You’re going about your day, minding your own business, when suddenly it hits:
A jolt of intense worry. Coursing through your body like an electrical current.
If you’ve felt overwhelmed by this often-misunderstood emotion, you’re in good company.
And thanks to a rapidly evolving landscape of integrative health resources… you’re also in good hands.
Read on for 3 ways you can empower yourself in the face of anxiety:
1) Respect your anxiety.
Anxiety is baked into our very survival as a species.
It alerts us to potential hazards, protects us and our assets, and helps us anticipate the consequences of our actions.
Chances are, anxiety is helping you out in ways you’ve never fully considered:
- It’s the instinct to flinch when a loud noise goes off.
- It’s the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach just before you receive bad news.
- It’s the shot of adrenaline you feel when you narrowly escape a collision at an intersection.
- It’s the urge to check that your door is locked, or the stove is turned off.
- It’s the impulse to rehearse that presentation, or revise that draft, until it’s just right.
When it’s functioning well, anxiety helps us to be punctual, protected, productive, and prepared. Without a doubt, if you peek behind some of your most positive qualities, you’ll find this type of anxiety!
An integrative approach recognizes that behind even our most puzzling, frustrating, or embarrassing tendencies is the drive to thrive.
By understanding this, you then can take steps to address the ways anxiety isn’t serving you.
2) Think holistically.
Anxiety presents us with a complex array of challenges.
The good news? There’s a resource perfectly matched to each one of them!
It used to be that anxiety was firmly situated in the realm of psychiatric medicine. But we’ve come such a long way…
We have naturopathic medicine and nutrition to help us understand the role of hormone function and gut health.
Acupuncture, yoga, and body work to support us in palliative and preventive care of our bodies.
Psychology to help us identify connections between our thoughts, emotions, and behavior, and to bring these into closer alignment with our values.
Collectively, we know so much about the mechanisms underlying and maintaining anxiety—as well as the protective, healing factors.
And we’re learning more each day.
3) Use your powers for good.
A funny thing happens when we quit playing symptom whack-a-mole and get to the root causes of anxiety:
We’re free to think more creatively about how to outsmart it.
For instance, in my therapy practice, I often talk with clients about viewing their anxiety as a crafty hijacker:
Left to its own devices, it’ll take our unique strengths and twist them in some truly unhelpful, frustrating ways…
- Are you deeply empathic? Anxiety will send you on a shame tour, recalling every time you (maybe? potentially…?) hurt or offended someone.
- Detail-oriented? Anxiety will start you sprinting on a hamster wheel of second-guessing and triple-checking.
- Naturally creative? Anxiety will prompt you to write elaborate stories of “What if…?”.
Framing your anxiety this way helps you identify opportunities to put those strengths to good use before they’re hijacked. Like…
- Using your empathy in service of advocacy or social justice work.
- Applying your keen eye for detail to games of strategy or organization projects.
- Channeling your creativity through new avenues of artistic expression.
Not only do my clients describe this as one of the most effective defenses against anxiety they’ve experienced, but they also find it helps them reconnect to parts of themselves they’d been neglecting.
It’s just one, simple intervention. But I see it as a prime example of what care can look like when we adopt a whole-person approach to anxiety.
At home, there’s a framed print on our wall that says:
“USE YOUR POWERS FOR GOOD.”
I’m proud to be part of a health and wellness community (of clients and providers alike) committed to doing just that.