Anxiety, quite literally, stinks! People with anxiety describe neutral smells as bad smells. The reason is their emotional system becomes a part of their olfactory processing system. No wonder the expression ‘life stinks’ is so popular.
Anxiety today is a very big deal, especially in developed countries. Some estimates put anxiety disorders at 40 million people suffering in America alone.
The crappy part of it is that anxiety is completely treatable. But only 34% get any form of treatment. This would be far lesser in other parts of the world. There is such a stigma attached to getting help for a mental disorder. Yet we would run to the doctor for a common cold.
The bouts of anxiety that we face once in a while are normal and very common.
That quickening of the heart, thump thump thump, that shortness of breath, that confusion of the mind, sweaty palms, those pesky butterflies in the stomach. All with a generous helping of fear.
Sounds familiar? Has it happened to you? It happens to all of us! You are not alone. Sometimes it’s a passing feeling for a few minutes or an hour. Sometimes it lasts for a few days. This is called “free-floating anxiety”.
It’s not caused by anything, it’s often very hard to pinpoint the reason for it. E.g. if you have arachnophobia and you see a spider you have a direct cause for the anxiety. Not so in this case.
While the free-floating anxiety is normal. It can start to disrupt lives very easily if not taken care of.
Work and education can start to suffer. The desire to perform is diminished. With your mind preoccupied there is no way, you can complete the tasks effectively. Overall you feel low energy and lethargic.
For others, it’s their relationships that suffer. It is very hard to maintain that love, safe space and connect with a partner going through this.
But the absolute worst effect is that of your overall health and life quality declining. The feeling of hopelessness keeps you from wanting to work on yourself. This, in turn, makes the problem worse. It becomes a never-ending loop or a catch 22.
The key is to break out of this loop and offer yourself some temporary relief, then you can put in more energy to getting better.
At this point, it must be said that I am not a medical professional or a mental health professional. You must always seek their guidance to cure yourself.
What I can offer you is a temporary “Band-aid”. A four-step protocol to help you get out of this feeling. It consists of three introspective steps and 1 breathing exercise. Together I call this the anti-anxiety habit.
Do this as soon as you see the signs of anxiety coming on.
Step 1: Ask yourself if you have had any stimulants recently. Many people overdose on coffee, they are poor coffee metabolisers and this brings on a feeling of anxiety. Sometimes energy drinks and Pre-workout drinks can cause this. As well as Tea. If the answer is yes. Then this could be a cause…drink a lot of water…do a few jumping jacks and don’t make the same mistake again. I have gone through this in the past.
Step 2: Ask yourself if there are any incompletions that you are subconsciously worried about. A phone call you had to return. A project paper that is due. A presentation to an audience. I remember feeling this way before recording the first podcast. That entire morning was palms sweaty and heart beating fast. Till I realized why it was happening.
Step 3: Ask yourself have you eaten anything out of the ordinary? Very often food that doesn’t agree with us can cause similar effects to anxiety. Having rubbish food will make you feel blah. If this is the case, immediately pop 2 activated charcoal tablets.
Step 4: No matter what the cause of the anxiety, always do this breathing exercise. It is called the Box Breath and is taught to navy seals to be able to remain calm in the middle of a gunfight!
Sit with one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Now while breathing in, push gently on the hand resting on the belly so that the belly expands. While breathing out the belly should move in.
The box breath technique consists of 4 seconds of breathing in, 4 seconds of holding the in-breath, 4 seconds of breathing out, 4 seconds of holding the out-breath. I will explain in another podcast how to do this breath and practice it when you aren’t in a state of anxiety.
With each breath, repeat these 3 words in your mind. “I am Safe, I am safe, I am safe”.
This technique has helped many of my clients and I wanted to share this with you because I feel there is so much joy in the world. In order to discover that joy, taming this anxiety is key!
So your anti-anxiety habit is to follow these four steps every time you start noticing the anxiety coming up. 1) Stimulants 2) Incompletions 3) Rubbish food 4) box breath while saying “I am safe”.