Over the past several weeks I have been experiencing periods of anxiety. Anxiety is just another word for fear. I know that this anxiety is my ego, my warning system, trying to tell me that I’m venturing into unsafe territory.
A few weeks ago I suddenly had a knowing that I was supposed to move. I acknowledged out loud a feeling I’ve had for a while that I am meant to leave Seattle, at least for now. That unleashed a whole lot of discomfort and fear.
Even after I worked through the immediate fear reaction, I have continued to have moments of anxiety pop up, seemingly for no apparent reason. However, I know that it is my system adjusting to this new idea.
Whenever we are making changes in our lives, whether they are big or small, whether we think it’s a good change or a bad change, our systems get shaken up. As humans, we like to maintain equilibrium, to keep things the same. When we start to make changes, our ego – whose job it is to protect us – starts making noise.
Warning! Warning! Things are changing! We’re no longer in equilibrium. Pay attention!
Here are a few things that help me whenever this happens:
1. I take some slow, deep breaths. When we get anxious our breathing becomes quick and shallow. This is part of the fight or flight response. By consciously changing my physical response, I can also change how I feel emotionally.
2. I remind myself that both fear and excitement have the same chemical reaction in my body, and ask myself if I can choose to feel excited rather than anxious. Especially in my current situation, excitement is part of the equation. Yes, I have some fear about how things will all work out. But I’m also excited about this change.
3. I don’t get attached to the anxiety. In the past, whenever I felt anxious I would search for the reason, and of course I could come up with a dozen of them. Searching for reasons I might feel anxious only perpetuates the feeling. Now I choose to notice and acknowledge the fear: “I’m feeling anxious,” but don’t get caught up in justifying that anxiety by looking for reasons to be fearful.
4. I accept that anxiety is a by-product of making changes. It is natural and normal that when we step outside our comfort zone, that when we upset our equilibrium, our ego is going to try to get us to move back to where it is “safe.” I know that as I move through the change that I am making, this fear will eventually dissipate as I reach a new equilibrium point.