If you’ve ever felt anxiety or panic, you know that it absolutely sucks! It often feels overwhelming and unmanageable. It’s an emotion that quickly and easily takes over. In a moment, your brain can be hijacked by anxiety and you’re left feeling like a hostage. You might even begin to identify as the emotion – I’m anxious as opposed to I feel anxious. When you feel fearful and anxious, chances are you go into fight, flight or freeze mode real fast. How you react depends on how your brain is structured – some of it has to do with biology and some of it has to do with history, the circumstances of your life and the running dialogue you have in your mind (anxiety responds very well to reinforcement). Regardless of the why or how; it’s a normal human response – it’s our instinct – it’s how we’ve evolved. Since we’re going on instinct, we aren’t tapping into the thinking part of our brain – without tools we can’t – we are stuck in and responding to the feeling part. The feeling is what you are being driven by, and in this case I’m talking about anxiety, which is why when you’re feeling anxious, you might seem erratic and unreasonable to others. You are responding to a very real feeling of perceived danger.
With some consistent effort and a few lifestyle changes (keep in mind: everyone is unique and will require something different, if the lifestyle shift does not apply to you, or does not work for you it just means you need to find something else), you can turn this around and utilize it so it works for you. The first place to start is here: shift your story and thoughts about what you are experiencing as something working against you to how you can make it work for you. Most people define anxiety as excessive worry and then they hunt for evidence and justify why they should be excessively worried so it makes sense to feel anxious- this gives your mind reason to keep feeling anxious. What if you shifted the meaning from excessive worry to excessive energy that is manifesting as worry because you don’t know what else to do with it? Even if this does not resonate as true, I would suggest trying it. When you direct your mind in terms of how to perceive things, it’s amazing how much power you have. You have to do something with that energy or it takes over. This can be a tremendously useful tool to motivate you to go to the gym and adopt a regular cardio routine. Studies show that regular exercise (especially high-intensity cardio) helps to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression and if done consistently has shown to have similar, if not greater and longer lasting effects than medication. The energy needs an outlet and chances are, you need motivation getting to the gym. If you already go to the gym regularly, you might need to shift your routine. It’s about figuring out what works for you. Another way you can use anxiety as motivation is to use it to get you into therapy. When anxiety is really intense, as it usually is, getting it under control can be tricky without the assistance and guidance from a mental health professional. When you’re stuck in your own head, you’re more prone to spiraling – a trusted and trained professional can help come up with tools to get you out of your head and help to identify and interrupt the spiral before it gets completely out of control. Anxiety can also be used as motivation to organize your thoughts around making a to-do list and then actually doing it. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results of taking action and how much easier the action is when you have the fuel. You might have had this fuel for a long time and just wasn’t clear on how to use it.
The bottom line is that you need to put this anxious energy to work and use it to get you moving or start moving (exercising) so you can get out of the stuck zone. Anxiety is an intense emotion that effects people in many different ways for many different reasons. If my suggestions are not working and/or if you suffer from anxiety because of PTSD or some type of trauma, I highly suggest that you take some of the pressure off of yourself and seek out professional assistance as soon as you can to help alleviate your symptoms.