How to Overcome Fear and Anxiety Instantly
ShoomKloom Editorial Staff
Oh shit was the first thought I used to wake up to almost every morning. This first thought led to another and immediately my mind started racing in comparing myself to everybody. I should get up earlier, work harder, have a partner, a family and a house, be more aware, look healthier and younger.
I always concluded that I am worse than everyone else, my friends, family and loved ones: “I am a nobody.” Everyone had a reason to live – but me. I just so hated this very first moment of waking in the mornings. Every night I went to sleep hoping that the next day there would be no anxiety.
What is Anxiety? What is Fear? What is Stress?
The differences between fear, anxiety and stress are not as clear cut as we may think. All of them refer to the same phenomena and body reaction. What some may call stress others call an intense fear. Fear can be simply described as:
An anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation of some imagined event or experience. For some people it is a real threat, whereas anxiety and stress leave them with this constant and steady feeling of worry (but not as strongly). Others report a strong fear emotion while they are experiencing a stressful event.
The Stress Response and How it Happens Today
It is a wonderful and life saving built in mechanism that we often call the fear or the stress response. Without it we would run with open arms into cars, jump off buildings or not even try to save ourselves and others in fires, wars and other dangerous events. Without this response we would not survive certain (potential life threatening) situations. That’s why it is also called a survival mechanism.
It is understandable that before or during certain big life events or circumstances we may experience some stress:
- Getting married
- Getting divorced
- Losing a loved one
- The birth of a child
- Job interview or starting a new job
- Moving to another city/country
Most of us are not bothered by short lived stress/fear responses (the ones which are good for surviving and escaping dangerous situations). They come and go quickly (sometimes appropriately when we are standing too close to the train rails at the station and sometimes not when there actually was no danger.) The rush is disappearing a moment later and life goes on. There is no problem. We don’t even think about them twice.
What has a negative effect on most of us, is when this response is triggered constantly, in situations which are not calling for it. Such as:
- Meeting in a social setting
- Going to a first date
- Preparing a birthday party
- Deciding what to cook for dinner
- Organizing the weekend
- Connecting with a prospective date
- Making choices with which friend to spend time
- Deciding what and if to answer to a message
We are feeling in countless daily situations as if our lives are threatened – even if it isn’t. And that leaves us acting in a survival mode which is absolutely unnecessary.
Some of us are also responding with anxiety over a longer period of time in regards to the bigger life events. This is often out of proportion and leaves us feeling unhappy and stressed.
To my morning anxiety it made no difference what my life circumstances were. It was there when I was single or in a relationship, when I had a job or when I was unemployed. It was there when I had an active social life or when I spent a lot of time on my own. Sure, it could vary in degrees. But it nevertheless was always with me.
While these thoughts were tormenting me (this was just minutes after waking up) and I was fully drowning in them, very unpleasant body sensations were starting to kick in – up to an unbearable burning alive feeling. This in turn caused me to start thinking about all possible diseases and set another thinking cycle into motion.
This morning panic used to be so overwhelming that I felt totally and utterly powerless. I used to think of myself as a victim of circumstances and of life. Self pity added to my depression.
It was as if during the night time I was at a peaceful rest but the moment I woke up I was being sucked into this horrendous black hole. As if I was jerked around from heaven to hell.
So how can it be that so many of us are living in constant stress, fear and anxiety?
Underneath all of our fears lie the 5 basic fears. With all fears and anxieties comes the expectation of pain. In fact, another short and clear definition of fear is: expected or imagined pain. The pain can range from a small sting to a life ending pain in the most painful way. This can be mental, psychological or manifest in physical pain.
Now, almost everyone has learned to avoid any pain as much as possible. We don’t want the slightest bit of it in our lives and we are trying all we can (with big forces) to protect ourselves from it.
Find the first interview with fear below:
All of us have experienced pain and disappointment as we grew up. We started projecting this pain into the future. We replayed painful experiences so many times in our own minds that we started to believe that they are real. We then saved them under “true experience” even though it was just another replay of something which happened 20 years ago.
