Your stress and anxiety levels have an important message for you. They do. But when you stop listening to them or forget how, they must scream a little louder to get your attention. And they will.
Chronic stress and anxiety are one of our greatest health enemies. When stress is experienced (even low-grade) for long periods of time, it can damage our organs and our quality of life, not only surfacing in emotional anguish but also the ensuing inflammation that is at the root of pretty much all disease. Our body releases stress hormones as a way to help us escape physically endangering situations, but when it is being released consistently (even though we are not in physical danger), it wreaks havoc on our bodies and spirits.
As an actor, I was anxious pretty much every day; on the edge, and afraid of falling behind, or worse, into a bottomless pit that only my animal instinct could really understand. I would play the “what if?” game with pretty much every aspect of my life until I was a jangle of nerves, unable to control any number of scenarios I would dream up. Bring on the wine!!!
In “what if?” land, I envisioned losing respect, people, acceptance, accomplishment and eventually identity. It had become so pervasive that it was my normal. Because it was my normal and because I thought I deserved to feel that way if I wanted to “succeed,” I surrounded myself with people who brought on those feelings.
This stress led me to desperately tried to numb out and fill the void of bubbling anxiety, with booze, noodles, to-do lists, weight loss goals! As the to-do list and my waistline would grow (stress hormones cause us to store fat), more anxiety and self-punishment would surface. My life was incredibly blessed but my experience of it was not.
Then, I realized my anxiety had a super important message for me and the reason it wasn’t going away had everything to do with my being unwilling to hear it and be present with its message.
Now as a health coach, incorporating this paradigm shift into my client’s health journey has become key. We work together to help decode this anxiety and start living life in a different way. As one of the byproducts of this less stressed life, bodies become slimmer, skin becomes clearer, feelings of calm contentment and expansion arise and opportunities emerge where they were previously unseen.
Our stress and anxiety can serve as an incredibly accurate compass. They surface because our intuition is asking for our presence (and it may just have something to do with how we are choosing to live our life).
Here’s what your stress may be saying (when you have ignored it for a while and it’s getting sassy):
1) Please stop pretending. Tell your truth.
So much of the time, we pretend things are cool when they really aren’t. We pretend not to care about things that actually deeply upset us.
We pretend we are okay. We pretend we aren’t hurt. We pretend we’re not scared. We pretend and forget how to listen to ourselves. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)
Here’s where we get into trouble though…we can’t lie to our bodies! (Hence why lie detectors work). Our body knows when we are pretending so we don’t have to DEAL with the consequences of our truth, emotionally risk and walk through uncomfortable feelings. Pretending lets us off the hook from taking responsibility for our lives and we wind up desperately trying to control the things we CAN’T actually control instead of the things we can. The more we lie to ourselves, the more our truth gnaws at us, and if it needs take it to the next level, it will.
2) The SHOULDS and SHOULD NOTS are suffocating us. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)
Using either word implies past or future failure, and when it is used, it is a sure fire sign that we are attempting to live life by someone else’s rules. By using it, we immediately lets ourselves off the hook for taking responsibility for our choices. We all have a thousand SHOULDS swimming through our mind. The kicker is, we don’t follow through with most of them but DO give ourselves a hard time. Bring on the anxiety!
Make a list of all the SHOULDS in your life, and replace them with COULDS (it opens up a lot more possibility). Choose what you are going to follow through with (from a place of honesty and integrity) and let go of the rest. If you feel like you shouldn’t have done something and you hurt someone, then apologize, get complete with it, deal with it. Let it go.
3) I know you think that you can control this with your Jedi mind-tricks, but you are gravely mistaken.
Ever had the experience of trying to control something that is out of your control? It sucks! I used to deal with this with acting all the time. After the audition, I would obsessively check my phone and email, dying for the validation that I got the gig and could give myself permission to “feel enough” that day. The only problem was, I was putting emotional effort into something that was completely beyond my control and creating my own hell. When experiencing anxiety, ask yourself, “Is this within my control or out of my control?” If it is not within your control, let it go. If it is within your control in that moment, take the reigns. If it is in your control later, put a rock-solid date with yourself to deal with it on your calendar…and stick to it.
Which leads me to the last point….
4) Choose what IS, not what ISN’T.
“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” ~Buddhist Proverb
When we resist what is happening and what IS, we create and feed our own suffering. When we accept what is happening that is beyond our control (sickness, the current state of our bank account, an ended relationship, death of a loved one, not getting the job, weight gain), it can be insanely anxiety producing. Our hearts scream “This isn’t the way it is SUPPOSED to be!” and we fight it. We are not willing to own that it is indeed happening. When we accept what IS, we can start to walk through it and heal. Sometimes, this moment of what IS leads us to create a new possibility for ourselves (a loving and connected relationship, celebrating a loved one’s life, a new relationship with our bodies, getting on board with support) but we can’t do that until we fully accept what IS and let go of what WAS.
By starting to connect with ourselves authentically, tell our truth and release control, we can actually start to walk through life with a sense of ease and stay in the present moment.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
~Laozi (Taoist philosopher)
I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below. What are you having most trouble letting go of?
Rock On and Be Well,