Your anxiety is trying to help you

 One the most interesting things I have learned over the past two years is that we actually create anxiety.  It is a choice.  I sometimes practice an anxiety meditation where you generate anxiety and try to hold it.  You quickly realize how much energy it takes to be anxious.  It’s exhausting.

Anxiety is a common theme in my executive coaching practice.  We all want to develop strategies and techniques to silence negative self-talk or noise.  Let’s face it, the running dialogue we have with ourselves rarely ceases and is rarely positive.

I wanted to share my process for managing anxiety.  It can be done anywhere, takes little time and has proven effective for me:

  1. Recognize that you are feeling anxiety
  2. Breathe your way to calm
  3. Acknowledge that your anxiety for protecting you
  4. Explore what it is protecting you from
  5. Think of something you are grateful for about yourself

Recognize that you are feeling anxiety. The first step is simple.  Recognize the physiological and emotional sensation of being anxious. What does that feel like for you?

Breathe your way to calm. I next use the breath to settle things down.  10 deep inhalations and 10 equally long exhalations.  Focused breathing is incredibly powerful.  By engaging the parasympathetic nervous system deep breathing restores calmness.

Acknowledge that your anxiety is protecting you. Anxiety is ultimately a defense mechanism. Dick Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems (IFS) model posits that we are comprised of different subpersonalities or ‘parts’.  Some of these parts constantly scan our environment to keep us safe.  Acknowledging whatever ‘part’ of me is providing protection eases my anxiety.

Explore what it is protecting you from. In the context of IFS, I next think about what this ‘part’ might be protecting me from.  I do this by checking in with my thoughts to see if there is a central theme.  I have also done this with a deeper reflection or meditation.  Typically my anxiety is tied to concern or worry about the future based on a past experience.  Identifying a possible source helps you more forward.

Think of something you are grateful for about yourself. The final step for me is self-gratitude.  This is especially effective if there was direct chatter that created the self-doubt.  Providing encouragement to yourself in challenging moments puts wind in your sails.

Anxiety will never completely disappear.  This approach helps me quickly shift my mindset and move forward constructively.  I hope it works for you as well!

(originally posted at


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