If you have anxiety then you know what it’s like to worry about health, relationships, responsibilities, saying or doing something embarrassing, or some other dreaded circumstance. Occasionally or maybe all of the time, these worries have caused social withdrawal and sleep irregularities.
The anxiety takes over your body. It can cause heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, sweaty palms, twitching muscles, dry mouth, trouble swallowing, trembling, shakiness, nausea, diarrhea, or fatigue. These symptoms have interfered with functioning at home, work, and socially. Your body feels like a lead balloon. It’s hard to move.
There are times your mind has gone blank. It’s hard to concentrate and focus. You’ve even had feelings of unreality or being detached. You’ve been hyper-vigilant to the point of paranoia. These symptoms have interfered with work performance and relationships. It takes too long to get anything done and you don’t feel connected to anyone.
Knowing how distressing and awful it is to have anxiety why would I suggest optimizing anxiety? Well, let’s look at what I mean by optimize.
What It Means to Optimize
If you look in a dictionary you’ll find that to “optimize” means to make the best or most effective use of something.
Examples of how we already optimize: We optimize our computer by removing unnecessary software or files and downloading updates. We optimize our work environment by removing distractions and using ergonomic furniture. We optimize our body’s limited fuel by eating super seeds like chia, flax and sunflower. We optimize our workout by wearing ankle weights.
What does it mean then, to optimize anxiety? It means using anxiety to improve your life. To make the best or most effective use of anxiety and use it to your advantage. Using anxiety. Not getting rid of it.
Optimize Your Anxiety With These Four Mindsets
Mindset #1 It’s a State of Mind and a Way of Being.
Optimizing anxiety isn’t a five-step action plan. It’s a way of life—a lifestyle. It’s a life long commitment to use anxiety as an advantage. To do everything in your power to not only accept anxiety but embrace it for the rest of your life.
Ask yourself, “What does this anxiety make possible?” Once you understand the advantages of anxiety you can use them to rise up and conquer.
Mindset #2 Change the Way You Think About Anxiety
Anxiety is in your life to motivate not paralyze. Let the anxiety give you the spirit to rise up and make positive change. If you are constrained by your anxiety it’s because you’re treating anxiety as an obstacle.
You’ve convinced yourself you can’t function with anxiety, fear, or worry. That’s not true.
To believe anxiety is keeping you from performing and achieving is a self-imposed limiting belief. You’re limiting yourself by believing anxiety is not only useless but paralyzing.
This is a belief that is reinforced by pharmaceutical advertising and self-help books proclaiming there’s a way to get rid of anxiety. Unfortunately, we’re not taught how to be anxious, we’re taught we ought to be able to get rid of it. That message is wrong! It’s a message that slows you down and robs you of life.
Why do we love to feel anxiety on a rollercoaster ride? It’s because we’ve been socialized to think it’s fun and people raise eyebrows if we don’t ride them. So we’re more likely to try it. We ride the rollercoaster and are scared! Then we turn right around and get back in line to ride it again. In this case we have learned to interpret anxiety as not only wanted, but of benefit. See the power of a mindset?
Mindset #3 Out of the Box Thinking
Step out of your comfort zone and feel the fear. Do one thing every day that scares you. Get creative and re-train your brain that anxiety is invigorating not debilitating. Facing fears makes you strong not weak.
Feel the fear and do it anyway. You do the same thing as you wait in a rollercoaster line. Your anxiety increases when you hear the previous riders getting off exclaiming how scary it was. You read the warning signs and feel more anxiety. There is doubt in the air. There is worry because there is danger. But, you along with everybody else say, “Ah whatever.”
Mindset #4 Life Rewards Action
Focus on the action not the anxiety. Let your core values drive your life, not fear. Let the anxiety be there. Despite the anxiety, do what you want to do. Do what you need to do.
If you’re anxious, say good. This gives me a chance to practice my skills. Then focus on the task at hand and despite the anxiety, keep your attention on what you value…on what truly matters.
Put one foot in front of the other and take baby steps. No matter how you feel keep moving. Life rewards action.
The more you do this the less white-knuckling you’ll have to do. But, be patient. It’s hard at first to embrace anxiety. It’s just not how we’re socialized. But over time you can re-train your brain to soften into the anxiety.
What You Will Discover
- It’s hard to be anxious when you want to be anxious.
- When you soften into the anxiety it softens too.
- The byproduct of learning to tolerate anxiety is less anxiety. It’s not the goal, it’s the bonus.
Where You Might Get Stuck
It’s unpleasant to accept anxiety. You won’t like it. But, how’s resisting anxiety working out? Either way you’ll be anxious. But, only one way will set you free.
You’ll get frustrated when you don’t get an immediate result. You might give up the day before you were just about to get better.
It doesn’t feel right. “Good there’s my worry. There’s my anxiety. I want this.” This is out-of-the-box thinking and doesn’t come naturally. Except on rollercoasters.
How to Make it Real and Take Action
Increase your positivity. Keep a journal of your victories and blessings. Ask yourself, “What does this anxiety make possible?” Don’t expect to free your mind until you figure this out.
Identify 2 or 3 values that will support you in your acceptance of anxiety. Instead of valuing safety and certainty, value adventure and mystery. “This is a situation I can either value finding answers and obtaining certainty, or I can value the mystery and accept not knowing.” It’s a choice. “It’s my choice.”
Remind yourself why you are fighting hard. What are your goals, hopes and dreams? Who will benefit if you fight this fight? If you’re not held back by your anxiety, what could happen? Everything you want is on the other side of fear.
Commit to optimizing anxiety for 3 months. Do one thing every day that scares you. Say, “Good there’s my anxiety. I want this. It’s a great opportunity to practice acceptance.”
Don’t allow frustration to set in. Be ready for the long haul. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Say, “So what. It’ll be hard. I can handle it.”
What does it mean then, to optimize anxiety? It means using anxiety to improve your life. Using anxiety. Not getting rid of it.