More Than Anxiety

Ep 17 - Anxiety As A Launch Pad

January 03, 2023 Megan Devito Season 1
Ep 17 - Anxiety As A Launch Pad
More Than Anxiety
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More Than Anxiety
Ep 17 - Anxiety As A Launch Pad
Jan 03, 2023 Season 1
Megan Devito

If anxiety has been your life's theme, or your immediate thought is anxiety is bad, I'm offering a new thought in Episode 17.

What if anxiety is a good thing?

Today I'm sharing a fresh perspective that allows you to explore anxiety with compassion and intentional action that will lead you straight into all of the things you've been avoiding.

Shout out to Drew Linsalata on The Anxious Truth for the great perspective on how we think about anxiety when we are recovered. Check out his podcast
HERE.

Help others find this resource so they can calm, confident, and have more fun by leaving a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review wherever you listen.

Find me on Instagram
Find me on Facebook
Schedule your consultation and let's talk coaching!

Thanks for listening!

Show Notes Transcript

If anxiety has been your life's theme, or your immediate thought is anxiety is bad, I'm offering a new thought in Episode 17.

What if anxiety is a good thing?

Today I'm sharing a fresh perspective that allows you to explore anxiety with compassion and intentional action that will lead you straight into all of the things you've been avoiding.

Shout out to Drew Linsalata on The Anxious Truth for the great perspective on how we think about anxiety when we are recovered. Check out his podcast
HERE.

Help others find this resource so they can calm, confident, and have more fun by leaving a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review wherever you listen.

Find me on Instagram
Find me on Facebook
Schedule your consultation and let's talk coaching!

Thanks for listening!

