What feels to be aeons and aeons ago, EWP held its ninth annual retreat at Werri Beach, and we were very happy to be able to stay in the same beautiful home that accommodated us last year.
Although April has just arrived and we went in early March, the world has changed dramatically since then.
COVID-19 or the Corona Virus has turned the world we all knew upside down, with deaths ever- rising internationally, and stock markets still crashing.
For this reason, it is quite ironic that the topic Tisiola Lear chose to give her weekend workshop on was: “Understanding Anxiety and How to Live a More Balanced Life with Ease”.
How appropriate for all of us living in this new world we inhabit today, with closed borders, self-isolation, and a very unpredictable future facing every single one of us.
But I’m here to discuss the retreat, and in more depth, the subject of Anxiety, how it presents itself, and the ways in which we can all learn to handle it better, and not allow it to rule our lives in an unhealthy, disruptive way.
First and foremost, what is anxiety? A rhetorical question because we all experience it at different times in our lives, and we usually verbalise it in different ways, such as: feeling anxious, stressed, uptight, nervous, overwhelmed, and many other definitions. Depending which end of the spectrum you’re experiencing anxiety, as in just a healthy concern, worry, mild uneasiness for short periods of time etc. to terrifying panic attacks, and states which can lock a person’s physical, mental and behavioural life into a cruel, debilitating never-ending cycle.
At that far end of the anxiety spectrum, is an Anxiety Disorder, and that is a Mental Health condition, which is long lasting and interferes with the person’s work, daily activities, relationships and of course their health and wellbeing.
Up to 50% of Anxiety Disorders start by the age of 15 years and of the 14% of Australians affected between 16—85 years of age, 18% are females and 11% are males. They often occur together with depression, alcohol and other drugs, and for those reasons may go years, a lifetime even, being undiagnosed, or incorrectly diagnosed.
As far as Anxiety Disorders, there are the following well known ones:
· GAD Generalized Anxiety Disorder
· OCD Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
· SAD Social Anxiety Disorder
· PTSD Post-Traumatic Disorder
· SP Agoraphobia and Specific Phobias
· PD Panic Disorders
It is important for us to recognise these disorders because it directly affects the way we relate to people, and alerts us to the possible risk factors these disorders pose for the person suffering from them, and the added pressures and strains they impose on their families.
Fortunately, now a days there are many well qualified professional Therapists, Psychologists, Life Coaches and Medical treatments to help people in need.
There are also many Self-help books, development courses, and any number of Lifestyle therapies like meditation, yoga, exercise classes, walking, running you name it, that we can participate in.
So, for those of us, who are somewhere between both ends of the Anxiety Spectrum, the best place to start understanding our anxiety and to find ways to live a more balanced life, is to learn to recognise our triggers. What sets us off on our Anxiety tangent, and how do we react?
Deepak Chopra says, “We need to understand the power of our own freewill, and every time we are tempted to react in the same old way, we should ask ourselves, if we want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future”.
Do we just continue reacting to things in life in the same old-brain way, of fight or flight, or do we change the neural pathways in our brain with consciousness, diligence and repetition, and create a new way of behaving.
To do this, we must recognise how we behave, and then set about creating new practices, new methods of handling the situations that are causing us stress and anxiety. This does two things. Repetition forms the new neural pathways, and just as importantly, lack of use of our old-brain ways of thinking, over time, sees that pathway overgrown and less visible. Sure we might now-and-then, find ourselves on the old track, but our shiny new neural pathway, will have become our go-to road to travel. Our brains are lazy and like us, will pretty much always go for the easiest path presented to them.
It is important, therefore, that when we create our new neural pathways, they align with the person we want to be. And in this regard, I believe we already have the knowledge and pearls of wisdom residing inside each of us, (this was clearly demonstrated when we all participated in a project, outlining, how we envisaged a world where we all lived in a loving and balanced community). We all knew the ingredients that would go into that perfect pie, so what prevents us baking it?
Maya Angelou said, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them”.
* For a start, we can all take personal ownership of our lives.
* We can begin by helping ourselves and others by letting go of Judgement. Replace it with Compassion. So what if you didn’t get it right, the first, second, or third time! Who’s counting? Wire your mind to know that you can learn, you can change, and it’s all happening – now!
* Stop comparing yourself and others, and being afraid of comparisons.
* Face your anxieties head on, why you have them, and then address yourself in a loving manner. You deserve better than self- flagellation. You are a beautiful one-off creation, so tell your anxieties to take a nice, long walk; you’re in charge of your precious life now!
* Look at the language you use when talking to yourself. Anxiety is when your energy is out of whack. When we are feeding that, not only do WE feel it, it transmits to ALL those around us. We can’t help anyone, not even ourselves, until we learn to focus on what we really want for ourselves.
* And when we know exactly who we want ourselves to be, we need to Think it! Say it, and Enact it. Because then something amazing happens; The connections we share in our relationships, impact how our brain forms and develops. So, Think it. Say it. Enact it!
This is not verbatim, but Brene Brown says that when we are sharing the energy of Love, there is no Judgement or Denial. Love is the energy that is cultivated between the people who are being Heard, Seen and Understood.
A balanced life connection, is a place where we are fully Conscious, Present and Aware of where we are at, where we want to be, and what is needed for us to get there. It is a safe and rewarding place to return to. A place for us to re-communicate with our Higher Selves, and to re-gain our understanding that all our parts are connected to that place holistically - even when parts are blocked. The connection remains, you just need the following tools to unblock it:
· Self-Awareness vs Self-Avoidance
· Self-Compassion vs Self- Judgement
· Self-Acceptance vs Self-Denial
· Conscious communications with clear intentions
· Self-Alignment and Embodiment (Whole-system approach)
Enough reading, I’m hoping you’ve already decided what you no longer want in your life, and what you choose to have instead; something that rewards you with a happier, healthier more balanced life.
Now create your own Action Plan.
Write down 1-5 things that you are willing to do straight away, and next to each thing, write down why each is important for you to do. Put your Action Plan somewhere you can refer to each day, and remember it.
· Think it!
· Say it!
· Enact it!
And guess what?
Congratulations! You are on your way, to living the life, you’ve always wanted.
Me too, so for now,