administering an injection into a stuffed animal. There are countless similar stories with varying phobias and anxieties some of whom received hypnosis sessions through us and some of whom were taught Self Hypnosis through us.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Engaging in CBT assists in identifying and challenging negative thought patterns, replacing them with more constructive and balanced perspectives. This approach helps in restructuring the mind’s response to anxiety-inducing situations.
Physical Exercise and Healthy Lifestyle: Incorporating regular exercise and maintaining a balanced diet can significantly alleviate anxiety symptoms. Physical activity not only releases endorphins, enhancing mood and reducing stress but also fosters a sense of well-being and control.
Support Networks and Open Communication: Sharing one’s struggles with trusted individuals and seeking support from understanding peers or professionals can create a supportive environment that encourages open dialogue and understanding.
Despite these anxious thoughts, it’s essential to remember that healing involves acknowledging setbacks, embracing vulnerability, and celebrating small victories along the way. When we recognize that anxiety, fear, and phobias are part of the human experience, we can foster empathy and self-compassion, paving the way for a journey of self-discovery and growth.
If you’d like to learn effective strategies to achieve positive thinking and overcoming fear and anxiety, Hypnosis in NYC. Want to balance and recharge your mind and body, come see us and treat yourself to relaxing Reiki sessions. And, to continue practicing coping strategies for anxiety, learn how to meditate at Self Empowered Minds. Self Empowered Minds is here to help you strengthen your mind, empower the positive beliefs you have, and help rebuild new patterns in the brain to support healthier habits. Our services support you in the best way possible so you may fill your life to the brim with love, happiness, family, friends, health, wealth, gratitude, and joy.