Or we deflect these painful experiences by pushing them deep down and covering it all up with nice and beautiful dreams, pictures and ideas about reality. It makes no difference which strategy we are using.
We are busy with avoiding these painful events either way, conscious or not (most of it we have no idea about as it is happening almost automatically in the background).
We have categorized these experiences (the real ones and the replayed ones) as “bad”, “not wanted” and “to be avoided at all costs”. As a result, as adults we are living with a highly inflated pain expectation (or fear). Now we are fearing the fear.
What Actually Happens in These Stress Situations?
You may feel an immense fear when you are getting married. You have been disappointed before in your life. Loved ones have left you. You heard of many others getting divorced. You know of many possible negative outcomes.
All of which would cause you to experience pain. So, you are either trying to ignore these thoughts and feelings or you exaggerate them. Both causing lots of effort and with that stress and anxiety.
Preparing and Having a Birthday Party
In a non-stress, non-anxious state you would just do your best, look forward, have the party and be happy ever after. But we have a goal with this party. We want it to be the best, the perfect, the ‘IT’ party. We want that everyone who comes is happy.
We want to make sure we are inviting the right and all people (but whom would that be and where does it stop and what if we hurt someone’s feelings). Your anxiety levels are much higher than what this event is actually calling for- as if your life is being threatened.
WhatsApp Chats with Friends or Family
Some of us live in agony thinking about what to write, how to write, to answer or not to answer, to leave a chat or not to leave it. These questions go round and round in our heads (the same with what to say to a friend or lover).
So, what happens?
We end up feeling as if what is happening is a big deal and could harm us.
None of this makes sense, yet it is happening to so many of us every day. We are busy with fearing a perceived negative outcome.
This can be the divorce or the disaster of not having asked someone to the party whom we now think is bad mouthing us. Or, believing that the whole family hates us just because we left the family chat (while actually they also want to leave).
We are killing ourselves in making it right for everyone, for the family, the partner, the boss, the team, the environment, the kids, the friends, the world. At the same time we are trying to cover all the 10 tips to be the best self we can be and relax.
Now, someone tell me how that can not cause anxiety. Who would not go crazy in that and fear that he or she isn’t able to do all of it?
No human possibly can. And no human is supposed to. That is not what we are here for on this earth.
In my journey of overcoming anxiety I have completed various therapies and self empowerment groups. I read many different blogs, tried many different techniques to get rid of, cope with or manage my morning anxiety.
I have started the day with physical exercise and letting out steam and emotions. I have started my day with a gratitude ritual, completing some easy chores and other routines. I have been watching my thoughts, doing breathing exercises or speaking positive affirmations. These are by far not exclusive.
All of this has helped me for a while and I am very grateful for having learned these techniques and tools. But in the end the anxiety always came back. At times even stronger than before. There were moments in my life when I truly believed, that now I have got it under control. But just in the very moment I slacked in my efforts to manage my anxiety, it burst back into my mornings with a massive force.
There came a point where I realized that this must be bigger than me. That this was an existential angst, something which is part of life and something which is not possible to get rid off. But you tell that to someone who is suffering. However, as depressing as this might sound to some, to me this was the beginning of an immense shift.
True surrender had started to come into my life.
With ShoomKloom classes I began to see my anxiety and fears for what they really are. I realized that the very moment when I stop all my efforts wanting to get rid of this fear or anxiety, to cope with it, to manage it, to get rid of it, avoid it or control it – that very moment I see it for what it is. It loses its grip and its power when I stop feeding it.
You see, with all of these exercises and techniques, I was giving attention to my fear. In not wanting it I actually kept it very much alive. It is like seeing that I cannot fight for peace. Fight and peace just do not go together in the nature of life.
My life today:
Anxiety has not gone forever. But there is one big difference from before. Every single moment there is this recognition it is worth everything to me. It is the end of my struggle with life and the end of my suffering.
Each time I see; it is so easy. Anxiety is more and more just a word and actually becoming my friend. Each time it is showing up I have a new opportunity to find peace in the midst of it. And that is such a relief. The greatest thing of all is that each time I surrender all of what I have learned, I recognize this peace again. Without an exception.