Anxiety Hack: Train Your Brain to Be Present
I have never thought of myself as an “anxious” person. Yes, of course, there is some level of anxiety inherent in all of us. That is part of being human, and a trait we have probably had since the Paleolithic era. But I never experienced any type of anxiety worth mentioning to anyone, let alone, worth blogging about. Until a couple weeks ago. A couple weeks ago, I experienced my first anxiety “attack” (while driving, which was pretty scary). I share my experience because I am sure (actually, I know), that I am not the only one dealing with these feelings and emotions, especially as an attorney.
I didn’t know what or why I was feeling this way — in a constant state of anxiety. Usually, I shake it off any such feelings. But this time, it wasn’t shaking off as fast and casually as usual. Instead of resisting why I feeling that way, I became inquisitive. I wanted to know what was making me feel anxious. I have a very good idea of what the root problem was— my job as a lawyer. My work load, coupled with expectations- expectations of how my cases should be progressing, expectations of how opposing counsel should be acting, expectations of how many cases I should be handling, expectations of how much money I should be making. All the realities and expectations that come with being a lawyer + having your own firm. I had hit a point where it was just a lot, and my mind and body were sending me signals along those lines.
I meditate, I do yoga, I am mindful. Still, that was not even enough in this time of feeling these emotions. I was forced to look even deeper, and question what it was that making me anxious and keeping me from doing what I know I should do – be happy NOW. Why was I feeling looming anxiety? This was not a “normal” mental state for me. When you ask questions, answers arise.
The answer for me has been sitting on my nightstand, in a book I was a quarter of a way through reading. This book, “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, shed some clarity on why I had been feeling an unshakeable sense of anxiety for a few weeks prior. What I have read of the book is magnificent so far, but the most pertinent part was found in the section titled: “Freedom from Unhappiness”. Most noteworthy to me was the portion which read:
“…Feel the emotion…[w]hether your thoughts and emotions about this situation are justified or not makes no difference. The fact is that you are resisting it. You are making the present moment into an enemy. You are creating unhappiness, conflict between the inner and outer.”
Ah-ha. That was it. There were various work situations and expectations that I was having an emotional reaction to, and that reaction was making me unhappy and anxious. I was then resisting the emotions and feelings that arose when thinking and dwelling upon these situations and expectations. There was apparent conflict between what my expectations were and my (mind was telling me) was reality. As a result, unhappiness was born.
Ok, so, now what? Acknowledging the problem is great and all, but was the book going to tell me how to FIX IT?! Let’s be honest, I just want to get to the bottom of it. Luckily, the next paragraph did lend some insight. The answer, in part, lies within these words:
“Either stop doing what you are doing, speak to the person concerned and express fully what you feel, or drop the negativity that your mind has created around the situations and that serves no purpose whatsoever except to strengthen a false sense of self…negativity is never the optimum way of dealing with any situation. In fact in most cases it keeps you stuck in it, blocking real change.”
So, as I read it, I could either 1) quit being a lawyer, 2) if there was a person making me feel this way, have an honest conversation with that person, or 3) drop the negativity that I am creating about what the outcome of things will be. Here, specifically, it was worry surrounding the outcome of my cases and the success of my law firm. This last option, to drop the negativity/worry/doubt seemed the most applicable, and honestly, a main factor for my anxiety.
It’s easier said than done, but changing perspective and moving away from a “worry-driven” mind to a “just dealing with the moment” mind is the key. My anxiety was created by my own expectations of the future, and my worries of what is (maybe, possibly) to come at work, in my firm, in my cases. I was allowing this worry to keep me from enjoying the present moment- the here and the NOW. It takes some internal observation to realize where your emotions are coming from. After all, it is the thoughts which we create in our mind (and we have a choice, believe it or not), which create our emotions and feelings. Keep bringing yourself back to the here, the now, the present.
All I have said here is good and makes sense, to most, but it takes practice. It’s not to say “I will never be anxious or worry again because it serves me no purpose.” But it is to say that the awareness I can bring to my future anxious self will help, however big or small. Like everything else, it takes practice. The more you consciously train your mind to move from worry/anxiety to the now, the faster your mind will subconsciously begin to respond to worry in this way. After all, the NOW is the only real moment we have control of.
When have you worried to your wits end, just to find that everything worked out just fine? Remember these times, and know that life is meant to work in your favor.
2 thoughts on “Anxiety Hack: Train Your Brain to Be Present”
Dear Mona, It was an exceptionally well-written article and created many interesting suggestions on the subject.The tips in your article have helped me become more positive.I would like to thank you for well-written article.
Thank you, Shadi! I appreciate your feedback and am happy it was helpful for you.