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Dr. Steve Taubman is the bestselling author of UnHypnosis and creator of Procrastination Annihilation. His latest book, Buddha in the Trenches, teaches professionals how to perform well under pressure. He is a world class speaker who has dedicated his life to showing people how to thrive through their challenges. He's written extensively on the application of contemplative practices in stressful situations and has spoken worldwide on mindset mastery for goal-oriented and helping professionals.
I've struggled with anxiety all my life. As a health care professional, a mindfulness coach, and a hypnotist, I've studied anxiety from every angle. I've tried everything on myself before sharing it with others, and everything here works. As it turns out, there are both short term and long term solutions to the grip of anxiety. This article focuses on some of the short term solutions.
When anxiety strikes, it fills up the senses. Very little else gets in when your body and mind are in the grips of anxiety. It's sheer torture. When it's associated with a particular activity, that activity ceases to provide any joy or pleasure, and when it's severe enough, one becomes immobilized by it, unable to do anything useful. Although the root causes of anxiety can't be resolved in that terrible moment of panic, there are things you can do to minimize its impact and maximize your chances for a graceful and rapid exit from it. Here are a few...
1. Appropriate distance... whatever is the immediate trigger for your anxiety will keep holding you down as long as you're in its clutches. Sure, if you were stronger and less emotional, that thing wouldn't bother you, but this isn't the time to beat yourself up with self judgements. This is the time for retreat. It may just be a few minutes in a bathroom stall, or a walk around the block, but your first action must be one of self preservation. Remove yourself from the thing that's making you feel anxious...and DON'T beat yourself up about it. Think of it as first aid. It's the right thing to do, and it doesn't say anything about you as a person other than that you have compassion for your own suffering.
2. Be your best friend...force yourself to think of positive things about you and to say them out loud, repeatedly if necessary. Remember, anxiety feeds on itself, and if you can think positive thoughts, you'll break the cycle of feeling anxious about feeling anxious. Don't expect this to make the initial feeling go away. Otherwise, you'll keep judging your inability to feel better and triggering a whole new cycle of negative thoughts. All you're doing here is stemming the tide of the next wave of anxiety, preventing yourself from being anxious about being anxious. Just do this step without expecting anything to happen and you're on the right track.
3. Get physical. Anxiety is actually more of a body thing than a mind thing. Your mind is just reacting to your body, interpreting all the unpleasant sensations as some kind of reflection of who you are. When you stay in your head, trying to figure something out or fix something, you make it worse. If you're anxious, stop working, stop surfing the web, stop talking to yourself about how miserable you are. That won't work. But, if you treat anxiety as a physical condition, you can often break it by walking briskly, jumping up and down, breathing deeply, or even drinking water. One of the best remedies for anxiety is sleep. If you're not well rested, you're much more likely to fall prey to your anxiety. Avoid stimulants. Caffeine will only intensify your feelings of anxiety. If you're prone to anxiety, wean yourself off it completely.
4. Have an anxiety buddy... anxiety usually comes with shame. We feel anxious, and then we judge ourselves for feeling that way. So, we hide out in it, suffering in silence and trying to pretend we're not feeling it. When you have someone in whom you can confide, you can pick up the phone and tell that person that you're anxious. They don't need to say anything or fix it. Just being heard is a huge help because it breaks the cycle of shame.
5. Finally, stop identifying with your anxiety. Think of it as an invading presence. It's not you. It's just a very unpleasant feeling that's taken up residence inside you. Pick one small part of it, maybe a place of tension in your throat or stomach, and just watch that one area. Focus on it. Don't fight what you feel, just soften to it. Breathe into it. Notice how it shifts and changes. And recognize that through it all, you're still there watching. You are more than your anxiety.
There are lots of long term solutions for anxiety, and although no single one will make it evaporate completely, having a process will make a huge difference. But while you're busy with the long game, make sure that you avoid anxiety by... =Eating better... more vegetables and alkaline foods minimize anxiety =Drinking more water... being well hydrated helps flush the toxins that irritate your mind and body =Having the courage to remove yourself from anxiety provoking situations =Having someone to talk to when you're anxious to help you let it go =Avoiding too much screen time. Mindless consumption of data has an irritating effect on your system, and it's addictive =Practicing non-resistance, choosing to rest or sleep rather than struggle and strain