How To Cure Anxiety
Notice what you do when anxiety arises, and then choose differently.
What is your typical response to anxiety?
The responses I’ve seen in myself, and in others, tend to fall within 1 of 3 categories.
#1 – Turning towards activities that distract
Distraction is any activity used to distract oneself from feeling. Some examples include: eating, coffee, alcohol and other drugs, shopping, online shopping, scrolling through social media, exercise, keeping busy, chewing gum, sweets, etc. These activities are not in and of themselves distractions. But they can be used in that way. And this is where discernment becomes so important.
In “Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts,” Reb Anderson states, “Anything you actively turn away from or ignore comes to exert some influence over you. The more energetic the ignoring, the more power you give to what is ignored.”
It’s in this spirit that I invite you to notice how you turn away from your anxiety and turn towards activities that distract. Notice what you do to ignore fear. Understand that ignoring your fear – by engaging in activities that distract – only makes that fear stronger. Paradoxically, it is in the turning towards our anxiety that we begin to free ourselves from it.
#2 – Projecting onto other people or situations
Projection is another tactic we use to turn away from anxiety. Rather than directing our attention inward where the fear is, we direct our attention “out there.” This can take the form of criticizing other people, finding fault in our surroundings, casting blame, gossiping, etc.
We can’t heal what we aren’t willing to look at. Projection is a master tactic of the ego, keeping our focus away from the exact thing we need to look at. The ego might protect us from pain temporarily, but it keeps us from feeling better over the long-run.
When you hear yourself projecting onto other people or situations, stop and look within. What’s going on inside that you don’t want to look at? What exactly are you feeling afraid of?
#3 – Shutting down
Shutting down is a way of leaving the scene while the body remains present. When there is the threat of feeling something painful or uncomfortable – like anxiety – we might shut down internally as a coping mechanism. It’s possible to shut down in the midst of our surroundings, while a conversation is happening, or as events are unfolding right in front of our eyes.
Shutting down is different for everyone but it can look like:
feeling emotionally “numb,” unable to identify the presence of any emotion,
having the sensation that the mind is temporarily “blank,” no thoughts arise even as we try to summon them
feeling physical sensations that are overwhelming enough to fully distract from the present moment, such as exhaustion, nausea or headaches.
All these responses to anxiety are part of what it is to be human. They are also responses that cause us to suffer. In the noticing of how we respond to fear, we open ourselves up to the possibility of choosing differently. If you want to learn how to cure anxiety, practice allowing your fear. It is in the feeling of fear, that we free ourselves from it. The challenge is that we have spent a lifetime learning to do just the opposite.
About the Author
Diana Calvo is a psychotherapist and coach who helps people get unstuck and transform their day-to-day experience of work and life. After 20 years successfully climbing the corporate ladder, Diana experienced her own journey of healing and awakening. She discovered her true calling to guide others on their journey out of suffering and into a life of purpose and joy. Diana left the corporate world to start her own coaching business. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her dog Joey and a beautiful view of the mountains. She works with clients across the globe.