Are you a Worrier? 4 Tips for Lessening Anxiety

Dear AmyK,
Is it possible to be addicted to worry? As an entrepreneur, I’m no longer filled with excitement. Instead, I find myself constantly stressed about the next deal, making payroll, a team member leaving. My stress is affecting my creativity and positivity.
Any insights would be appreciated.
Anxious Addict

Dear Anxious Addict,
I worry about you Worriers. Anxiety Addiction is real, both physically and mentally, and wreaks havoc on your body and all those bodies around you. Worry comes from the old English word wyrgan: to strangle. When anxious, you cut off your ability to breathe and respond with mindfulness – you no longer live in the present moment. To lessen anxiety it’s important to understand how it differs from fear. Fear is an emotional state that happens in response to a perceived threat. Anxiety is an emotional state that arises with an anticipated threat. What’s fascinating is that whether you perceive a threat in real-time or simply anticipate one, your brain produces the same chemical cocktail in your body to get an identical physiological response. Your body then gets addicted to this heightened state of toxic thoughts and chemicals, and it creates a pernicious loophole.

To lessen anxiety and lull the loophole, sit down, take off your shoes (yes, I’m serious) plant your feet solidly on the ground, pull your shoulders back, take a deep breathe – sucking air in through your nose and out through your mouth – and ask yourself four questions:

1. What are my cray-cray contemplations?
Noticing the actual thoughts and mental machinations coursing through your mind helps you to take hold of them. If you need to, write them down. Are you planning out worst-case scenarios? Berating yourself or others with snarky peanut-gallery commentary? Are you besieged with horrible visual images? Are you role-playing stress inducing scenarios? Stop. Breathe. Notice. Name.

2. Where does vulnerability reside in my body?
Noticing your body’s response to these thoughts helps you locate, understand, and address the physiological component of the loophole. When you think the thoughts you listed above, how does your body respond? Do a scan. Hold one of your anxiety inducing thoughts in your mind and then notice your neck, shoulders, chest, diaphragm, belly, arms, hands, groin, thighs, shins, feet, and your toes. Try not to sing the Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes diddy while you do it. What sensations are you physically experiencing in response to this specific thought?

3. What compassion may I offer my vulnerability?
Many people think this question is “woowoo” (new agey b.s. rather than rational or scientific). It’s not. When you interrupt your anxiety inducing thought with a compassionate one, your kindness influences the signals your brain sends out. No longer do you have stress producing stories. In its place, your brain responds with calming hormones that allow your muscles to unclench. So offer some mental sympathy to yourself by providing comforting messages that you would use to support somebody you care about.

4. What’s a less anxious thought that I still believe to be true?
It takes some serious work to turn thoughts around. For now, mix up your musings with a less painful anticipatory story. For example, My team members are going to quit unless I give them all a raise and I can’t afford raises right now, is a fantastic thought to get your heart racing, your blood pressure rising, and your hand reaching for the chocolate bar you know you tucked away in the back of your drawer.

Take off your shoes. Take a deep breath. When you think the cray-cray contemplation – My team members are going to quit unless I give them all a raise and I can’t afford raises right now – how do you feel? Locate the sensations your body experiences in response to this stress-inducing thought. Are your shoulders rising, your jaw clenching, your back seizing up? Breathe, thank this body part for communicating its stress and ask yourself: What compassion may I offer my vulnerability? You then offer yourself the following kindness: You’re smart. You’re kind. There’s more here to retain top talent than just money. It’s normal to fear that good talent will leave, and they might. Some good people leave. BUT – I have found great talent. I can find great talent again. It may not be fun, or easy, but I’ll survive. I’m pretty darn good at figuring stuff out. Okay jaw – you can unclench – yep, relax a little. You’ll find the right words for your team members. Now ask yourself, What’s a less anxious thought that I still believe to be true? You think: My team is not leaving. I’m offering a great environment with perks that talented people appreciate and value. With this new, less-painful thought, your positivity will also be a beacon for attracting and retaining top talent, and when you surround yourself with upbeat, positive and talented individuals, it’s only natural to be your best, creative selves.

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