I'm not sure where I first heard that saying, but it is something that has resonated with me big time over the years.
"Anxiety is creating problems that don't even exist."
At the time I heard this, my life was a mess. Everything was collapsing around me. My dad was sick. I didn't know where to turn and every where I did turn, it seemed things fell apart.
My monkey mind was on overdrive. I've always had a very active mind. I can get lost in thought tangents that take me all the way down the rabbit hole, imagining 10,000 different outcomes for the same situation. However, during this particular period, I was victim to that monkey mind. I couldn't sleep. My digestion was off because I had little to no appetite. I was physically, and mentally, drained. I was sick and reaching burnout.
What no one ever told me though was that I had full control of those thoughts, that I wasn't a victim to them.
So when I heard 'anxiety is creating problems that don't even exist,' the saying stopped me in my tracks.
Those problems could exist! I had to be prepared for every possible scenario! (Guess what - most of how things turned out wasn't how I imagined it at all, for better or worse. Not in any one of my 10,000 thought tangents of what to prepare for.)
It might seem overly simplistic to say, "Control your thoughts, control your life," but that is the reality.
Is it easy?
You see, our brains and neurons form patterns. If you've been a reader of this blog, you'll know I've talked about the Law of Attraction. The same is true with our thoughts. Like thoughts will attract like thoughts. 'Neurons that fire together, wire together.' (Not sure who first stated that, but again, it's a saying I've heard many times over the years).
What that means for us is if we have negative thought patterns, those negative thoughts will attract more negative thoughts. Likewise for positive thoughts - the more positive thoughts we have, the more positive thoughts we will attract.
It's not easy to change our thoughts because there are so many components that actually impact our mind.
Did you know our gut has as many, or more, neurotransmitters as our brain? So that means that the food we eat literally impacts our thoughts and well-being. Eat like shit. Feel like shit. (Don't believe me? Try eating the S.A.D diet for a week - Standard American Diet. Oops - most of us already are....no wonder we have a population of people who are more sick than ever!)
But I digress....
Our body literally reacts to our thoughts. When our thoughts become anxious, we stop breathing. That means that physically we are now suffocating our body and depriving it off oxygen. What happens when we go without air? Our heart races, our chest hurts, we feel panicked....and when we start to feel those symptoms in our body, our mind amplifies them. "Are we having a heart attack? Something must be wrong or I wouldn't feel this way!"
See the connection?
Anxiety literally creates problems that don't even exist.
It takes practice and awareness to shift things. It takes integrating all aspects of ourselves to function at our best. Western medicine has trained us that the body is segmented into areas and that one area has no impact on the other, but it's simply not true.
We are one being. A problem in one area of the body isn't going to stay confined to that area, because that's how we have studied it. Everything in the body is literally connected to everything else.
And we haven't even touched on the energy body or how spirits and entities may be playing a part...
It might seem overwhelming at all the ways our body and minds our connected, but I find power in that.
No longer am I victim to outside forces (or my monkey mind). I can actually do something about it.....and I did.
I started with one area, went to the next, tried for a month and if that didn't work, looked at something else.
Do you know what happened?
Things did get better.
I was able to sleep. I was able to eat.
Little by little I was able to shift my thoughts from 10,000 outcomes of doom and gloom to thinking about what I actually wanted and all the fun ways that could happen.
And when anxiety does rear it's ugly head, I stop whatever I'm doing and breathe. A deep, life fulfilling breath, drawing that sweet air all the way down to my belly and feeling the air as it moves its way through my body.
By the time I exhale, I'm usually already feeling better. If you can remember, try it for yourself. It's one of the easiest tricks to stopping an anxious thought in its tracks.
Disclaimer - I am not a doctor nor am I attempting to diagnose or prescribe anything. I am simply sharing what I learned and what shifted things for me.
Now, let me start off with the disclosure that I am not a doctor, nor am I attempting to prescribe or diagnose. If you have anxiety or an anxious condition, please see your physician.
I am someone who went through a period of both anxiety and depressive thoughts. There were multiple factors that contributed to both - life situations that were out of my control and I was not equipped to deal with.
The truth of the matter is most of us are not equipped to deal with life, at least we aren't taught tools early on that could properly help us. Much of western medicine is built on treating and eliminating the symptoms, rather than getting to the root of the problem (which creates a whole new set of symptoms and conditions to be treated).
We have no control, simply the illusion of it. Spending all of our time focusing on what could go wrong, imagining worst case scenarios so we can attempt to stop them, imagining what we should have said/done different, all create nothing except stress on our bodies
The more we engage in anxious thinking, the more the body responds. We aren't breathing as deeply, so our body physically becomes deprived of oxygen which triggers a panic/stress response because the body needs more oxygen to function. Since we feel that anxiety in our body now, it continues to reinforce those anxious thoughts.
One of the most important lessons for me was learning that I am in control of my thoughts, not a victim to them.
If you have never, ever, heard this before, you may think I'm full of shit. But it's only because we have never been taught to control our thoughts. Thoughts just happen. Internal chatter happens and we assume (or I assumed) I react to that. We are never taught that we can alter our brain patterns to actually create thoughts that support us.
Is this easy? Hell no. It requires conscious effort, but the benefit is so much peace and ease. Our bodies are relaxed. Life is more enjoyable.
One of the other lessons for me was paying attention to my breathing. When I was feeling anxious, I was not breathing. Since breathing happens all the time for us without conscious thought, it never dawned on me that my body would stop doing it. But our minds are that powerful to influence our body.
I recently experienced this in my own life, but I didn't recognize the feeling until my guy called me out on it.
You see, an opportunity presented itself for me to travel to Hawaii (one of my most favorite places!). I was excited. The fact that I was in a position (financially and personally) to take it was amazing! I've worked for years to have this freedom and flexibility.