Welcome to the More Than Anxiety Podcast. I'm Megan Devito, and I am the life coach for women and teenagers living with anxiety, who want more out of life. I'm here to help you create a life you love to live, where anxiety isn't holding you back, get ready for a light hearted approach to managing anxiety through actionable steps, a lot of truth talk and inspiration to take action so you walk away feeling confident in your ability to live a life that sets your heart on fire. Let's do this! 
Hello, This is Episode 17 of the More Than Anxiety Podcast. I'm Megan Devito and I want to welcome you here today for this very first episode to air in 2023. I am recording this the week before Christmas, and really looking ahead to all of the fun and super scary things that I know that are gonna come up for me in the new year. Maybe that sounds crazy, but I'm kind of excited to freak myself out, because there's always something fresh and open about having an entire calendar year ahead of me as this blank slate, and I've been putting a lot of thought into what I want to create and what I want to challenge myself to do, really since November, because I've never ever been one to do resolutions, like ever. I don't like them. But I do love the idea of newness and of opportunity, and I feel like we're here. If you've created resolutions for 2023, I would love to hear what you have on your radar. And you can message me on social media on Instagram, or on Facebook and tell me about it. I want to hear what you're up to. And if you're more like me, where it's more of a broad plan, like without the pressure of calling it a resolution, I'm here for that too. Either way, I want to be sure that you are ready to tackle whatever comes your way today, or this week, this year. And I'm gonna ask you to entertain a concept that might be completely off the charts bananas today. So are you ready for this? What if anxiety is your ultimate launch pad? Let's talk about this! 
So if you're like me, and anxiety has been the theme of your life for a very, very long time, your immediate thought might be anxiety is bad, I don't want to feel it at all and I need to make it stop. I want to start by offering you a new thought, so give this a try. Just for a minute, try it on and see what comes up for you. What if anxiety was a good thing? Think about that. What if anxiety was good. This might sound completely insane right now and I get it. Me from the past would tell the me talking about this idea right now just to shut up because I have no idea what I'm saying. But what if all the anxious feelings you experienced were actually good? I'm not saying that anxiety feels good, but the experience as a whole is what I'm getting at. And here's why I'm asking. The first reason is, anxiety is 100% normal and everyone in the world feels it.  The entire purpose of anxiety is to keep you safe, and to make you take some sort of action to make sure that you're not going to be shunned from your community or excommunicated or die or whatever it is. So it actually is good; it's helping you. So what if we peel off the past experiences with feeling mildly anxious all the way up to full blown panic attacks and look at what happens inside your body with this fresh perspective because the problem is truly the way you think about the symptoms of anxiety and the things that you tell yourself that they might mean because you feel rotten and you can't think clearly, or you think something is horribly wrong so you scramble to fix a problem that doesn't exist, when truly the only real problem is the way you react when your heart starts to flutter. Or maybe it starts to pound. Maybe you feel dizzy or your breathing changes, and whatever else your body likes to throw out there as a symptom for you, because there's a ton of them. Instead, you're gonna have to trust me on this, I know it might sound like a stretch right now, but I'm absolutely living proof sitting here talking to you, telling you that it's possible. And it's not just me, it's 1000s of other people! We're all just a big collective proof here. And I know that something about anxiety makes us feel like this special snowflake and obviously I am the biggest winner of the anxiety game or the biggest loser - however you want to think about that. What is the one thing that has to change when you're looking to stop anxiety or to feel better? It's only your thoughts about what is going on! Because that's it! Anxiety is absolutely how you think about your body and how it feels and this is true for people with high functioning anxiety to panic attacks, to people with trauma, people who have mild or everyday anxiety... every single bit of it. 
So I want to be clear here that there are people who have trauma in their past that makes anxiety different and for those people resolving that trauma is crucial and moving forward in their life. For example, if you were in an accident, or you experienced something really tragic in your life, and it is stuck in your nervous system as a reoccurring issue; like it's always happening over and over again. Every time you get triggered it comes back. Yes, you need to talk with someone about that. For other people, for example, for me, I don't have that situation. I had a major health anxiety disorder for years, but not any specific trauma related to it. Obviously, something made me anxious, but it was not a gigantic event. In my experience dealing with my own anxiety, I didn't have to work through an event, I just had to learn to recognize the symptoms. I also want to offer that there are a few different viewpoints on trauma being the only instigator of anxiety, or an anxiety disorder. And I'm not completely into the idea of everything falling into the trauma category.  I think I tend to leave the word trauma for things that I would consider bigger events. What I'm saying here is, I don't attach that definition to things that might be regular occurrences for a lot of people. For example, in the situation I just shared with you about myself, even though I did not have some what I would consider a traumatic experience - an accident, or a fire, or a bad storm, or whatever that experience would be, some people would say whatever did cause me to feel anxious would be trauma. And perhaps that's true. I just personally don't like to attach that sticker to everybody's circumstance, because that means everybody has trauma. And unfortunately, what I've seen happen with some people is that we can take that sticker and it can become a crutch. I'm not negating the fact that some people do have it, but what if we just treat it the same? So if your definition is different, that is totally okay! I'm not about defining anxiety and what trauma is or isn't because the truth is, either way, you start feeling better when you learn how to listen to how your body feels, then change your thoughts or your response to the feelings. 
