I've always had a high baseline level of anxiety. When I think of the home I grew up in, this part of me makes sense. During my childhood, my mother was always an explosive bundle of raw nerves. I learned early on to protect myself by existing in a hypervigilant state, always on guard to detect subtle dangers like electrical tension in the air.
Having learned the "art" of nervousness from my mother, I spent a good amount of time in my early adult life thinking I was doomed to be the same stressed-out type of person as my mother. But recently, I have realized was that there was a big difference between us — she never questioned or even seemed to notice her state, and to me it has always felt highly uncomfortable, and is a habit I wish to grow out of. As most of us know, judging yourself for behaviors or thoughts that are already uncomfortable to begin with just makes the experience worse. That said, it's ultimately a good thing: the power to free yourself lies in awareness.
But last year in particular, my anxiety took a turn for the worse. I realized that from the moment my eyes opened in the morning I was allowing myself to be invaded with stress. I would check social media from my phone in bed and subject myself to the myriad discomforts associated with comparing my life to others. Then I would get out of bed feeling sleepy, slow, and subtly aggravated in order to pour some strong coffee into my empty stomach. With this abrupt burst of adrenaline now coursing through my veins, I would begin to check emails.
At the outset of my day, I felt pulled in all different directions — feeling the gravity of responsibilities, deadlines, bills and so on. Only now, with distance, can I see how everything in my morning set me up for an experience of feeling distracted, out of control, and almost always on the verge of a panic attack. As I opened my eyes each morning, my fight or flight response was activated and it never took much to send me over the edge from that point. Throw in a little extra conflict, frustration, or having to spend time in the traffic in LA, and I was done for.
Can you relate? All of as humans are wired to detect negative information first — that is how we survived in primitive times. In other words, the central nervous doesn't really know the difference between being under threat of attack by a lion or just being exposed to harmless stressors such as Facebook and the usual barrage of emails. That's why it's essential to prepare yourself for each day with positive thoughts and a sense of safety. Here are some steps to help you figure out how to do this:
1. Become aware of the lies that you are subscribing to and how they are controlling you.