It wraps its arms around you like a boa constrictor, squeezing you until you can’t breathe. Your chest feels there’s a one ton anvil sitting on top of it. Your mind races with a million things that you can’t control. And one terrible truth echoes in your brain over and over again.
You are helpless. There is nothing you can do to stop the stress.
Anxiety is a killer. From the research I’ve done over the years, I am convinced that it is the number one cause of disease, illness, and death worldwide.
Stress causes our hormone levels to change, sometimes for prolonged periods of time. It causes chemical imbalance. It makes us act differently in normal situations. And it wreaks havoc on our bodies.
The good news is, you’re not helpless. You’re not weak. And you can beat it. You can take back control of your mind, body, and life. You can dominate your anxiety.
Dominate. It’s a funny word. But for me, it relates to the way an athlete goes out on the field and takes command of every situation given to them. They push through adversity, always keeping their minds focused on winning, no matter what pain or trials they may go through.
I had my first panic attack when I was in college. My chest felt like someone was sticking a knife straight into my heart. I couldn’t get enough air in or out of my lungs. My head got very light, and I nearly passed out. When it happened, I was sitting in one of my psychology classes. I leaned over and put my elbows on my knees, and lowered my head to keep from fainting right there in class.
It lasted a minute or so before the episode began to subside. When it did, I got up and made my way out of the class in the middle of the professor’s lecture. Once I was out in the lobby, I walked over to the drinking fountain and splashed some water on my face. I sat down for a minute and took a few relieved, deep breaths.
I had no idea what had happened.
One of my classmates came out to get a drink of water and saw me sitting on the couch in the lobby. He asked if I was okay, to which I told him a short version of what had happened. The guy laughed, then he told me I’d had a panic attack. He was probably ten years older than me, which for some reason gave credibility to his explanation.
After class, I talked to the professor about it and told her about my episode. She confirmed what my classmate had said. She also added that she’d noticed I turned very pale when it was going on.
On the drive home, I pondered what could have caused the panic attack. I am typically a pretty relaxed person. Most of my friends and family would confirm that. As I considered what happened, I realized that I’d been studying quite a bit for exams the previous three days. I’d put a lot of pressure on myself too. That stress had eventually manifested itself into a physical reaction.
I didn’t experience anxiety like that until the summer of 2013. When it happened that time around, I was in the middle of releasing my new science fiction series and I was worried that the launch wouldn’t be a success.
Worry. It’s anxiety’s subtle little seed. I once read that worrying is like experiencing failure in advance. The funny thing is that it doesn’t help prepare us for anything. We think it does. But it doesn’t.
After the release of that book, my stress subsided, but I was angry. I didn’t want to feel like that ever again. I wanted to be able to always breathe freely, and never have that sensation of high tension like something was going to go wrong.
I began to read more on the subject, finding books and other blogs that might have something to help. There were some good things out there, but nothing was as helpful as the system I came up with on my own.
As a counselor, I’d spent a great deal of time working in various therapeutic strategies. I never realized that the knowledge I’d attained over the years would end up helping me with my own issues. Once I applied the simple methods I developed, my anxiety seemed to melt away. And better than that, it stayed away.
I tried it out with friends and clients who approached me about their anxiety problems. I worked with them every week to help them keep after it, making sure they stayed persistent with the strategies I’d given them. The ones who stayed unrelenting, had incredible results.
They told me that their anxiety levels had dropped significantly and that they felt better than they had in a long time.
Want to know what the system looks like? It’s four simple processes.
1. Be actively grateful for the good in your life.
2. Eat food you feel good about eating and that make you feel good about yourself.
3. Play. All work and no play makes us stressed out. Playing is what humans really want to do. So do it!
4. Get better sleep.
You might think I’m oversimplifying it, and in a way I am. But those four strategies did the trick for me. But none if it will help if you don’t put yourself in the right mindset. You must have the attitude that you are not helpless. You are a strong, willful creature.
You can take back your life and eliminate the anxiety that seems to be running rampant. All it takes is a little dedication and persistence. When you feel the stress or worry starting to rear its head, focus on something you’re grateful for, go out and throw a football around, play a video game, eat some fresh veggies, or set up a routine so you’ll begin to sleep better.
These are simple things you can do to take back your life.
Remember, you are not weak. You are not helpless. Use your power of focus and take command. You can dominate your anxiety. It just takes a little work.
Share your struggles or solutions in the battle with anxiety in the comments below. And if you want to go deeper into my system, you can pick up my book Dominate Your Anxiety on Amazon for Kindle.