I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Am I dying?
Clinching my chest I felt that I was having a heart attack. I never really identified or realized that I have dealt with anxiety since I was a kid. My earliest memories are me crying over the dinner table struggling with a math problem. I never noticed that the thought patterns of my childhood followed me into my adult life, but it all came full circle as I was clenching my chest.
Unbeknownst to me at the time what I was experiencing was a panic attack. All the typical triggers where present, lack of sleep, unresolved emotions and a lot of pressure.
Anxiety is something everyone deals with at one point or another. If it’s from starting a new job or meeting new friends fear of the unknown has been a familiar companion, but is that familiarity normal?
Anxiety in its most basic form is being overwhelmed or burdened by a perceived threat but it becomes interesting as you further analyze the situation.
On a deeper level, anxiety exposes the vulnerable places in our hearts.
Whether it’s the constant worry for a child or the nervousness surrounding the opinions of others, fear is a great indicator for the naked and exposed areas of our hearts.
I heard it once said that anxiety is the anticipation or expectation that something bad is going to happen. What is bad? Well, typically this expectation is rooted in negative past experiences. So, you are unconsciously reflecting upon the past and projecting those emotions into the future. Thus, robbing yourself from the present moment.
So with this given definition, that anxiety is projecting a negative emotion into a present moment, how do you get out of it?
Great question, let’s discuss a way out.
In the moment I felt out of control. My core desire was to get back to a sense of balance, order or homeostasis. But what’s the plumb line, what can be used to help get back to balance?
What helped me was knowing who I was and who I was becoming.To know one’s self is a beautiful tool used to identify a trigger. You are not a sum of your experiences, you are a unique person with gifts, personality and give value to those around you. The anxious feelings or thoughts are attempts to devalue the core of who you are, so the reminder helps you stay grounded.
Conquering the Trigger
What is a trigger?
A trigger in common language is something which causes us to act out or think different than normal.
Why does this happen?
Think of a trigger as an instant response that was programmed over the course of your life. Instantaneous responses are not bad in nature. This fight or flight response is what allows soldiers to respond in a blink of an eye when danger arises but negative triggers can hold the power to keep us stuck in a moment of tragedy.
Commonly, triggers are a result of unresolved trauma in your heart or soul (mind, will, and emotions). These triggers can go unnoticed for years but one sign post is repeated response patterns.
Triggers can arise at any time but are often seen in very high-risk high-stress situations. As an example, my trigger was feeling pressured into a choice without given enough time to fully process my options. When placed in this situation I felt, stuck alone and overwhelmed. Recognition was key for me to see past my triggered state. Once I was able to identify that I was triggered, I was able to make an empowered decision regardless the lack of processing time.
We are imperfect people who bring their whole self to everything we do, so the concerns of life good or bad will follow. Now that we are aware of our anxiety triggers what do we do?
Process, not perfection
First, I re-assess. We are not at our best when we are feeling irrationally vulnerable. Getting back to a place of peace is critical. This for me includes a 10-second countdown and a slowing of pace. This allowed me to reevaluate and allow myself to not be overcome by my emotions. Now, emotions are not inherently bad but being controlled by your emotions is.
Second, I acknowledge. What you’re feeling is legitimate even though it is unexplainable at the time. Disregarding your emotions as foolish would be unwise because the feelings are just indicators of a deeper heart need which may need to be addressed.
In that moment, I addressed my insecurities and anxious thoughts. I didn’t try to reason them away. Rather I felt those emotions and let the brief moment pass, as I reminded myself of what was true in that moment.
What is truth?
For me, the truth in that moment was telling myself who I was and the progress I made in this area. Giving myself this revised perspective was an attempt to of realignment. There is no magic method, prayer or mantra but its steps in a forward direction.
Reminding myself of what the truth was beyond the moment is the final step in overcoming a trigger. Now, will these issues come up often? No. But they do happen and recognition is the first step to understanding, and understanding will always lead to change.
The point is always progress and not perfection when attempting to overcome anxiety and over time the things which were once overwhelming will seem simple, as you progressed beyond your own capacity.
Some tips along the way that have been helpful for me:
- Take note of any repeating anxiety triggers.
Knowing what your triggers are prior to responding is great. It helps you evaluate where you are at and take action sets towards healing.
Sometimes writing something down provides a sense of release, at least I know it does for me. Journaling allows you to chronicle your process and look back as you progress.
The most crucial step beyond writing and reflecting is actually digging deep and walking through what makes you anxious. The most uncomfortable part of the process is often the most overlooked. Processing through your emotions well is an art form and takes time, patience and community.
We are all on a journey. Let’s do this together.
Until next time.