It took me many many many years to figure out that for most of my life, I was operating in panic mode. Somewhere in my youth, probably around age 6, I felt enough stress and anxiety that I began to retreat into my inner mind to try to resolve the conflict that my caretakers were creating for me and/or were not helping me to resolve because they were completely unaware, and in their own panic mode.
That doesn't mean we were not all creative and intelligent people accomplishing extraordinary things. We were. My parents, sister, grandparents, etc., were all in anxiety mode throughout my childhood. I know this now because I can see the signs through our systems of unhappiness, worry, troubled self-esteem, our pervasive compulsions, addictions, etc. Things were a mess for my lineage dating back 1,300 years. Maybe more, there are no records of my family prior to the bubonic plague and the fall of the Ming Dynasty.
The 1940s were miserable in America. The war was raging in Europe and the Pacific. My maternal grandfather lost his older brother. Post-war, men were returning with severe PTSD and then returned to start their families.
My grandfather was a sweet grandfather but an abusive father to his 4 daughters. There was physical violence in the home. My grandmother was a loving grandmother but a controlling OCD woman with a very poor education which affected her self-esteem. My grandparents were in a perpetual state of bickering with each other.
My mother was physically abusive to me and not my sister. My father was a cross-addicted alcoholic, smoker, over-eater, junk food addict, who was obsessed with money.
We moved around several times before my parents split. My mother stayed in a shitty, cold, dark, dismal Brooklyn. My father and I stayed in Beverly Hills, 90210. Amazing differences between our family cultures.
I grew up from age 12-19 seeing my mother once or twice per year. It's no surprise that both my sister and I found drugs in our early teens. They were everywhere. (Both my sister and I have been sober since 1985).
Needless to say, our childhood was a disgrace, unless one believes that a childhood in Beverly Hills with a dad with a Rolls Royce and swimming pool represents comfort and luxury. It does not. We were all miserable, swimming pool and pinky rings and all. We were all emotionally troubled, the grown-up and the kids alike. Disordered and anxious.
I passed the same shit onto my oldest daughter. For this, I am sorry. Even while in recovery, I did not manage to avoid passing on the "chaos-brain," "addictive behavior," low self-esteem to my oldest daughter.
Now we are all in recovery. Gratitude for that. It would have been much nicer if we were all Zen Monks and tranquil. It did not work out like that for us. It was not until I was 50 years old that I figured out this word "anxiety."
Anxiety is a normal part of the human mind but was amplified by its persistent nature in my parents' childhood and then passed along to mine, and then I passed it along to my first child.
The anxiety leads to what I call "panic thinking." There's a real physiological response that occurs in anxiety that changes brain chemistry and alters our consciousness. We go from being aware, present, and happy to constricted, defensive, compulsive, impulsive, addiction-prone, panicky, self-centered, untrusting, angry, lonely, irritable, and un-present. This was me for 49 of my years starting at brith since 1969.
Big changes were coming in 2019. When I exited and sold my previous juice
business, Juice Press, I experienced a new level of expansion and freedom. Stepping away from the pressures and stress of that enterprise opened up new possibilities for my mind and spirit. It was a turning point in my life, catalyzing breakthroughs in my meditation practice and personal growth.
During this time, I discovered the power of focusing on my breath during hot yoga classes. The combination of intense physical activity and deep breathing brought me a sense of relaxation and presence that I had not experienced before. It was a pivotal moment when the concept of "be here now" truly resonated with me.
Through years of therapy, self-reflection, writing, and reading, I began to uncover the underlying causes of my anxiety. The patterns and struggles that had plagued my family for generations started to make sense. I realized that my childhood experiences had deeply impacted my mental and emotional well-being.
Writing became a powerful tool for me to explore and process my thoughts, feelings, and past traumas. I immersed myself in a daily practice of writing, delving into the depths of my being and addressing conflicts within my mind and humanity as a whole. This form of self-expression became essential for my mental healing and personal growth.
Therapy played a vital role in my journey as well. Working with a professional allowed me to gain insights into my subconscious mind, heal old wounds, and develop healthier coping mechanisms. The guidance and support of a therapist helped me navigate through the challenges of anxiety and discover new pathways to inner peace.
Being of service and helping others became an integral part of my healing journey. By extending compassion and support to those in need, I shifted my focus away from my own struggles and connected with a greater sense of purpose. Acts of service not only benefit others but also contribute to our own well-being and fulfillment.
Spending time in nature became a source of solace and grounding for me. Immersing myself in the beauty of the natural world, whether through walks in the park or hikes in the mountains, allowed me to reconnect with a sense of peace and harmony. Nature has a way of reminding us of the bigger picture and helping us find balance amidst the chaos of daily life.
Reading self-help books became a valuable resource for understanding my past, exploring psychology, and finding solutions to my struggles. The wisdom and insights shared by authors provided me with tools and perspectives to navigate my journey of anxiety reduction.
Prayer, whether religious or non-religious, became a source of solace and connection to something greater than myself. Through prayer, I found comfort, guidance, and a deeper sense of faith in the unfolding of life's journey.
