Even though I’ve read hundreds of self help books, I’m a NLP coach and hypnotherapist I still get anxious. Every time I do something outside of my comfort zone where the outcome is uncertain, I feel sick in my stomach and my heart races. Not even projecting myself into a future where it has all turned out brilliantly really works — because sometimes I fuck up what I’m doing (especially if I’ve never done it before).
I don’t get anxious because I’m un-evolved, spiritually deficient or lacking in self-esteem — it’s because it’s a natural human response to the unknown: hard-wired into us from the beginning of time.
But if it something I really want to do, I don’t try to change the negative thoughts into positive ones, I don’t try to suppress them and I don’t stop what I’m doing to relieve the discomfort. These techniques cause more harm than good.
negative thoughts will always be there
I listen to the thought in my head “you’re not good enough” and instead of believing it I recognise that thoughts are simply words and pictures without power. I distance myself by saying “I’m having the thought that I’m not good enough.” Then I acknowledge that I am more than my thoughts by saying “I notice that I’m having the thought that I’m not good enough.” It doesn’t sound like much on paper, but when you do it, it changes your relationship to the thought.
hanging on to the thought or pushing it away is wasted energy
I let the thoughts slide by like songs on a radio in the background. It is just a story that I don’t have to buy in to. I don’t have to spend precious energy suppressing the story or distracting myself. It is what it is. All thoughts, like feelings are transient.
focus on the feeling
Thoughts produce physical reactions in our bodies which we interpret as feeling. Anxiety makes our heart race, our stomachs sick and our heads throb. Pinpoint the location of the physical sensation and breathe into it. Explore the colour, shape, texture, temperature and sound of the feeling. Allow it to inhabit your body knowing that it can’t cause more than a little discomfort and the more you welcome it the sooner it will lose its intensity.
Concentrate on whatever the task at hand is. If you’re giving speech notice the paper your notes are on, the objects in the room, the faces of the people looking back at you and the message you want to convey. Inhabit the moment second by second without the distraction of worrying about how it will end up.
A successful outcome doesn’t always mean perfection or not making a mistake. Making errors is the only way we learn and grow and although they might cause us pain or embarrassment, we are fully equipped to deal with those feelings. Success is having a go, doing what matters to you and making a life of meaning. “I am being the person I want to be by doing this.”
Confidence is not a feeling of certainty or fearlessness, confidence is acting with faith and with trust. You know in your heart that no matter what you think or feel or what the outcome, you are doing what is important to you because it’s who you really are.
Does anxiety show up in your life? Do you have a strategy for dealing with it? Do your thoughts and feelings sometimes hold you back from doing what matters?