Anxiety

Overcoming Anxiety

Last week, I posted my first video blog. It was terrifying – and it took me all day to get it done because I wanted to avoid it. The topic of the video was overcoming anxiety, and today’s post is the written version of that video.

How can you overcome your anxiety to do something that terrifies you, or something that you want to do but may be hesitant to do?

1) Assess your reaction.

What is your initial reaction? Where do you feel it? Is it in your chest? Stomach? Sweaty palms? Shortness of breath? What are your physical reactions?

Once you notice where you feel the panic, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Imagine the breath reaching those places where you feel the stress. Imagine fresh clean air cleansing your stomach, your heart. Shake out your arms and hands, legs and feet. Wherever you are feeling the stress, focus on releasing the tension.

2) Ask yourself WHY this is your reaction.

Do you feel unsafe? Is the thing you are about to do life threatening in anyway? Perhaps you are going skydiving for the first time and you are terrified – hell, I would be. What is it that terrifies you?

For me, recording myself and making a video is terrifying because I don’t like the sound of my voice. I don’t like the way I look on a camera. I know I get nervous and stumble over my words. And at the root of it: I had a terrible experience public speaking as a child. I mispronounced a word – Plymouth … I said PLY-MOUTH – and that quickly became my nickname in middle school. It was so humiliating that it stuck with me all these years later. And to put myself out there again in that manner is like standing naked center stage during the Superbowl Sunday Halftime show. No one would ever want to do that. And so I avoid it at all possible costs.

3) Ask yourself “What is true in this moment?”

And I have to credit Michelle Chalfant from the Adult Chair Podcast for this question. She challenges her clients who are catastrophizing a situation to ask themselves: What is true? Not “what is the story you are telling yourself” – What is true?

Here’s the difference:

Last week, the story I was telling myself was that I was going to make a fool of myself. That I was going to record this video and people would watch and laugh and make fun of me. That it was immediately going to be a flop.

But that’s the story. When I stopped and asked myself what was true, I discovered that in that moment, the only thing that was true was that I was nervous. That I was asking myself to do something new and outside of my comfort zone. And I also recognized that yes, it is possible the video would suck. BUT, it would be my first video, and no one is a professional the first time they do anything. What is true for me in this moment is that I am doing something I have never done before, and I am a beginner. End of story.

But also, the other truth is that I have over a decade of experience public speaking. As shocking as that may sound. I have thirteen years experience as an educator. A teacher. I stood in front of a classroom every day for thirteen years, and continue to do it as an education consultant. By asking this question, I realized that my nerves were unfounded.

4) Check in with WHY you are doing it.

Ask yourself: Is this something that is going to help me create the life I want to live? Over the last few months, I have been attempting to make lasting change in my life, and one of the ways I keep myself moving forward is by asking myself if what I am doing/avoiding/saying/being is helping me to create that lasting change. And I have to tell you, it might be the single most powerful question when I am trying to make a decision.

Is this something that is going to help me create the life I want to live?

Because the answer makes the decision simple. If what I am about to do doesn’t serve a bigger purpose – if it doesn’t help move me forward – I need to consider if I should agree to do it.

And last week, when I asked myself that question, the answer was an astounding YES. I have this goal – a goal that only one of my closest friends, and now ALL OF YOU, knows. I have a dream of giving a TED Talk one day. About what? I have no idea. But I want to do something so meaningful that I can give a TED Talk about it. And if I can’t make a simple video blog, how can I expect to get on stage in front of actual people? And so, the decision was becoming more and more clear to me. I absolutely must do this video.  

5) Determine what you need to feel prepared.

Do you need a pep-talk from a close friend or your spouse? Do you need to do more research to increase your comfortability with the knowledge you are sharing? Do you need to practice a presentation until your delivery is more natural? Or, like me today, do you need to script out your every word for the video you are to record?

I hope that these tips and questions will help you to overcome whatever anxiety you might be holding on to. As Heather, Pete, from It’s A Lovely Life and my ever loving fiancé, Tyler, said: you can’t grow unless you get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Typically, when anxiety strikes, it’s difficult to remember our tools. I want to help you in those moments, so I’ve created a FREE cheat sheet that you can hang in a place you will see often. The more we practice, the better we become. Enter your name and email address to receive your FREE copy today!

What are you avoiding? Why? What can you do to help you move yourself forward?

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