The final resting pose in yoga class, also known as Shavasana, is a time where you allow your body to sink into the mat, let go of tension, relax and breathe. Settling into the pose, the instructor challenges to simply notice any thoughts that enter and let them go, allowing yourself to fully rest. But today I could not do it. My brain kept jumping from one thing to the next. Running through panicked thoughts of to-dos that have yet to be done, I was stuck in my head. Trying so hard to be present at yoga, I realized anxiety was creeping in.
Knowing that I am not alone in this struggle, I started this mini-series to encourage others as we learn to cope with anxiety and now I'm on to my 4th tip.
One lesson I’ve learned is that understanding yourself and being aware of what your body is telling you is incredibly valuable in coping with anxiety. I've learned that when my mind jumps from one nervous thought to another or I’m struggling with insecurities or panicking about a commitment coming up, that’s anxiety wreaking havoc. Struggling to stay focused in yoga this morning was a warning sign for me. Knowing this about myself, I am then able to say – hey this is anxiety, now what can I do about it. And that’s where my tip comes in.
get to know yourself & Exercise your no
Let me ask you this– if you know that drinking caffeine gives you migraines, are you going to keep drinking caffeine? Umm… No, probably not so much. Or if you know you get super cranky and can’t operate when you don’t get a good night’s rest, are you going to stay up late every single night? No way. Once you've discovered these things about yourself, you act accordingly. Well, the same applies to anxiety - the more you know yourself and recognize your signs of anxiety, the better you can determine the causes and put a stop to it.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
- If you know that insecurity is a warning sign for anxietyand that you feel inferior to others when you look at Instagram – then stay off social media.
- If you know that a key to fighting off anxiety is a night at home on the couch with no agenda, but you're afraid your friend will be mad at you if you don’t meet her for a glass of wine – don’t go!
- If you know that you feel discouraged and sad about your love life when you watch sappy, unrealistic romantic comedies - then don’t watch them!
Exercising your no is all about self-care. Living in a culture where we are constantly pressed from every side to be everything and do everything, it’s crucial that we remember that first and foremost we need to care for ourselves - even if that means saying no.
Let me clarify one thing. There's a big difference between saying no because of anxiety and saying no to decrease anxiety. If you're saying no to an event because your anxiety is making you irrationally afraid, then I would actually tell you to say yes. Allowing anxiety to control you or dictate what you are doing is only giving it more power. However, if you know that this event is not healthy for you because it will cause anxiety, then say no. In this case you're taking away anxiety's power before it's even had a chance to start. Honestly, it's a really fine line and not an easy thing to learn. It takes a lot of time to get to know yourself well and understand what you need to do (or not do) to be as anxiety-free as possible. But it is so worth it.
Ask the Lord to reveal to you areas where you might need to better care for yourself. Say no to anxiety's power - and make choices that lead to peace.
You're not alone.