So when I'm coaching someone who's working through anxious feelings, or even stress, I know that step one is always to make friends with that nasty feeling. You have to start by being curious about how anxiety feels inside of your body. From the moment your brain decides to pump you full of hormones, because that's really what's going on. When you're able to label your anxiety as just anxiety and you take those feelings and categorize them as something that is definite and not wishy washy, what you're doing is you're giving your brain, one, familiarity because it knows what anxiety feels like, and two, you're giving it certainty. The brain loves certainty, and it loves familiarity. Your anxiety a lot of time is just because your brain is offering up all these scenarios that aren't true, it wants something definite, because once it's definite, you can deal with it. So saying, "this is anxiety", this is definite. You've taken part of the steam out of the anxiety by taking away some of its energy instead of trying to figure out what else could be going on and then reacting and reacting again, and fighting, then trying something else then Googling or whatever. You've immediately cut off the typical search for answers that happens when you're looking for, "what do I do because I feel so bad". The part that can feel sticky here is that, while you're searching for certainty or absolutes, it's a myth! In every single part of life, certainty is not ever certain.
We like to pretend its certain and that makes us feel good. And we can say...you know, there's that phrase, the only thing certain is death and taxes, but that's not even true, because you could still be alive longer than you think and maybe there's a tax rebate! Nothing is certain, or guaranteed, but man does our brain like it! When you say "This is anxiety. For me, This is how I feel." And it becomes your absolute truth, then you get to be in the moment and make a decision, and you just created a launch pad! You took the feelings that feel overwhelming or terrifying and this dead end process of trying to figure out what to do with how you feel and you created a spot for growth because you you just interjected a pause or a recognition of some form of truth. This is anxiety. Period. You're ready to launch. This is a big deal!
This is exactly what I mean when I say recovery starts in an instant! That was the instant. It's a conscious decision that you make over and over to teach your brain that nothing is actually wrong and you're safe even when your body still feels like crap. And yes, I know it feels really uncomfortable at first but this is exactly why we keep making that same choice to label it and to respond to it, instead of reacting, because as you continue to do this, your brain catches on and it starts to rewire itself to find sufficiency in those feelings of anxiousness. Like, "Oh, I know what this is, I don't really like it. It feels nasty. But I get it!" You start to know that those feelings don't mean anything but they have unlimited power, because they call you to intentional action and you get to choose either reaction that fuels the anxiety or a response that moves you forward and this is where you take off. So we've got the launchpad and now we take off. When you recognize that your body is anxious and you allow that feeling to be there without it meaning that you need to stop the feeling but listen to it instead, you get to open the door for curiosity. Sometimes your body will give you this sneak attack of adrenaline. Every once in a while, just completely out of the blue. When you call the feeling anxiety, you can work it out by letting it go and to burn itself off in a pretty short amount of time. I would say sometimes, sometimes two minutes, sometimes 10 minutes. But I heard This quote on someone else's podcast. And actually the podcast was The Anxious Truth and it's a fantastic podcast, I totally recommend that you check it out. And I'll put it in the show notes. But the question was, if you're anxious, but you don't feel anxious, are you actually anxious? So if your body feels anxious, and you don't recognize it as a danger, or as a problem, do you actually feel anxious... or do you just feel the effects of cortisol and adrenaline? Because that's really all it is. So when your body gives you the sneak attack of adrenaline or cortisol, just like, out of nowhere, when you've called the feeling anxiety, you can work it out, let it burn itself off, and you can actually roll your eyes at it and move on to whatever you were doing without going down that rabbit hole of trying to solve for something. Because remember, there's really nothing to solve for. It's just hormones in your body playing tricks on you. The same thing is true when there's a thought that makes the alarm center in your body go off. 
I've talked before about anxiety being a false alarm and I use the example of a smoke alarm in your house going off for burnt toast instead of an actual house fire. So I've been using this myself more often lately. I'm 47. And at the age that I am, anxiety can just fly in every time your hormones decide to shift, which is a lot. This also holds true for teenagers who are going through puberty. This is true for pregnant women, or this can be true whenever we just get hormone whiplash. And guys get hormone whiplash, too - it's not just women. So I'll find myself feeling anxious and I've noticed even more recently, I'm just really curiously looking for thoughts.  Like, I feel this way and I have no idea what happened to make my body feel this way. Your brain is super fast and sneaky so if it detects something that was a past trigger for you, it'll still give you that flick of hormones. The only thing is, it doesn't mean anything anymore. So I'm starting to find these little thoughts here and there but I really have to dig for them. Let me be clear, This isn't something that you need to do. It's just something that I'm find myself doing right now and I'm able to maybe identify them, but it takes some effort. And I usually find that they come from some old trigger, but the difference is that they don't really matter anymore. I'm like, Oh, well, that's what it was, so that's over, and then it just moves on. And so the question sometimes that I'll get from people is, but does this mean I'm always going to feel anxious forever? And the answer is yes. But also No. And back to that quote that I heard on The Anxious Truth, if you're anxious, but you don't really recognize it as anxiety does it matter? The answer is no, This is what I assume the rest of the world does. 