But when I told a few friends about the trip, the response was, "weren't you just in Bali?" and "I just saw you were in Detroit." As if those trips were enough for the year and I needed to wait a more acceptable time (whatever that is) to travel again.
Now I understand that most people can only afford to take one big trip per year. They save and plan and live for that time off.
I love to travel. I have dreamed of traveling often my entire life and made choices to support that lifestyle, but I started feeling bad about my ability to follow my dreams.
My guy, ever supportive of all me, is such a blessing. When I told him about the trip (he was actually out of town with limited service, so I had told my friends first), he was excited for me.
Until he noticed my expression. My worry. My guilt. My shame.
He put his arms around me and reminded me to never feel bad for doing things I enjoy. And he reminded me of one of my most important motto's: "No one is ever going to love you more than the way you love you.'
It was exactly what I needed to hear because this is my life. Not my friends. Not my family.
They may share it with me, but they aren't living for me.
If I choose not to go to Hawaii because of guilt, shame, worry about what they thought, the only thing I would be doing is depriving myself of my dream and my happiness.
They may be happy that I didn't go, but it would be fleeting. And the time I would have spent away would likely not be spent with them. There would have been no advantage to my saying no to this trip, other than to seek their verbal approval of how to live my life.
It's also impossible to make others happy, the really fulfilling, deep happiness that does exist when we honor ourselves and love ourselves enough to pursue our dreams.
We should not feel guilty or ashamed for our choices because they aren't what someone else can choose. That's like choosing not to eat because there are people starving across the world. Our decision not to eat is only going to bring starvation and illness upon ourselves; it won't actually do anything for all those who are starving across the world.
Not choosing for ourselves is not going to change anything in someone else's reality either. Whatever choices they made, they will still have to live with.
Misery loves company, so it's easier to keep people down to a level that doesn't make them feel bad about themselves for not doing better. Because if we succeed by following our dreams, it throws in a question that they could have the same if they had the courage to pursue it.
It's way easier to give in to fear and live with in our (un)comfort zone, than it is to be courageous and step into the unknown. It's easier to allow guilt, shame and worry to dictate our actions because we want to fit in and are afraid to stand out. If we stand out, we might lose people in our lives.
But those who really love us will always support us and want the best for us, even if they can't have it for themselves.
There are likely very few people who would fully admit to being the bad guy.
Most of us, whether it's a racist point of view or a difference of opinion with family, will justify and defend our point of view as the 'right' way. We would likely consider ourselves good people, who simply want others to agree with us and align with our belief, so that the world would be a better place.
So who is the bad guy?
It's pretty easy to see in movies and on television. But if you ask a member of the KKK if he considers himself a bad guy, he would likely say no, defend his viewpoints and argue that he is trying to make the world a better place based on his beliefs (which are not bad or wrong to him). If you ask a black person if a member of the KKK is a bad guy, the answer would be a resounding yes.
Here is where most of us get stuck. Most of us are unwilling to look beyond our beliefs and points of view.
No one wants to be the bad guy. Most people hate to be wrong and most people want to avoid feeling bad.
It's easier to defend the rightness of our point of view and beliefs than it is to question and admit that perhaps we made a mistake.
The more emotionally charged a topic, the more likely we are to cling to our rightness and our reasons/justifications/beliefs.
But questioning ourselves and our beliefs is actually the most powerful gift we can give to ourselves.
If we don't go into the shame and guilt of being wrong, and simply admit that there might be another way, we actually leave room to create what it is we truly desire.
Instead of spending our energy defending our beliefs and trying to convince everyone why we are right, we actually create a space to have something different.
I recently went through this myself. Maybe you noticed there wasn't a blog last week. Maybe you didn't. I had to take some time to re-calibrate and re-group for myself because I had over-committed and over-extended myself.
I could have powered through, pushed out some half-assed shit to get it done, justified why I was right in saying yes to so many things, defended my reasons for going, going, going. I could have blamed everyone for asking me to do everything (couldn't they do it themselves or find someone else?).
Instead I chose to stop. I admitted to myself I made a mistake. I was making everyone else more important than me. I no longer blame anyone for asking me to do anything because I always have the choice to say no. They are not responsible, nor should they be blamed, for my choice to say yes.
I took a week to re-assess and get things in order so I could start again. Stopping to admit I was wrong in how I was handling my life at the moment created the space for me to actually look at solutions on how to change it to create what it is I truly want.
This is a minor example and less emotionally charged than the examples mentioned earlier. Yet, the core truth remains the same. It's just that our emotions and our need to be right cloud out everything except what we believe is true.
I have noticed a trend around certain topics where there is almost a knee-jerk emotional response that doesn't leave any room for discussion. It's either this or that. Right or wrong. Good or bad.
Life is not so clear cut. There are many, many, many shades of gray. But more and more people are clinging to this dichotomy of it has to be this or that. And if you are not this, you are automatically that (which is likely not even true, it's just a story we made it up to defend the rightness of our point of view and belief).
Where are we defending ourselves? What do we actually want to create?
We are more divided than ever and the saying is true that divided we fall, united we stand. What might change if we decided to look at what is we really want, rather than using our reasons and emotions to defend a point of view about it? What might change if we admitted that maybe we are wrong and life isn't the dichotomy we are making it out to be?
I tried to fit in to this reality; I did everything I was 'supposed' to do: went to college, got a job, bought a house. And I was absolutely miserable. It was went I lost everything that I found the greatest gift. I found myself. I went back to my roots and explored all things 'hooey,' weird, and 'out there.' I embraced my psychic gifts and started using my intuition again, which allowed me to re-discover the magic and mystery that does exist in this life (when we are brave enough to embrace it).