You wouldn’t know it to meet me today, but I suffered from chronic anxiety for most of my life from childhood on, and from panic attacks in my 20’s. When my parents took me to the doctor about my persistent stomach aches when I was about seven years old, the doctor diagnosed me as having a “nervous stomach”. That pretty much described the situation, but the solution was a prescription for an anti-spasmodic pharmaceutical and Miltown, the precursor to Valium. Uh really?
I managed that nervous stomach throughout my childhood and teenage years and begged off from school only occasionally when it got too bad. Despite that, I was a good student, had lots of friends, had lots of fun. Just hated those stomach aches and that nervousness/anxiety.
When I was in my 20s I got married, had a baby and moved away from my hometown, in that order. Once I was settled in my new city and began making new friends, I also started on a path of spiritual exploration that took me pretty far pretty fast, from my Catholic upbringing and education. I went to lectures, I read books, I talked to friends, and things started changing in my life pretty quickly. In fact, looking back, I know they changed way too quickly, and that’s when the anxiety attacks started.
You know the kind where you feel like you are going to disappear or die? Yeah, that’s the kind I had. One I remember very vividly happened when I was sitting in a Howard Johnson’s with my husband and baby girl, a yummy hot fudge sundae in front of me, and suddenly all I knew to do was grip my spoon as tightly as possible, close my eyes and wait it out. It was horrible. And the last thing I wanted to do was freak out my baby girl, so I kept very still and very quiet, and wished I could just roll up into a ball and find relief until it was over.
As you know, if you wait, the panic attack does go away. Until the next one. And the next one. And then there’s kind of a snowball effect of fear on top of anxiety and depression that sets in when you believe that you’re going to have to experience this for the rest of your life….or go crazy. I know you know what I mean.
What I’m going to outline here are some steps to take that have been the ones that I’ve taken throughout my life that brought me to the point many years ago of being completely and totally free of anxiety…unless of course something horrible is about to happen, in which case it’s totally normal! ☺
And before I do that, just in case you’re thinking there might be a connection between starting on a spiritual path and beginning to experience high anxiety and panic attacks, let me tell you that for some of us there IS that connection. And in case you’re wondering if because of that connection, I got the heck off of the spiritual path and stopped inquiring and investigating and learning and expanding, the answer to that would be a great big NO!! I am more devoted now to my spiritual path than I ever was in those early days, or in all of the years in between, which at this point total over 40 years since I began this adventure. So yeah, I’m an old hand at the spiritual adventure, and at overcoming anxiety to live a peaceful life, with a peaceful belly, and a peaceful mind. Ahhhh…… And that’s what I want for you.
So here are my tips for recovering from anxiety:
Learn To Meditate. For me, I learned TM/ Transcendental Meditation and within eight weeks of practicing that kind of meditation I never, ever had another panic attack. You can learn this technique in a book called The Relaxation Response by Dr. Herbert Benson. I am not saying that this is what will happen for you, but it WILL make a difference, that I do say with certainty. At this point, there is more than a ton of research about this method and the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual benefits. I’m a 40+ year practitioner of TM, myself!
Get Some Professional Help. For me, It was psychotherapy and spiritual teachers, for a good long time. These days you can go the traditional route, or you can look for spiritual coach or spiritual mentor which, in the end might take less time. But in my opinion, you need to work with someone who has experienced anxiety and overcome it. I think you probably get that.
Get A Handle On Your Thoughts. Start listening to the thoughts that you think, and understand that you actually have a whole lot more control over them than you might imagine. Your thoughts create your feelings. So without getting paranoid, examine what you’re thinking and how catastrophizing might be leading to your chronic anxiety. As you begin to examine your thoughts, they begin to slow down and then you can start choosing different ones, even if you have to do that over and over and over until you groove in a new neural pathway in your brain. The work of Dr. Albert Ellis is a good place to start.
Try Some WHAT IF…? Questions. This is a method I created that really nailed the coffin shut on my anxiety. I did it during a time that things felt very out of control in my life. Think about how often you ask yourself a “What If…?” question that offers the possibility of something bad or even awful happening, something painful, something that will make you suffer. What I was inspired to do was to take each one of those negative possibilities and turn it over into a wildly positive possibility. Remember, these are your thoughts and if you’re making up thoughts that scare you and make you worry, you might just as well make up thoughts that make you feel hopeful and happier. I used the phrase WHAT IF…? to keep it like a gentle suggestion, so that your ego doesn’t balk too much at it. You can find more about this here
Learn To Trust Life. I know this is a tall order for some of you, especially if you’ve been dealing with chronic anxiety, or severe anxiety, for a long time. But it is absolutely essential. Why? Because whether you like it or not, life is going to unfold on life’s terms, not your terms. So you kinda do need to get over it! Now that may sound harsh, but adjusting to this reality, accepting it, and flowing with it will not only bring you less anxiety and more peace, you’ll end up having a much better time! I have found that listening to audios by the spiritual teachers Abraham-Hicks to be very helpful over the past twenty-some years.
Accept Your Highly Sensitive Nature. I think I’m kind of saving the best for last…or what I think could turn out to be the most ‘key’ piece of the puzzle. My theory is that most of the people who suffer the most with anxiety have the most sensitive nervous systems. Since I’ve learned about this, it’s not only worked wonders for me and my clients and my students, but there are books being written about it, workshops offered, etc., and the available information is helping a lot of people. Statistics show that roughly 30% of the general population are Highly Sensitive People ( this definitely runs in my family.) HSP for short. I created a class that I call Sacred Self Care for Highly Sensitive People that teaches you exactly how to care for yourself and your sensitive nature whole lot better for a whole lot less nervousness, anxiety, and discomfort. I offered this class live twice and now, for your convenience it is an ONLINE COURSE with membership in a private Facebook Group.
Now obviously some of these tips are going to require that you get help from others. And that’s a good thing, especially if you been suffering for a long time with anxiety and haven’t found a solution that really works for you. You are worth it, and you don’t have to do this alone.
Some of the other tips are things you can do on your own and are very empowering, validating, and in the end, very healing.
I’m writing this short article because I know that there are millions of you out there still suffering from anxiety, and that there are ways to heal and get relief from this. I know how meaningful it has been in my life to be able to release the anxiety and be much more peaceful and trusting of life, no matter what happens. It’s a real game changer. I never have that nervous stomach anymore and haven’t in decades; I don’t worry obsessively; I’ve learned how to shield myself from energies around me that would make me anxious; and I know how and when to set limits and boundaries with certain people for the same reason. It’s all about self-respect, self-love, self-care, and learning that you CAN do this! And I want you to experience that same kind of relief.
So please leave your comments here on the blog and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you might have, and I thank you very much for reading this article.
As always, I hope you **::**SPARKLE**::**
Love you, Bless you,
Janice Masters, The Shaman Mama