5 Steps to Calm Your Worried Mind

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We’re back at it—talking about ANXIETY. 

Jamie-Clare de la Chapelle, my team’s Community Experience Director, joins me for the second part of her live coaching session to talk through 5 steps to calm your mind in moments of acute anxiety. Or as I like to call it, my “Back from the Future” Tool!

The simplest way to describe anxiety is—a failed attempt to control the future. It’s fueled by fear and the uncertainty of the unknown. Worry keeps us occupied, and away from actually feeling our emotions and healing the underlying trigger.

What are the anxious thoughts that run through your head on repeat? Are you actively worrying about what you cannot control or creating endless “what if” scenarios? 

There are different types of anxiety—let’s distinguish acute anxiety from chronic. 

In moments of acute anxiety, you may feel  panicked, overwhelmed, and your brain will go into “either / or” thinking. In chronic anxiety, you will experience a more low-level, generalized sense of unrest. You may feel a continuous, underlying state of uncertainty, self-doubt or worry.

The underlying emotion behind anxiety is fear.  When you have anxiety, how intense is your fear on the spectrum from a little self-doubt to active anxiety to paralyzing fear?

I promised you 5 simple steps out of anxiety…so, without further ado—

First thing’s first—it’s time to get out of your head and into your body. 

When your mind travels in all sorts of imaginative directions, you may find yourself spiraling toward the panic zone. The fastest way to turn that around is by instead, grounding yourself in your body. This instantly brings you back to the present moment. When you’re focused on the physical sensations in your body, you can’t simultaneously be in the future. 

So, be present. 

Step TWO​​—name that fear.

This is where all those “What if…” scenarios going on in your mind. 

Fill in the blank: 

What I’m most afraid of is ______________ . 

What if… ________________________________?

So, let’s suppose your anxiety is around getting sick. You might find yourself worrying, “What if I get sick?” as an example. Name the fear of being sick. 

Step THREE—it’s time to expand your perspective. 

Challenge your limiting beliefs by writing down: Right here, right now, what I know for sure is…._______________________.

Oftentimes this is starkly different than the run-away scenarios in your mind. 

To continue our example of someone being afraid of getting ill—step three would be to challenge that belief. That person might be anxious, but when they describe their current reality—they realize that …right here, right now…they are symptom-free, haven’t been exposed to anyone who is sick and are currently in good health!  

Step FOUR—Now that you recognize the thoughts that play on repeat in your mind, you have the power to change them. This step is about creating a short affirmation to reprogram your thinking from fearful thoughts to the truth of the present moment.  

So, back to our previous example—when you notice those anxious thoughts about getting sick creeping in, instead, you would replace them with something as simple as:  I am whole, healthy & well.

Step FIVE—ask yourself this question:

 “What would self-trust and courage do now?”

The antidote to anxiety is self-trust. 

If anxiety is a result of unsuccessfully trying to predict the future, then the cure is trusting yourself in the present moment. Trusting yourself enough to know you can handle what’s coming next—that’s the confidence that trains your mind out of anxiety. 

Back to our worried-about-getting-sick person and their real-life example—how would step FIVE play out for them? If they indeed did get sick, what would self-trust and courage do next? Maybe they would call their doctor? Maybe they would ask their family member for help? Maybe they would increase their immune-boosting supplements. There are many right answers. Trust that it will come to you when you ask yourself the right question.

 

HERE’S OUR CONVERSATION: 

Doctor Neha Sangwan: Ok J.C., let’s talk a little bit about your anxiety. What are the thoughts that you said, Give me Give me some thoughts that might run through your head at times…

Jamie-Clare de la Chapelle: Inadequacy.

Doctor Neha: Or is it like, I am inadequate? Is it like, oh, never measure up? Like, just give me like the actual thought, like, what is it?

J.C.: Probably like, I’ll never measure up, or like, I don’t have the capacity to be enough. Or to fill in the hole, whatever it is, yeah.

Doctor Neha:  So let’s just talk about anxiety for a moment. There’s two kinds of anxiety, there’s acute anxiety. Whereas, like, in this moment, somebody is panicked, and not really able to think about anything else there. They’re kind of at a, you know, there’s like, oh, a little bit of self doubt, that might translate translate into worry. If it gets a little more intense, it might be nervous and anxious. And then it might turn into full blown anxiety, right, and panic, all the way to paralysis. So the first important thing to know in anxiety is where are you on the spectrum of fear? Because fear is the underlying emotion, for anxiety? So the question becomes, what are you afraid of? Right? And on that whole spectrum? Where are you? If you’re near the anxious, overly anxious, panicked space, that’s a different kind of healing that needs to happen. That is a really grounding that needs to happen because all anxiety is is a failed  attempt to control the future. Right, so it’s fueled by fear. It’s a failed attempt to control the future, because really, none of us know what the future is. and worrying about it keeps us occupied in the present moment. So we actually don’t have to deal with what’s here right now.

