Learning how and when to let go and stop controlling everything is a hard part of recovery and transformation. The most difficult part is learning how much so it is a constant uphill battle. A lot of my stress, worrying and anxiety stems from my need to control the situations and people in my life. I grew up always needing to get my way because if I could dictate how people would act and what the next step in the situation would be, I’d never be taken off guard. People could never leave me. They would always like me. It was a way of assuring certainty in my life that never seemed to be there otherwise.
It wasn’t until I began taking my coaching classes and really looking deeper into my anxiety that I was able to make this connection. This was a huge breakthrough for me, but the challenge was accepting that this breakthrough wasn’t a cure-all. Just because I knew that I could lessen my anxiety by letting go of my need to dictate the future didn’t mean I was suddenly able to release that control.
Some of the worrying happens so automatically. Even as I sit here writing, I am aware of my mind wandering. “What if I don’t get this job tomorrow? Will we be able to buy Christmas gifts this year? What time will we need to leave Pennsylvania to get back to my parent’s house one time? I would like to say that the worries are legitimate, but they’re not. They are things that will work themselves out or will require a few minutes decision later down the road.
Typically as thoughts feed through my mind often going mentally unnoticed, the problem then becomes physical. I begin to feel the stress in my body, and when my conscious mind starts to weigh in on the situation, new worries begin to build off of the old worries. The level of anxiety rises to a breaking point.
So, how to I cope with it?
I began practicing the art of letting go. Specifically, letting go the need to control. Taking an honest nonjudgmental look at myself.
My first step in letting go revolved around becoming aware of how controlling was affecting me. What did it feel like when I was anxious? How did I act? Who did it affect? What was typically the outcome of the worries? I recognized many things that I already knew, but often ignored. My anxiety was inhibiting my ability to be happy. And, not only did I not like the anxious worried version of me, but I was also not the only person it affected. When I was unable to function outside of worry, I was also negatively affected my loved ones around me. Lastly, I realized that 10 times out of 10 my anxiety had no positive impact on the final outcome.
What it boiled down to was that not only was I not making a real impact on the future, but I was also ruining the present moment with stress.
Taking a real honest look into your anxiety is the most important step to letting go. Once you can be aware of your worries and recognize that they are not helpful to you, you can begin to start living in the present. Becoming more aware of yourself and mind body connection is helpful in determining levels of stress. When you are aware of how your body feels when you are stressed, it allows you to more quickly bring those stress levels down.
As I mentioned before, pure awareness is not a cure to anxiety. It is however,a way to ensure your anxiety won’t stop you from enjoying the present moment.
Here are a few of my tips to help begin coping with anxiety:
1. When you become aware of a worry or stress point, take note of it. Pause for a moment and give your worry attention. What is it that’s lingering or bothering you?
2. Ask yourself “In this moment, is there anything I can do about this worry?” Follow that question up with “Is it a priority?” Worries are often either something we have no control over or minuscule issues that we are worrying about to help us avoid taking action on the priorities in our life.
3. If you’re a more visual person, write the worries down as the come to you. You can come back to them later and decide if they are a priority or something that can simply be crossed off the list.
These may seem like such simple steps, but they can be a very powerful means of reducing anxiety. The most important part of it all is to be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for being stressed or anxious. Just take a moment to process the worry, let it float by and refocus your attention to the present.