Taming anxiety gremlins

“Josie Askin, guest blogger for Health 2000. July 2020.”

Anxiety is in the eye of the beholder. Tame anxiety gremlins from foe to friend.

A racing heart, churning stomach, shoulders up around your ears, jaw clenched, sweaty palms or perhaps a sense of foreboding and doom – this is what it feels like when anxiety gremlins come to play and take over your mind and body. For some, these gremlins may be a familiar foe, while others may experience them for the first time during the current environment. Uncertainty and change that is outside of your control, like the nature of pandemics, economic downturn and redundancies, can feed the gremlins. If left unchecked, these gremlins can take on monstrous portions – like King Kong, they can take down the bravest! So, how can you tame the mischievous gremlins before they take over you?

While you can’t control everything, you can control your perception and response to anxiety and stress. Anxiety and stress are usually categorised as the enemy and something to be feared that is harmful to your health and wellbeing due to their physiological effects. Prolonged and chronic stress can lead to health problems due to the constriction of blood vessels that can occur when you are anxious and stressed.

However, both anxiety and stress can be your friend. When managed, they are proven to enhance your performance, giving you an edge over the competition. Befriending these gremlins may be as simple as changing your perception of them. Research[1] shows that when you believe the physiological signs of anxiety and stress are beneficial performance enhancers, the physical constriction of blood vessels does not occur. Your physical responses when you experience what you believe are symptoms of ‘beneficial performance enhancers’ is similar to when someone is feeling happy or even brave. This is the sort of friend you want to have! How do you embrace anxiety gremlins as friends next time they knock at your door?

Here are some of Spring Coaching’s favourite ways to embrace anxiety and stress:

  • Accept your thoughts and feelings as natural. They are what they are! Like the weather, your thoughts and feelings are variable. Sometimes it’s warm and sunny, and other days cold and wet.
  • Label the physiological signs of anxiety and stress as your magical performance enhancers rather than as something harmful
  • Tune into your breathing. Try to match the length of your inhale with your exhale. Breathe in deeply for the count of four and exhale for the count of four. Repeat three to four times and feel your heart rate return to normal.
  • Ground yourself into the present moment by tuning into everything around you using each of your senses. Feel the ground beneath your feet supporting you. Listen to the wind whistling through the trees. Look at the colours around you and admire their brightness. Sip a hot drink savouring the taste. Smell the aromas around you.
  • Practice anchoring. This is a Neurolingual Programming (NLP) technique where you connect a desired emotion or feeling with an object. With practice you’ll be able to bring the desired emotion or feeling by holding on to your object. For more information, including a free recording using anchoring for relaxation see our blog “Drop your anchor”.
  • Give a personality to your anxiety gremlins. We like to imagine ours as Porky Pig. It’s hard to take any anxious thoughts seriously when they come out squeaking like Porky Pig.
  • Channel your musical talents and turn anxiety-provoking thoughts into a ridiculous jingle, you’ll find any anxious thoughts are less powerful when delivered as a jingle.
  • Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. They may not have all the answers but they’ll be able to listen and support you find further help if it is required

If you or a loved one needs further support please ask for help. Free call or text 1737 at any time to speak with a trained counsellor – it’s free and confidential.

Josie Askin is a holistic wellness coach, owner of Spring Coaching, experienced long-distance runner, pilates teacher, and yogi. Spring Coaching empowers busy people to be happier and healthier through small sustainable steps that lead to lasting change.

Josie’s qualifications and experience in psychology, professional coaching, nutrition, sports training, and pilates enable her to take a holistic view of wellness covering movement, nutrition, and mindset. You are how you move, eat, and think.

You can connect with Josie at www.spring-coaching.co.nz or FacebookAll advice and material provided are for educational and informational purposes only. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Spring Coaching assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in any advice or material provided. © 2020 Spring Coaching

[1] https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend?language=en, McGonigal, K The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It