In order to achieve success of any satisfying measure, we have to address issues that may be sabotaging our efforts. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "what lies before me, and what lies behind me are tiny matters compared to what lies within me". So if internally we are set up for success, then we will manifest success.
Certain internal stressors sabotage our success. These include but are not limited to fear, anxiety, pessimism, negative self talk, perfectionism.
My focus is on anxiety because it is such a common cause of stress.
Anxiety is defined as a persistent, excessive and unrealistic worry about everyday things. Anxiety can be general or it could be specific. Specific anxieties include fears and phobias – social gatherings, closed spaces, heights, public speaking, etc.
I know first hand what anxiety can do to you. Been there, done that and over it! It can be awful.
Anxiety activates that flight or fight response. This is the response designed to protect us from actual danger. However, in anxiety, it is activated to no danger or false danger. What typically happens in the flight or fight response is the sympathetic system is activated causing the pupils to dilate, muscles to tense up and veins to constrict. The adrenocortical system is also activated and it releases cortisol and adrenaline into the blood stream. This causes blood sugar to rise, ferries white cells to bolster your defenses and optimizes the brain to think fast and temporarily. In essence, it is preparing you to fight or flee.
There is however a fine line between a reaction that should be short lived and protective and one that becomes a persistent activation of the system with prolonged exposure to the harms of having stress hormones floating around in your system for way too long.
Not only can prolonged anxiety affect your health, it can affect your ability to perform effectively. It can pervade your life. .
From my experience overcoming stress and anxiety, here are 5 steps to do this.
- Determination. This is the act of fixing or settling a particular purpose, the settlement of a dispute as by authoritative decision. It takes courage to make a decision not to allow your fears and anxieties to control you or keep you in a state of emotional unrest. It takes courage to face your fears head on. In many instances, I had to tolerate the discomfort of doing things afraid because I was determined to overcome my fears.
- Change your information and thinking. Often times we get to our states of anxieties through repetitive negative information we feed ourselves or others have fed us. I had to separate myself from any anxiety inducing talk and counter thoughts that kept me anxious with an equally powerful statement to refute it (see point 6) and differentiate truth from lies. The anxiety producing thoughts are really the false thoughts while the faith producing statements are the actual truth even though your mind may try to convince you otherwise.
- Watch what you say. I believe words are so powerful. When we speak words out of mouths, we reinforce whatever we are talking about whether faith or fear filled. I had to watch what my casual conversation was like and still do. I didn't want anything to reinforce my fear or anxiety but rather empower me to overcome.
- Build your core. We know from physical exercise that a strong core is necessary for stability and balance. A strong core helps us defend ourselves against internal and external pressures. A strong core to protect from anxiety consists of the practice of mindfulness, a positive mind, an attitude of gratitude and strengthening virtues like forgiveness, love, humor, happiness/joy and confidence.
- Refuting Negative thoughts: contrary to what you may think, you don't have to accept all thoughts that come your way. Do a thought screening test before you allow it entry. Is it true, based on my moral code, encouraging and empowering, rightfully protective, helpful, fear inducing or discomforting? Refuse to accept the wrong thinking process and replace it with the right thoughts.