Although the process of setting up a private practice wasn’t that challenging (everything seemed to flow in my direction and having a wife who is a graphic designer helps a lot), I still experienced a high level of anxiety and dysfunctional thoughts. Where was all this coming from? Most of us develop these irrational belief systems in early childhood. They become an ingrained part of our subconscious minds and keep blocking us from achieving our full potential. My main debilitating belief during this transitional period was “I am not good enough”. This is a very popular one among many of us and it had to be addressed multiple times in my life.
My main debilitating belief during this transitional period was “I am not good enough”.
We are all human and it is totally OK to feel fearful and anxious at times. These are emotions like any other such as joy, gratitude or happiness. Anxiety is part of our “fight or flight” response that helps us to be on the alert for potentially dangerous situations and it helped the humanity to survive all these years. When it is triggered, our nervous system puts our body in alert (feelings of nervousness), so that we can be at our best to deal with a dangerous or a life threatening situation. In fact, certain level of anxiety helps us to perform our best in situations such as giving talks or in exams.
In these modern days however, our stressors that might trigger the “fight or flight” response aren’t usually life threatening. I might get anxious when I am about to see a new client or walk into a business meeting. Anxiety becomes a problem when it is so constant that it interferes with our lives. It is physically and mentally challenging for us to feel anxious all the time.
What can we do about it?
Personally, I find it helpful to realise my thought patterns before things get out of control. In order to do this however, we need to start working on our awareness. There are many ways to develop awareness. Mindfulness and meditation work best for me.
A good method is to start observing our thoughts and feelings like clouds in the sky. They simply appear, stay for some time and disappear (often replaced by another one). Our thought process has a similar nature. If we can learn to diffuse ourselves realising that we are not our thoughts, then we can start making conscious choices rather than having blind reactions. The idea here is not to control or suppress the thoughts, but rather to develop an awareness of their changing nature and don’t identify with them. Be an observer and watch your thoughts as if you are watching a movie on T.V.
Try to identify the unconscious beliefs behind your anxiety. What are you telling yourself that your mind/nervous system believes that you are in danger? Take a couple of deep breaths into your belly and slow down. Be gentle, have self-compassion and stop judging yourself. Stay in the present moment. Thank your mind for creating these thoughts which helped our species to survive but they are not necessary at this moment. Notice your sensations in your body and stay with them. If your mind wanders away, which will happen for sure, gently bring it back to your breath or body sensations.
We can start changing the habit patterns of our minds by cultivating mindfulness in our lives. Of course, it will take some time to see the effects but we all have the power to do it. Anxiety will always be part of our lives but we don’t have to be a slave of it. The choice is yours!