Anxious behaviors that may actually be trauma responses.
Have you ever felt so anxious about something before even doing that thing? The thought of getting involved in such a thing sends you spiraling out of control? Your heart starts racing, your palms are sweaty, and you can't think straight. Now you are reminded of all the times you didn't do well, and how you want to do anything to avoid that thing and feeling..All you can think about is everything that could go wrong. You start telling yourself you aren't good enough and you can't do this, or what other people will think about you..
That anxious behavior is your body’s way of trying to protect you by going into survival mode, where you shut down and nothing happens. This is hugely embedded in fear especially if you have memories of the past where you were made to feel small, not important and not good enough. So now you find yourself not knowing how to be in situations that require you to show up, or situations that expose you. Anxious behaviors such as overthinking, constant worry are all trauma responses because your brain wants to be certain before you take action so you don't end up like before.
Since your anxious behavior may be a trauma response, the fear of the unknown for you is a dangerous place to be with having no control of what would happen. You are the type of person who plans everything out. You think things through, you are always 5 steps ahead, and process every possible scenario. For you, feeling in control of your surroundings, your circumstances, and everything that happens in your life gives you a sense of power over at least something. You may have had a past where you were violated in some ways that left you feeling powerless, so your body’s natural response is to protect you since you didn't feel protected as a child. Those memories keep reminding you of what you need to keep doing, keeping you on high alert every time. This is where stress comes from.
Anything that remotely requires you to just go with the flow, and see what happens, sends you into a panic. Going with the flow and being open to possibilities of what could be is exactly what you need to start trusting yourself. This can be a difficult process for most people, wanting to make sure not to end up in situations that leave you feeling vulnerable, since feeling vulnerable makes you feel powerless?
This constant need for certainty in everything you do, does not allow you to explore to see what else could be, and as a result, you have feelings of stuckness that eventually leads to feelings of hopelessness.
An example of a trauma response would be when you have to safeguard yourself so tightly limiting your capabilities essentially, and then ending up getting exactly what you are afraid of. There are ways to work through these feelings to find calmness in your mind and body to think and trust that you will be OK… to trust that you are learning and undoing old patterns, old ways of thinking, old ways of living, undoing the past and embracing the possibilities of the future. But that can only happen when you make the decision to enjoy the present by intentionally making decisions in the moment.
Here are some tips on how to do just that to help you manage anxious feelings.
1. Sit with your feelings. You may have the tendency of wanting to just get over things or feelings that are uncomfortable, because quite honestly you don't know what to do. Or you want a quick fix instead of going through the emotions and listening to what they are communicating to you. Feelings are the language of the body and thoughts are the language of the mind. So your thoughts and feelings are always helping you understand yourself better, but you aren't getting the message because you aren't listening to yourself. I get it, you may not even know how to listen to your mind and body, so try sitting with the feeling for just a bit longer and see what happens. Don't forget to document the experience.
2. You don't need to have an answer right away. I have introduced my clients to the container idea, which is where you store thoughts, feelings and emotions temporarily instead of trying to pretend that they do not exist only to have them showing up in times when you least expect it. Unresolved issues don't just go away, they need to be worked on for clarity as to why they are there in the first place. Use the container, create a mental space or find a place in your home or car, a place you can remember, and put thoughts, feelings and emotions into with the intention of getting back to it. I suggest getting back to it before the day ends to see where you are. This has some huge benefits such as you may be better equipped to view things differently now since the intense emotions you had initially have subsided. This is also a great tool for when you can't think of what to do in the moment.
3. Give yourself permission to just be. By giving yourself permission, you are removing the tension from your mind and body. You are respecting and honoring yourself and caring for yourself. Nothing good comes from putting pressure on yourself to do something, be something in the moment. By just simply saying it is ok, I will be ok, or let me get back to this later, your mind and body will immediately start to relax. So every time you find yourself feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, and needing something to happen right there and then, remember to give yourself permission to let go of whatever you are telling yourself. Let go of “SHOULD” statements, let go of expectations, let go of the outcome you are holding on to, and just let it be for NOW.
All of these strategies are possible when you dedicate yourself to getting to know yourself on a much deeper level. That comes with learning to trust and believe in yourself and knowing that you are a unique being that needs the chance to get to know who you are to tap into what makes you different. You see today’s society wants us all to be the same, so we compare ourselves to others and never take the time to find out who we really are, what we like, our values and identify the things that are important to us.
Your life becomes better by knowing and believing in yourself . What this means is knowing that you have been through so much already and came out on top, so this time is no different, but you have to know and believe it. It is a skill you can harness by being intentional in reminding yourself often. Everything happening in your life is for a reason that’s meant to make you better. Realizing that those challenges that require you to take a stand help you discover your confidence. There is no need to fear of failure when you are making progress by taking small steps towards changing your life. This helps you learn so much more about yourself in the process simply by doing the things you are most afraid to do. This is where true happiness and confidence lie.