There’s this organ that can wreak havoc on our body and spirit — if we permit it. It’s a clever organ with the best of good intentions, like a toddler who decides to surprise their parents with a “homemade breakfast.” You know that kitchen is going to look like a disaster area when that two-year old is finished making your special meal.
So, what’s this organ that behaves like a toddler? The brain.
The brain does everything to protect you if it senses the slightest danger. Sometimes, as in the case of a fire or a robbery, it does exactly what it’s meant to do, acting quickly on our behalf — no different than that thoughtful toddler who brings home a necklace for you out of Fruit-loops’ cereal. Beautiful intention and outcome align.
But sometimes, our well-meaning brain works against us, offering up a mess of what-if scenarios we don’t need. Anxiety creeps in, all of the cortisol activity from our fight-or-flight manifesting in anything from panic attacks to irrational fears.
When anxiety takes the driver’s seat, we can’t seem to steer our way out of fear. Reason seems miles away.
What can we do when anxiety is driving our lives?
Here are three powerful tools to put YOU back into the driver’s seat and dispel anxiety:
1. Depersonalize anxiety: When your well-meaning toddler made you breakfast, they left several cracked and sticky eggshells all over the kitchen floor, syrup spilling at the edge of the counter, and caked flour stuck on the fridge door. The room is amess! But do you get mad at that toddler? Of course not.
Your well-meaning brain is only doing what it knows how to do. You can give that overworking-well-intentioned organ a heartfelt thank you and not take the mess of thoughts they create personally.
2. Objectify anxiety: We tend to see anxiety as a part of us, but it is nothing more than emotion passing through us. When the weather is stormy with skies the color of slate, we don’t say “Oh no, I must have done something terrible.” We know that the state of weather is not a reflection of us.
Our anxiety is no different from the weather. Anxiety is an emotion that is no different than any other emotion. When we see it as something separate from us, passing through us, we remember that we are whole and happen to experience this particular emotion that is not us.
3. Welcome anxiety: I know, I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but it works! When we lean into the very thing we fear, the fear dissipates. We are no longer fighting what feels like an uphill battle. Our brains want to fight something to help us; when we surrender to those unpleasant feelings, they ironically, pass through us that much faster.
As the late French philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said:
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
Anxiety, like everything else in life, is moving through you. Anxiety is an experience created by our active, well-meaning brains. But we are not our brains. We are spiritual beings. When we observe without attaching, we can enjoy the ride even more.