Key to making any change in our lives is becoming aware and taking responsibility for our own happiness.
In my post on Anxiety, I suggested a first step on acknowledging your anxiety. Now here is a simple yet potentially transformational process to reflect further on your habits and patterns in daily life that might increase or decrease anxiety.
1. Anxiety List : Write a list of the activities, people, places or common thoughts, that make you feel nervous or anxious
For instance, spending too much time on facebook, procrastinating, public speaking, not leaving enough time to get to appointments, worrying about the well-being of others, thinking about the future, watching the news, listening to certain colleagues gossip or complain, imagining what others are thinking….. Can you identify in each of the items on your list, what it is that makes you feel anxious? What thought or feeling do they arouse?
2. Observe your habits in daily life
After writing the first draft of your Anxiety List, start to become more aware in your daily life and continue to note down when you are feeling anxious and what might have stimulated it. This way you may start to see some patterns emerge or become aware of habits that are causing anxiety. You may begin to notice a pattern of common thoughts, such as “Am I good enough?” or “What if I fail”. You may notice patterns of self-sabotage, so even though you know watching television doesn’t make you feel good, you do it anyway as a means to avoid your thoughts and numb the mind. Or maybe you don’t like to speak your mind and so your thoughts build up inside you.
3. Stability List : Now write a list of activities, people, places or common thoughts, that give you a sense of ease and stability.
For example, walks in nature, gardening, driving at the speed limit, eating slowly, spending time with your kids, dance, yoga, meditation, sport, massage, optimistic colleagues, reading inspiring books or watching TED talks, saying “I am perfect just the way I am”….. Notice how you feel as you reflect on these items and the kind of thoughts that arise.
4. Stability or Anxiety? You choose!
Once you become more aware of your anxiety and negative habits or patterns in your life you get to choose. This is where you take responsibility for your own well-being and happiness. Do I want to continue feeling anxious and living in a way that stimulates a sense of worry and fear? Or do I want to live in a way that I feel free, whole and happy?
It takes time and discipline to break or change a habit, as well as commitment, courage and self-compassion. But it is also enjoyable as you make progress and I promise, this is the road to freedom my friends!
a) Drop one item from your Anxiety List
Choose one point from the Anxiety List that you can reduce, modify or completely stop doing / being / thinking, and practice this for one full month. Then, once this has become a good habit fully integrated into your life, choose another point to work on for one month. Don’t be tempted to take on more than one item at a time and if you slip up one day, commit yourself even more strongly to it the next day. Never let two days slip. Share your goal with friends or family to help keep you motivated, on track and celebrating your success.
b) Take up one item from your Stability List
Take one point from your Stability List, and practice doing / being / thinking more of that every day for one month. You may find this item can actually fill the space of the item from your Anxiety List. So for instance, instead of checking facebook in the evening you will go for a walk in nature. Or instead of always leaving last minute for appointments, you leave 15 minutes earlier and take your time to get there. Again choose one at a time for each month.
You may go through this process a number of times and each time adjust a little as you learn and progress in managing your anxiety.
Of course, we cannot avoid or remove all things we find challenging in life and in future posts I will suggest techniques to help generally manage and reduce anxiety when it is present, as well as our potential attachment to feeling anxious.