Anxiety is a splendid thing: a biological cocktail of self-protection mechanisms and a dark externality of a precarious world.
In these globally unsure times, some of us more often react in panic—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Even though we consider ourselves conscious, developed individuals, some of us default to fear and powerlessness when faced with struggle.
I am one of those people.
Anxiety, for me, has been a constant effort of discipline and patience. I know that even when I find the strength to conquer something new and frightening, the next challenge will likely bring up the exact same responses. Luckily. through this cycle of stress and achievement, I’ve learned a set of valuable lessons. Namely, that by focusing on the achievements I’ve had through overcoming my fears, rather than the next stressful situation, I can often find the motivation needed to take action once again.
Here are the places I’ve been and the lessons I’ve learned by not letting fear have the upper hand over me:
1. Center Stage
As a child, I loved to perform. I would receive a sublime sense of accomplishment acting, dancing, or singing in front of others. Unfortunately, a fear of failure soon replaced my passion, and now as a professional I often react in extreme ways to the thought of being the center of attention. These reactions include shaking, sweating, obsessing and avoiding stressful situations altogether.
Lesson: At their core, our body’s reactions to fear are not dangerous. In fact, they are a sign that we are in a heightened state, and ready for anything. A drama teacher once told me to use my physical nerves as motivation. Rather than trying to defeat my body’s reactions, he challenged me to use them as fuel.
Take action: Next time you are feeling the physical symptoms of fear, take a moment, breathe deep, jump up and down, scream into a pillow, and remind yourself that these symptoms can just as easily be used as fuel to fire you!
2. The Bottom of the Ocean & The Top of the Mountain
When I left to backpack through Asia in my mid 20s, I promised myself two things: I would get my scuba diving open water certification and I would climb Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. Well, I boarded strange buses, ventured off the beaten path, and ate bizarre concoctions of color and aroma, but I found that as a solo traveler, I was crippled by the thought of overcoming the larger challenges alone.
Lesson: We can’t always know why something scares us, but we are not solitary creatures and we are surrounded by support, even if we can’t always see it. When I’m feeling most trapped, I pray for support. Every time I do, comfort, strength, and assistance eventually come my way.
Take action: Be honest, clear, and committed, but always ask for help. Being in pain is actually a powerful place to be. When blind faith and conviction is all we have, we become willing to make the changes necessary to see possibilities we wouldn’t have otherwise.
3. The Highest Rung of the Ladder
The workplace has been a battleground of enduring anxiety for me. The speed of business and the fear of speaking my mind has left me feeling stuck professionally. Pride in my work can easily become entitlement and unhappiness if I’m not honest with myself and my colleagues. After all, if we work hard, shouldn’t we just be rewarded accordingly?
Lesson: Asking for what you want often gets you exactly what you want. It’s not forward or pushy to be true to your needs as a human being and express them. But don’t expect others to know your needs for you. Find the courage to stand your ground and you will be rewarded with the lightness of honesty.
Take action: Plan ahead, be prepared, and be honest. Determine the things you know are necessary to be truly happy in the workplace and promise yourself to not waver—write them down 100 times or sign a contract with yourself if you have to! Then speak them, read them, or send them in an email.
4. The End of the Aisle
Soon I will walk down the aisle and commit my life to the man who is my soul mate. But I’ve faced countless fears my entire life to get here. Commitment, expectation, and the changing landscape of love come up time and time again. I often obsess over being seen as perfect rather than focusing on being an equal partner worthy of love.
Lesson: When we fall deeply in love, it can feel as though the world revolves around our partner. It’s possible to think so highly of another that we want to embody them and we elevate them above us, putting them on a pedestal. As beautiful as it is, this can create a lack in us too—highlighting what they have that we don’t. To develop a truly respectful and healthy relationship, we must come together as equals.
Take action: Use visualization to reinforce equality. In meditation, visualize yourself standing across from your partner at equal heights. Next visualize a cord connecting you, exchanging energy between your hearts. Know that you are worthy of equal love and that only in true love would you not be able to disappoint someone by just being your true self.
Author: Trevor Ellestad
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: CI W P via Flickr.