- Don’t give in to anxiety without consideration.
- Focus on the external and have a situational checklist.
- Change your focus. Look up. If possible get outside and get some air too.
- Relax your shoulders, and make sure you have an open posture.
- Expel what isn’t needed. Let go of the unnecessary in your life, including negative relationships, and catastrophizing.
- Check to see whether you are using your muscles and resources correctly.
- If necessary de-commit from all activities which don’t fall under the Heck YES category.
I am a runner. But even with a regular running schedule and being in great shape, panic or anxiety can make it hard to get started, and sometimes finish.
The fact is, as I’ve gotten older my mind is more likely to send me into panic mode over some random body feeling that used to be crushed under the iron confidence of youth. The panic often starts with the thought that I shouldn’t be pushing my body so hard, maybe I should slow down and take it easy, etc.
But these days, I know not to just quit, or worse not start. Instead, I look for ways to reduce the anxiety I’m feeling, and look for the right way forward. For me, this usually means going through the following checklist. The good news is this works for other instances in my life as well.
Next time you feel the panic start creeping in like you’ve reached some point where you might, “have gone too far”, try going through this list of questions and consider whether adjustments are actually necessary.
1. Are you looking up?
In other words, what are we focusing on? It’s funny now, but many times the beginning runner tends to look at their feet.
Does this sound familiar?
How often do we pay SO much attention to the steps in our life we don’t even see the goal ahead of us till we are way off course and stuck in a tree? This happens because when we start getting stressed our focus is naturally inward on all our thoughts and feelings.
Time to refocus. LOOK Up. If you are outside this is like magic! There’s nothing like seeing the wide-open sky, taking a deep breath, and reminding yourself everything is ok. Just the act of looking up and looking ahead tends to be a powerful antidote to anxiety overload. Looking ahead also opens your posture, which guides you to the next checkpoint.
2. Are your shoulders open?
Ask Tony Robbins our posture can literally define our state. Among other things, better posture frees your body to get more oxygen in which means your muscles are better able to move through strain. In your life, good posture has the same effect. When we are feeling anxious, it opens us up and ensures we are getting enough oxygen, and of course, it LITERALLY opens us up, expanding our hearts to new possibilities.
There is a deep relationship between our emotions and our body language. It’s quite a challenge to be joyful if you are curled up into a tight ball. This is why it’s so shocking how uncommon proper posture is in our daily lives. In fact, it’s so uncomfortable for most of us, we naturally revert to a rounded shoulder easy slump. This is why we have to remind ourselves to stretch and open ourselves up.
3. Are you expelling what isn’t needed?
Aerobic exercise is not just about taking oxygen in, it’s also about expelling hydrogen and carbon dioxide. A build-up of either of these elements will cause the body to misfunction.
In our daily lives, this concept relates to the tensions we hold in. Panic or Anxiety could result from regret, grief, or shame or toxic influences such as negative people in our life. Anything which is counterproductive to our goals could be an issue. Maybe it’s anxiety from something that hasn’t even happened yet, news, or a business forecast that causes us to feel dread or stress.
Whatever it is, we can take three slow, deep breaths, and with each exhale think let it go.
4. Are you using all your muscles?
Or in the case of your everyday life, are you using all your capabilities, and tools?
Running form isn’t just for Olympians. It’s a whole science that when understood and applied correctly, gets all the muscles of the body working for maximum achievement. I feel this truth when I forget to lengthen my stride or tighten my core! Then I stop and think to check in with this question, make the necessary adjustments, and of course, everything gets easier.
How easy is it to forget what resources we have at hand?
Being creatures of habit we tend to use the same solutions over and over in problem-solving. But often if we take a step back, and look at the resources we have, we may find a new, creative solution right in front of us.
5. Do you need to slow down?
Now you may already be doing these things and more, but still dealing with panic or anxiety. The truth is you are trying to run up a six-mile hill sometimes, all you can really do is slow down, take a couple of deep breaths, and yes, count to ten, or fifty. In daily life, this could be a signal you have too many things going on and as a result, are buckling under the pressure. This may be a good time to think of the Heck YES/Heck No method. Use this method to decide whether you are going to commit based on it’s either heck yes or heck no. Trip to Borneo to swim with sea turtles? Heck Yes!
Finally if necessary, take some time off to recover and make sure to fully commit to the experience. If possible, unplug completely, and truly allow yourself to relax.
Done right, this could be just the change in gears you need to find a new way to move forward.