So here we are, we're ready to launch right? You've got your launch pad, we're ready to go. We're calling it out. We're saying here's what it is. The alarm goes off. And that's it. That's it. I'm seeing more and more all the time, what the problem was in my past and how it's such a like a giant nothing burger. It's this is just the goal, and you have control over this outcome. So the ultimate goal here is to be able to allow those feelings to be there without being a problem to solve, or a right answer to find, or a meaning. But to do that, you have to go back to that idea of first call it out for being only anxiety. So you can respond in a way that serves you and creates momentum and change instead of reacting which keeps you safe in the moment but really, really stuck for the long haul. To do this, you have to intentionally generally choose differently than what you want to do, while allowing your body to feel sometimes really intensely uncomfortable, especially when you're just starting this. And that is a rock solid truth that can become a powerful motivator. 
When you think of anxiety as an alarm reminding you to move forward, instead of staying where you are, anxiety turns into excitement with the change in thoughts. So if the thought is I'm really anxious to go to this party, and the thought is, I'm scared to death, someone's going to talk to me, or I'm going to make an idiot out of myself, then yes, I'm feeling very anxious about this party. But in the same sentence, I'm really anxious to go to this party could mean excited for what could happen with this party. It's all about how you feel. It's about how you interprets how you feel, and it's all about what your brain says. So when you start thinking of the alarm, as a reminder to do something, to scare yourself on purpose, it gets to be a game. The next time you feel your body giving you all of your anxious signals, just stop because there is so much power in this moment of pause. And it creates the space for you to choose. This requires you check into the discomfort and allow it instead of doing the usual reactions like pushing it away, or trying to reason it away. Just to do nothing. So just like the fire alarm, anxiety in your body is telling you something needs to be addressed. Maybe what needs to be addressed is your stress level. Maybe it's your thoughts about what you should or shouldn't do in a situation, maybe what you fear other people will think of you as the problem, it doesn't matter because it's the same response for every situation. Whatever the fear is - the anxious thought, you get to respond in the exact same way. So for example, if you simply just look at the fearful thoughts that you have, whether it's about something you want to do, or maybe even your fear of being anxious, if you react by avoiding the thing that you want to do, or you continue to pay attention to the fear of anxiety, you're going to stay locked in the anxious cycle. So you might miss the party, or you might push yourself into an actual panic attack, but when you stop to consider what your what you think you need to fix, or control, or do you often find that the answer is nothing. When there's nothing to do, there's nothing to do, except just understand that life is uncomfortable half the time, and amazing the other half of the time. And to really appreciate the amazing part, you have to be willing to experience the not so amazing parts too. This is a process of feeling, and of listening to your inner dialogue, what you're saying to yourself about what your scary stories are. And just seeing all the places where these sneaky little thoughts or habits sneak into your life, and how they influence what you do and how you feel. And I see it all over the place in my own life. Everything from my thoughts about money, spending money, (that was a big one that I talked about with my coach) to parenting, to my relationship to my friends, my relationship with my family. And once you know the feeling and you can address the thoughts, everything begins to shift. Here's the truth. You have to stop pushing back and resisting uncomfortable feelings because they're there for everyone. You have to let them be there.
Even the most chill person on the planet feels anxious from time to time. It's true. Even the most like zenned out hippie guru meditating, like levitating person still feels anxious sometimes. It's only your thoughts about how you feel that create the problem. One way that you can really start to get familiar and comfortable with this is through breath. I feel like there's a giant eye roll coming from some of you and I get it because when I started working with the therapist back in college, and when I started really trying to understand how I could feel better. I thought that breathing was just a load of crap. Honestly, after all, I mean, we're already breathing, right and we still feel anxious. So that's not the answer. But what I learned was that I was just doing it wrong and there's actually a really beneficial way to breathe, and a not so beneficial way to breathe. So the first thought that helped me was that I could actually change my breathing because I didn't realize that was a thing. And this is when I learned the power of the exhale and really pushing the air out of my lungs as much as I possibly could, and a little bit more, and a little bit more. And don't worry, you can't actually like push all the air out of your body; it saves some up. It's very smart. Anxious people tend to be chest breathers and exhaling forces you to move your breath to the belly. When you breathe from your belly, the air goes in more deeply and you reset your nervous system. That's a really great grounding technique that I learned and I thought it was garbage when I first heard it. I'm just going to offer that to you as well. If your thought has been breathing is stupid, I was there I really was. Another practice you can adopt is called tonglen. This is a Buddhist practice of breathing that focuses your attention on embracing negative feelings. 
