Calm Your Anxious Brain by Reminding Yourself That You Are Safe
Every human has a certain level of anxiety. We need it. It electrifies our fight, flight or freeze response and it can keep us safe. Issues arise when our anxiety is overactive, when we feel anxious in situations that do not need to elicit a strong response, or when our anxiety hinders us from functioning. When we have a heightened feeling of anxiety it can stress us out, we may feel unsafe, we may have racing thoughts and anxiety can potentially ruin our entire day or week.
There are tips for quelling a panic attack and removing anxiety. Things like grounding by finding 3 things around you that you can touch, see and smell. I don’t know about others, but if I am having an anxiety attack, I am not thinking of things around me and it is tough for me to get to that point. I also find it very unhelpful as I am disconnected and disassociating from my environment when I am in that stage. My mind is racing, and I do not care that there is a blue chair or a coffee table near me.
I, however, find something that worked for me and I wanted to share it with you to see if it can help you out. Everyone is different so you may need to change the wording or maybe it won’t work at all, but it is worth a shot!
“I am safe.”
When I am having an anxiety attack or feeling particularly anxious, I ground myself by reminding myself that I am safe. That is my version of looking around and naming things. But instead I am looking around and reminding myself that I am safe. Because I am. And if I am not then my anxiety is doing what it is supposed to do – it is alarming me to threat and danger.
I stumbled upon this little gem as I was reflecting on the situations in which my anxiety was triggered. One of which was speaking in front of large groups. Depending on your level of anxiety the actual size of a large crowd can differ. For some a large crown can be more than 3, for others it can mean more than 100, others more than 1000, so forth and so on. Whatever the case, before speaking in front of a group our anxiety can be initiated and manifest in what people commonly refer to as “nerves”.
You may feel anxious, you may have shaky hands or sweaty palms.This is a result of your body responding to your thoughts. The way you are thinking about the situation is sending a signal to your body that is telling it you are in danger. Your body is then responding by triggering your anxiety in order for you to successfully flight or flee. However, you logically know there is no real danger. You are now stuck with a miscommunicating mind and body, inner turmoil between your anxious and logical brain, sweaty palms, anxiety and a speech to present – oh joy.
A few years ago I was in a position where I was speaking in front of groups a lot and I was usually the last speaker. While everyone else was presenting my anxiety was festering. Making it worse, I was working in compliance so we were not the most loved speakers and people usually just looked bored and dismissive – it was a tough crowd.
During meetings when I felt my anxiety get triggered I started to remind myself I was safe. I grounded myself. I was sitting in a conference room and I was about to have a catered lunch. I was more than safe! I was doing great! I practiced what I was going to say the night before, I was prepared. Then I started thinking about how far I came in my career and how my speech might go extremely well!
Sh*t, maybe the CEO will hear about it and I’ll get a raise on the spot with a promotion and a company credit card. Hehe, it went from me being frozen with anxiety – but not enough to keep my hands from shaking – to me realizing I am probably looking like a weirdo laughing at my own thoughts while someone is discussing quarterly projections.
Normal levels of anxiety do not interfere with daily functions. Being anxious sucks. I know. I’m living it and have been living it for my entire life. You can beat it though. It is all about finding what works for you. Next time you are feeling anxious or have racing thoughts remind yourself that you are safe and see if it helps. If you try another mantra that works for you let me know if the comments.