J.C.: It’s like scapegoating my anxiety by postponing it.

Doctor Neha: Or scapegoating your feelings. By going up into your mind not having to be in your heart.

Maybe you feel sad, maybe you feel worried, maybe you feel some, you know, feelings that you don’t want to feel. But if you can rev yourself up in your mind, and worry about other things, you can stay forward focused, busy, busy, busy, busy. And it’ll never end because there’s always something else in the future to worry about. Now, when you develop this initially, it’s usually a self protective mess of mechanism. There may have been real threats, there may have been real worries, or you may there may be very legitimate concerns that our world there’s this part of you that is having this failed attempt to control the future. And so if the past is already gone, and it can’t be changed, and the future isn’t here yet. There’s one place that you can actually be and impact change.

So a few things, fears on a spectrum, maybe a little bit of self doubt, to fear to, you know, and nervousness, full blown anxiety and panic attacks, right, and paralysis. First, think about where you are on that spectrum. If you’re anywhere in overly anxious panicked, literally that means in this moment, you are not taking in new information. That means you are literally going to need to first ground yourself before anything can change. And you do that through your body.

Because when you’re in your body, you can only be in the present moment. You can’t be in the future.

So right now I want you to take feel your body I’m on the seat, the chair that you’re on, you feel that gravity pulling you down. Feel where the where you’re sitting where you’re being supported. Feel your feet on the ground. Take a nice, slow, deep breath in and out and feel your ribcage, expand and contract. And as you exhale, let your shoulders down. Let this chair that you’re sitting on in the ground, LET IT support you. It’s got you, you can actually exhale.

And then when you become really aware of this expansion and contraction in your ribcage. Now you’re like in your body. Sometimes you feel your heart racing, sometimes it’s hard to even take a deep breath. But when you can start to feel and tune inward to your own self. Now you can balance the outside world with your inner world. And that’s the first step. Because when you go up into your head and you start spiraling to the future, that gets out of control quickly taking those deep breaths. And step one is grounding yourself. If you’re ever in the presence of someone who’s having a panic attack, which I have been for many, many times, because in the emergency department, there’s nobody there who doesn’t think they’re going to die. Right.

So a way a way to do this. If somebody’s really panicking, and you want to reground them in their body as you ask them. Can I put my hand right here on your chest and on your back? If they say yes, ground them, okay. And then ask them to take a deep breath and separate your hands. And so in that breath, right, they’re going to expand their their chest. And as they do, do what I just did with you, which is feel gravity pulling you down, feel yourself supported by the bed, the chair, the ground, you’re right here right now, first step. If somebody is not at that extreme space, right, but they they’re curious, like what’s underneath, like you what’s underneath all this anxiety that I’m running constantly? Well, you want to first have what I’m most afraid of is, so you’re going to name that fear. So give me a line.

J.C.: What I’m most afraid of is disappointing people.

Doctor Neha: But it’s true. Okay, so disappointing people. So first of all, I want you to know, there’s like a lot of people. There’s a lot of people you could disappoint. Okay,

J.C.: There’s so many “what if?” scenarios, endless possibilities.

Doctor Neha: Endless possibilities! Almost like anxiety. I could worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow next week. Right? Like, right, so here’s, here’s there’s good news and bad news in that it’s good that you’re really empathic you care about other people. The bad news is, sometimes you have to disappoint other people to be true to yourself. And sometimes, you have to say, I have a lived experience, and I have an inner knowing this is the next step of my journey. When you have a stronger knowing than you do a fear of discord, you will move forward.

Step one, ground yourself in your body in the present moment.

Step two, name that fear. “What I’m most afraid of is…” “What if bla bla bla bla bla…” So your fear is what I’m most afraid of is disappointing others.

Number three, it’s time to expand your perspective.

So now we’re going to challenge your limiting beliefs, right here right now.

Not someday in the future. Okay. Right here right now. Who are you? Disappointing. Tell me name all the people. You’re disappointing right now. All of them at this moment?

J.C.: No one I don’t think.