Watch out here, there is a Buddhist practice that really wants you to embrace the suck. Seriously, here's how this works. Are you ready? What you're doing is you're intentionally allowing the discomfort or the anxiousness to show up so that you can learn to manage the feelings and hold them without falling apart. Imagine them being on a little plate on your hand, or like on a serving tray. If you were a waiter or waitress, you embrace the suck, and start to recognize that you're part of the human experience and we all go through periods where things just feel bad. And when you do that, you realize once, again, you're not the special snowflake that you think you are. And two, you learn that you can feel anxious and not crumble. So you bring it in on purpose, "I feel anxious, I feel horrible, I feel This... I'm just going to hold it." And you exhale, contentment or calm. So breathing in horrible, taking in all of the horrible feelings, and then I'm exhaling calm. I know to push it out. You've got to learn to recognize that those feelings, whether they're good or bad, are going to come and go, it's fluid. 
So I sometimes like to picture my breath as a rocking chair, or one of those giant ships at an amusement park. Do you know what I'm talking about here where it goes like really high in the air and it swings back and forth. So sometimes I picture this when I'm breathing in, I rock the ship up on one side, and then I exhale, and it rocks back to the other. And I just like picture it kind of like that big ship rocking at, I don't know, for me like Cedar Point. So the breath and how you feel is never stationary, your anxiety is never stationary, there's always motion and with that motion comes change. I know for some of you the idea of sitting with anxiety or any other negative emotion might feel really scary, and even impossible. If you're listening to this, and I want you to know that creating that space that allows you to do nothing, and that only requires you to not take action is really simple, and really powerful. And it takes time. When you give your emotions, the attention and the space that they need to process and to move through, you are allowing your brain and your body to shift its energy from fight or flight, to love and power. Because anxiety takes up so much energy! And one of the things I see happen in myself and in my clients is their energy shifts and space starts opening up all over the place in their lives. From their relationships with their spouses to their kids, they have more creativity at work, they've got more energy to move their bodies and to go hang out with their friends. So I just am curious, what would you do with all that extra energy? Think about how much energy it takes to be anxious and how exhausting it is. It's a really fun thought to entertain because the ideas are limitles and it's all just right there waiting for you to launch. 
So I want to recap This process. And just go over again exactly what I did when I started my recovery, and how I help my coaching clients and what this would look like for you. When you decide that you're in, first you have to decide to let go of your story. Telling yourself that you're born to be anxious, that you've tried everything, that it's too hard; that will keep you right where you are right now. When you say it, that is who you are. You'll stay anxious and defeated and frozen in the past just like you have. But this is 2023 and you are ready to level up! So if you decide right now, just to go all in, that's where it's at! Decide you're going to do what it takes! That's step one. 
Next, learn what anxiety feels like in your body. Get super curious and not judgmental. Knowing that anxiety is a normal feeling and that how you choose to respond as soon as it shows up, takes its power away. It becomes a non issue and when it's a non issue, there isn't a problem to solve. You just have to make friends with it and make friends with that feeling before you can trust the feeling and trust yourself. Imagine being able to trust yourself when you feel anxious. What kind of difference is that? I'm just going to tell you that it's every difference in the world. 
And finally, you have to choose responses instead of reactions that don't solidify your fears. This is where coaching is invaluable because you get to see progress and your recovery by doing the things that you want to do anyway, without anxiety getting in your way. So a quick example of this would be something as simple as choosing to say, "Wo what?!", when you start to feel that you're going to panic or to refuse to Google something when the urge to research a thought or to look for statistics pops up. And I'll be honest, I know This might sound like a big ask, but the shift that happens when you understand why your body feels anxious, and you know that you are safe is incredible. You can do This! I can help you! 
I want to leave you with an invitation to step into everything that is in store for you. The opportunities for fun with your family, or with your friends, or with your job. Or the trips that you want to take whether you want to go across the country, or around the world, or just to the grocery store by yourself. And for the space or the energy that really comes with letting go of fear and the story that anxiety is telling you. You can do this in one single moment. You decide to step in and this.. right now can be your day one. You can schedule time to talk with me about working together by going to megandevito.com/workwithme or by clicking the link in the show notes. 
Alright. That was a lot of truth. And I want to know how you are going to launch in 2023 or whenever you're listening to this episode. Make it a great day. And I'll be back next week. 
I hope you enjoyed This episode of The More Than Anxiety podcast Be sure to subscribe and leave a review so others can easily find this resource as well. And of course when you're ready to explore coaching with me, jump to the show notes. Click the link and schedule a time for us to talk. See you soon.