Anxiety, fear, and worry, along with their cohorts overthinking and overwhelm, make a formidable crew for highly sensitive introverts. These bad boys kept me from experiencing the life I wanted to have for many, many years. I guess I have to hand it to them — they did a great job!
As I’ve unraveled how they work over my brain, and learned ways to lessen their impact, I’ve been able to find some gratitude for them too. I get it now that they actually mean well and are trying to protect me, it’s just that I don’t need the kind of protection they offer — the kind which kept me from doing the things I really wanted to do because I felt like anything new was a threat to my safety.
Obviously, these feelings are not actual people with personalities as I’ve alluded to here. They’re states of over-arousal due to your highly sensitive neurological system that get activated when it senses that there’s some kind of threat.
Since we no longer live in a world where giant mastodons and saber tooth tigers are big dangers for us, we rarely need to be on high alert and using our fight, flight, or freeze response. In other words, anxiety, fear, and worry due to heightened arousal of the nervous system aren’t necessary to our survival.
How can we turn these guys into allies then?
We welcome them.
Yes, you read that right. We welcome them and use their presence as a signal that we need to slow down to stay in our thinking brains which make sound decisions.
Jennifer Shannon, cognitive behavioral therapist and author of Don't Feed the Monkey Mind: How to Stop Anxiety, Fear, and Worry, says,
All emotions have a beginning, middle and an end. When we learn to relax into discomfort we are able to process it. When we respond to anxiety by welcoming it rather than reacting to it, we calm the monkey mind. We send a message that says, I got this one.
With practice, it learns not to press the panic button every time you are reminded of a potential threat. Your anxiety decreases. In the welcoming state, we are in a much better position to take wise, thoughtful and effective action.
Most of the HSPs that I meet and coach say, If I could just get free of anxiety/fear/worry and stop my brain from overthinking every last thing, and get out of constant overwhelm, I feel like I could get unstuck, live the life I want, and make an impact in the world.
You can do this, just as I and my clients have.
As a small step in that direction, I invite you to try listening to Shannon’s 10-minute guided exercise called "The Welcoming Practice" to begin to reduce your anxiety today. Click here for the audio file.
If you could relieve the impact of anxiety, fear, and worry on your life, would that help you to manifest the best year you’ve ever had? What if you could let go of the worry of making a mistake, looking foolish, or messing up a relationship with something you said or did?
Learning how anxiety works and understanding that you are not your thoughts allows you to skillfully identify and address anxiety so it doesn’t need to keep you from doing what you want to do.
What if there’s nothing wrong with the way you experience things? What if you only need the key to understanding your reactions to feel more confident?
Imagine what it would be like to feel that the highly sensitive ways you perceive the world are a valuable strength.
How would it feel to know that when you’re overstimulated by a situation, it's not because you're defective and inferior, but because you're perceptive and exquisitely tuned in?
What if the things that make you different were the things you loved most about yourself?
When I offer coaching to a potential client, anxiety or fear often pop up to "help keep them safe".
They say these are some of the things that go through their minds:
I’m worried I don't have enough time to be good at doing this work. I might not be able to keep up. Maybe it’s not the right timing for me.
This sounds good, but what if it’s not the right program for me? What if I get in there and I don’t like it? What if it doesn’t work for me? I’m just not sure, better to pass.
How will I justify the financial commitment to my partner? I can’t risk stressing the relationship. What will they think of me? I guess I just can't do it. But it seems so right, what if this is the thing that would really help me?
This is your anxious mind doing its best to keep you safe from something it perceives as a threat. But the more you listen to your heightened state of arousal telling you there's danger present, the more anxious you will be — and the less likely you'll be to take the risks necessary to live freely and follow your dreams.
I’m committed to helping women remove the roadblocks like anxiety that keep them from bringing their best selves and their true gifts to the world.
Is this the year you break the hold anxiety and his pals have had on you?