There have been many times in my life when I have had anxiety bubble up seemingly out of nowhere, usually because I am freaking out about a situation that is currently happening or I think will happen.
I’ve spent many years now meditating, doing yoga, breathing exercises, therapy, reading self-help books, etc., and when it comes down to it, one of the best strategies I’ve personally found and have personally worked for me are asking two questions.
The first is this:
Question 1: “What do I think will happen?”
Usually, if I can step back (even in the middle of a freak out – at least a little bit!) and ask myself what I think is going to happen, what I’m freaking out about, and what the worst case scenario is, then I can hone in on what sort of disaster I think I’m in.
Here’s a real-life example that just happened:
The other day I ate fried chicken and icecream (Yes, I love icecream but it is also a trigger for me!) for lunch on a Wednesday and started to have some major anxiety about it, right in the middle of my meal, at the cafe. This was a trigger for me because it was the middle of the week, and eating icecream and more “unhealthy” food in the middle of the week has been categorized as “bad, wrong, and fattening” in my brain for so long that I’ve had a hard time reframing it for myself.
I was able to take a step back, though, and ask myself what was really happening – Why was I having this anxiety and what did I think would happen?
The answer surprised me. I heard myself think, “If I eat icecream in the middle of the week, tomorrow I will wake up fat. It’s all over. I will gain weight and I’m doomed. I’ll probably be like 30 pounds overweight.”
OK, this is crazy, right? But for me, at that moment, it felt as true as saying “The sky is blue”. This is my first realization.
When we feel something strongly, even though it may be “crazy thinking”, it is still our current TRUTH and therefore feels as real as the laws of physics. This is why we can have irrational anxiety. For me, this is where freakouts happen.
But – I realized there’s a way to stop it. When I realized how crazy this was, I asked myself a second question.
Question 2: “Is this really true?”
This is a POWERFUL question. I really looked at myself and thought “HOLD UP, KateLyn. Do you REALLY think that you will gain 30 pounds tomorrow, or even 5, and lose all the hard work running, working out, yoga, etc., because one meal that you ate in the middle of the week?”
I had to honestly look at myself and say “No, no I don’t. That actually sounds insane when I think about it. How could it be possible to gain 30 pounds in one day because ONE day I ate icecream and fried chicken in the middle of the week?”
Stepping back and asking these two questions has helped me SO MUCH. I don’t think there are absolutes these days, so I can’t sit here and tell you this will work 100%.
What I can tell you, though, is that from my experience, these questions have been hands down one of the most helpful I’ve asked myself.
I’ve been working on bridging the gap from fear, anxiety, freaking out, and the dark times, to feeling like I have in the last week –
inspired, loved, safe, taken care of, and in general infinite.
The thing is this – I KNOW that when you are in the thick of it it can be hard to hear someone say “It’s OK – you’ll get through – you can do this. Just breathe” – because when you are in it, it’s hard to believe that. When you’re in it, it hurts and it’s hard and it feels like too much.
So here I leave it with a question for you because I am truly curious:
- When you are struggling, what do you want to hear?
- What helps you?
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