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A Key Skill I had to Master to Overcome Anxiety.

Updated: Jul 14


smiling woman in pink medical scrubs between two people in blue medical scrubs

I struggled with high-functioning anxiety for decades of my life without even knowing it. So as I learned how to work through it, there were some fundamentals I had to master before I saw sustainable, long-term results. This key concept and the skill that goes with it is one of them:

If you want to sustainably shift your emotional state at baseline, you must find ways to spend more time IN the state you want, than OUT of it on any given day. And you need to do that consistently until it gets adopted and automated. Full stop.

That means, in a given day when we're probably awake for ~ 14-16 hours, we have to find ways to keep our emotional state functioning in a MODERATE range of Present-Calm for at least 7-8 hours. That's not my rule. It’s simply how these bodies are designed. If you don’t like it, you gotta take it up with the Big Guy.


THINK ABOUT THIS IN THE UPCOMING WEEK


Yes, doing a morning routine IS very helpful. It’s a great way to prime your mind for the day. But by itself, it won’t make you calmer at baseline if you spend the next 8-10 hours of the day anxious or stressed.


And having a healthy set of coping strategies IS terrific too. But you need to be implementing them frequently throughout the day to keep your emotional state 'burning' at consistent, moderate level.


When I only used coping tools after I was triggered, or as a response to an emotional ‘flare-up’, it was too late. It was simply like putting a band-aid on a wound to stop a surge of bleeding. Which is helpful if it stays there. But if it keeps getting‘ ripped off’ ... well, you see my point.



KEEP THIS IMAGE IN MIND AS CUE


Think of managing your emotional state throughout the day, like watching a camp fire you’ve been assigned to monitor. Your goal is to keep it from completely going out, AND to keep it from exploding into fiery inferno as you go through your day.

Since calming my nervous system for the long-haul was one of my goals, I needed to implement whatever coping tool was needed to keep a ‘moderate burn’ going, for at least 7-8 (more than half) of my waking hours.


I know it sounds like a lot. But it was very do-able once I got the hang of picking uo cues early. Our nervous system won’t automate anything unless we do it enough times, that adoption will save it overall energy. So this is part of what's needed for our emotional nervous system to adopt a new activation pattern as well.


Now of course, If you and I were monks we could go sit in a quiet temple and meditate for 8 hours a day. Doing that for 3-4 months, combined with creating a pattern of empowering thoughts, would also shift your baseline state. But you and I aren't monks. We’re real people, living in a real world. So we have to find ways to recreate a similar body experience while living a regular life. Challenging. But do-able. And quite honestly, although it may be harder to do in a busy, chaotic world than it is to do it in a quiet, isolated temple ... my sense is that our resilience to real-world experiences will be higher.


SO HOW DO WE DO IT?


Here’s what's made a huge difference for me:


BODY AWARENESS - this played a huge role. Checking in with my body frequently, noticing when my emotional ‘burn’ needed more of a ‘stoking’ type coping strategy to rev it up a bit before it got too low. Or noticing when I needed a more 'cooling' type strategy to calm it down, before it started burning too hot. See what I'm getting at?


If I wasn’t consistently checking in with my body for cues, that 'camp fire' might burn out. Or I'd find myself scrambling to put out an amped-up ‘blaze’. And if either of those things happened, I lost a lot of time - time that I needed in that reliable moderate 'burn' state, so my nervous system would eventually automate it.


SET HOURLY ALARMS ON YOUR PHONE if needed. That worked for me. But you need to implement your skills and tools FREQUENTLY throughout the day, so you can keep that emotional 'flame' in a moderate range of 'burn'. And do it before it gets too low, or too high. FREQUENT and EARLY - commit that to memory.


OTHER FACTORS


There are of course, other contributors to lasting emotional refinement work, including examining thought patterns and learning to think flexibly. These are both examples of effective TOP-DOWN healing approaches. And there are many more.


But personally, I got much faster return on my efforts by combining those ‘intellect-based’ strategies with more sensory/body-based tools like the one I’m describing here with the ‘campfire’ analogy. This is an example of a BOTTOM-UP healing approach. (watch this quick video to learn more about the differences).



So this upcoming week.....


Keep doing that morning routine.

Keep implementing those mental strategies and examining your beliefs.

Keep using your healthy calming or stimulating strategies as needed AND….


...use them frequently enough, and early enough so you keep that working range of emotions at a moderate, steady ‘burn’ throughout the day. Do this long enough and consistently enough, and your emotional nervous system will begin to sustainably shift.


I’m pulling for you.

Jen


 

If you’re new to learning ‘body awareness’ and want to improve your ability to read those early signs of emotional ‘dip’ or activation, this is one of our most popular free classes.

It's designed to help even the most ‘wiggly’ people get a jump on developing this skill. Anyone can learn body awareness!

So make sure check it out.


 

The Human Infusion Project is a grassroots, not-for-profit personal development platform that draws from the combined fields of modern brain science, applied psychology and spiritual philosophy. Our mission aims to augment and supplement the work of professional practitioners in simplified, practical ways, and to give clients an affordable home program they can use in between sessions. 100% of all online class profit funds the Wellness Assistance Grant. If financial constraints limit your participation, please contact me and we'll work something out.

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