Anxiety. Here’s what it looks like and perhaps why I had no idea how big of an epidemic it really is:
Like this duck, most everyone suffering from anxiety seems calm, cool and collected on the surface. But under the tide, there’s chaos - struggling to just make it through the day, the hour, this moment- kicking like crazy just to stay afloat. Do you know this feeling?
After experiencing one of the most stressful and anxiety-ridden weeks I’ve had in a long time, I was simultaneously researching anxiety and the neuroscience of gratitude for one of my workshops and came across something so fascinating I can’t stop learning more about it, and it’s this:
You can’t be in a state of appreciation and fear, or anxiety, at the same time.
During active appreciation (a.k.a. feeling grateful), "Dr. Dan Baker, author of What Happy People Know, writes, “the threatening messages from your amygdala [fear center of the brain] and the anxious instincts of your brainstem are cut off, suddenly and surely, from access to your brain’s neocortex, where they can fester, replicate themselves, and turn your stream of thoughts into a river of dread. It is a fact of neurology that the brain cannot be in a state of appreciation and a state of fear at the same time. The two states may alternate, but are mutually exclusive.”
So what does that mean?! Practicing gratitude can be used as a tool to transition out of an anxious mindset! When anxiety begins to surface, start to think about what you are grateful for, write it down, say it out loud, or just close your eyes and be grateful for your breath. The key is feeling genuinely grateful. This shifts your brain to active appreciation and the result is you cut off the air supply to your anxious thoughts. Once you find at least one thing to be grateful for, keep going. Begin to notice everything you are grateful for in that moment and in your life until you’ve calmed down, settled, and reset. Huge disclaimer here: I am definitely not a doctor and this recommendation is not advised during a panic or anxiety attack, but is every useful for the daily and constant anxieties that exist in our lives.
So, as I was sitting in the emergency room last week, I would have never thought of using gratitude as a way out of my anxious mindset, but WOW, I felt a wave of calm come over me, felt more positive, hopeful and was able to deal with the experience at hand, in the present moment, without chaos taking over.
Gratitude was my saving grace and I had to share in hopes it is valuable to you and something you put in your back pocket as a go-to option the next time you feel anxious.
And because I'm learning how prevalent anxiety is in our society, I'm running a special sale today to inspire more deep breaths and share the useful tools and exercises I've used to manage the chaos that exists under the surface.
If you know someone that is going through something rough right now, this is the perfect way to say you love them, you are here for them, and care enough to give a gift they really need... the gift of calm.
Cheers to flapping your grateful wings in the face of anxiety,