Doctor Neha: Okay, so that’s interesting, because when I bring all those fears from like, way out, and we don’t know where, right here to the present moment, number one, you’re grounded in your body. Can you feel that that you’re grounded? Now? You’re more grounded. Okay. Number two, you’re going to your fears of disappointing others, which is endless. Three is a wow, right now. I actually don’t think I’m disappointing anyone. So in the current moment, you spend your time worried about disappointing others. You miss the peace and joy right now of knowing that in fact, you have this blissful space in your life where there is joy there is satisfaction you’d like what you’re doing, you’re learning. You’re growing, right? You’re building you’re creating. So you’re missing the opportunity for peace, joy and satisfaction. You’re because you’re not in the future. It’s right here.

The deal is we don’t know how long this lasts. Because one thing we know about life is that it can change in a moment. But wouldn’t it be a shame to miss this moment right now? Right. So then the step four is us coming up with now that you know that that tape is running in your head, kind of like your favorite song on repeat, right? You know that there’s this tape that’s running in your head, sometimes maybe just in the background, what you want to do is you want to reprogram your thinking. So step four, is reprogramming that thinking, and when it arises, what if I disappoint other people?

You want a really short mantra, phrase, reminder, whatever it is a little phrase that says, I am, right. So if I was afraid that I was going to get sick, let’s say, I’m really afraid I might get sick, I would say, I am whole healthy and well, because that’s what’s true in this moment. So now, when in your mind, it goes, well, what if I disappoint other people? What can you say to yourself, that would flip that around, that would be a short piece, right? You don’t have to say it all at once, like it might not come up, we just need to talk through it a little bit. So you can come up with something that would remind you of who you are. So what would that be?

J.C. Well, I think what my the first thing that comes to mind is that I want to say that I’m perfectly imperfect, but I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for. But like, it’s okay to not be 100% all the time and to show up as you are and give my best effort like i i That’s who I want to be. That’s who I want to live as. And so I don’t want to be afraid to make mistakes. I want to be able to embrace the beauty of being a human which is imperfect, right? So

Doctor Neha: Fantastic. So every day, I grow and learn. I love that every day, I become a truer version of me. Every day, I get more opportunities to challenge myself. I am someone who learns from my mistakes and uses them to be a better version of me. Right? So I just took whatever you just said, and I bought them lined it to a few phrases. Yeah, any of those resonate with you?

J.C.: Absolutely. I love the “grow and learn.”

“Every day I grow and learn.”

“I learned from my mistakes.”

I like that.

Doctor Neha: So now we have every day I grow and learn. So when what if I disappoint people, okay, if that keeps you in a box and keeps you in bed metaphorically warm under your covers, all right, and physically. It’s like, every day I grow and learn, I wonder what I’m going to learn and grow, grow and learn today. I wonder what today’s gonna bring? Right? And then whenever the fear seems like it’s greater than your purpose in your vision, your job is to ask yourself this question. What would self trust and courage do now? What would self trust and courage do now? And the reason I’m asking you that is the antidote to anxiety is self trust. Because the only reason you have to try and figure out everything that might happen and could happen and how you might disappoint people in the world, is because you don’t trust yourself that if you do, you’ll know what to do next. So I want to ask you, in those moments when you are worried that you’re going to disappoint people what would self trust and courage do next? Or do now? Right?

J.C.: Yes–moving forward with confidence and the confidence that I already spoke about just being willing to apologize when I do make a mistake like I’m I’m brave and courageous enough to do that. And I’m willing to say “I don’t know.”

Doctor Neha: There’s sometimes you outgrow situations like that toxic work and moment that you spoke of. Right? And sometimes it is time to go. And sometimes relationships are time to transition out. Right? And so there’s, there’s also a space of, Oh, I’ll reassess here. I’ll figure it out. What would courage and trust do now? It would reflect on this, figure it out and take the next steps you need to, to take care of you.

Right? Absolutely. That’s wise.

Doctor Neha: So step one, ground yourself in your body, bring all those forward thinking thoughts in the future, get in your body, because that’s in the here and now.

Second, so you’re getting out of your head and into your body, step to name that fear. What if what I’m most afraid of is and get the fear from way in the future to disappointing all the 7 billion people in the get it to right here right now on paper? What is this thing? That’s so a morphus? And huge three. Expand your perspective, right here right now? Come on, let’s have a little call to action. Right here right now is that thing that’s way out in the future? And enormous? What’s the reality of it? For right?

What’s the turnaround? When that starts running and occupying my mental energy and draining me of energy? What’s the truth based on right here right now? What’s true for me? And lastly, when it’s time to choose what would self trust and courage do now?

J.C.: Work on trusting myself actively.

Doctor Neha: I think it’s a really important topic to, you know, help people through and make concrete because you can use it for any fears. And the tricky part is figuring out that turnaround and just simplifying it. And so grab a friend, bounce it off someone ask them what they hear, right and together come up with just say, “Every day I grow and learn.” Something that resonates with you.