Engaging in creative projects became a way for me to express myself and tap into a sense of flow and inspiration. Whether through writing, painting, or any other form of artistic expression, I discovered a channel for releasing emotions, connecting with my inner self, and finding moments of peace and joy.
These ten tools—deep breathing exercises, focus practice, a clean diet, exercise, rest, writing, therapy, service, spending time in nature, reading self-help books, prayer, and artistic expression—have been instrumental in my journey of anxiety reduction and personal transformation.
Each tool has its own unique benefits and resonance, and I encourage you to explore and experiment with them to find what works best for you. Remember, this is a journey of self-discovery and healing, and it takes time and patience. Embrace the tools that resonate with your heart and make them an integral part of your daily life.
As you embark on your own path of anxiety reduction, know that you are not alone. Seek support from loved ones, professionals, and communities that can provide guidance and understanding. Embrace the power within you to create a life filled with peace, joy, and authenticity.
May you find solace in the depths of your being, uncovering the peace that resides within you. Embrace the present moment and cultivate a practice of mindfulness, allowing yourself to fully experience each breath, sensation, and emotion without judgment or resistance.
Through deep breathing exercises, you can tap into the power of your breath to calm your nervous system and bring a sense of grounding. Take slow, deliberate breaths, inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth. With each breath, release tension and invite relaxation into your body and mind.
Maintaining a clean and nourishing diet can greatly support your overall well-being, including your mental health. Pay attention to the foods you consume and their impact on your energy levels and mood. Incorporate whole, unprocessed foods, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and stay hydrated to support your body's natural balance.
Engaging in regular exercise not only benefits your physical health but also plays a significant role in reducing anxiety. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy, whether it's walking, running, yoga, or dancing, and make it a consistent part of your routine. Physical activity releases endorphins, the body's natural mood boosters, and helps alleviate stress.
Rest and adequate sleep are essential for rejuvenating your mind and body. Prioritize quality sleep by creating a calming bedtime routine, ensuring a comfortable sleep environment, and allowing yourself enough time for restful sleep. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule can help regulate your body's internal clock and promote a sense of balance.
Writing can be a powerful tool for self-reflection and releasing emotions. Set aside time each day to write freely, without judgment or censorship. Explore your thoughts, fears, and desires on paper, allowing yourself to gain clarity and perspective. This practice can bring about a sense of catharsis and promote self-discovery.
Therapy or counseling can provide a safe space for you to explore your anxiety, uncover underlying causes, and develop effective coping strategies. A trained professional can offer guidance, support, and therapeutic techniques tailored to your specific needs. Consider seeking professional help if you feel overwhelmed or stuck in your journey.
Giving back to others and engaging in acts of service can create a sense of connection and purpose. Volunteer for a cause that resonates with you or simply offer support and kindness to those around you. By shifting your focus from your own worries to making a positive impact, you cultivate a sense of fulfillment and contribute to a more compassionate world.
Spending time in nature can be incredibly soothing and grounding. Whether you take a walk in a local park, hike in the mountains, or simply sit by a serene body of water, immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of the natural world. Allow nature's healing energy to restore your inner balance and provide a respite from daily stressors.
Reading self-help books and exploring resources on anxiety can provide valuable insights and tools for managing your condition. Educate yourself about anxiety, its causes, and effective strategies for reducing its impact on your life. Seek out books, articles, and online communities that resonate with you and offer practical guidance.
Engaging in prayer or meditation, regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, can be a source of comfort and connection to something greater than yourself. Find a practice that resonates with you, whether it's traditional prayer, mindfulness meditation, or any other form of contemplation. Allow yourself moments of stillness and inner reflection.
Lastly, artistic expression can be a powerful outlet for releasing emotions and finding inner peace. Explore creative activities that bring you joy, whether it's painting, drawing, playing music, or dancing. Allow yourself to tap into your innate creativity and express yourself freely, without judgment or expectations.
Remember, the journey to reduce anxiety is unique to each individual. Be patient and kind to yourself as you navigate through this process. Understand that progress may come in small steps, and setbacks are a natural part of the journey. Embrace self-compassion and celebrate your efforts, no matter how small they may seem.
Take the time to listen to your body and mind, honoring your needs and boundaries. Practice self-care regularly, engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. This could include taking soothing baths, practicing gentle yoga, or enjoying moments of solitude in nature.
Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, or support groups who understand and validate your experiences. Share your thoughts and feelings with trusted individuals who can provide empathy, encouragement, and perspective. Remember, you are not alone, and there are people who genuinely care about your well-being.
Stay curious and open-minded on your journey to anxiety reduction. Explore different techniques, therapies, and practices to find what resonates with you personally. Be willing to try new approaches and adjust your strategies as you gain self-awareness and insight into your own needs.
It's important to acknowledge that anxiety reduction is an ongoing process, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one person may not work for another. Stay attuned to your own unique needs and be patient with yourself as you discover what strategies bring you the most relief and inner peace.
Remember to celebrate your progress along the way. Recognize the steps you have taken, the challenges you have overcome, and the growth you have experienced. Celebrate each milestone, no matter how small, and allow yourself to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Reducing anxiety is a deeply personal and transformative journey. With the right tools and support, you have the power to create a life that is more peaceful, balanced, and fulfilling. Embrace the process, be gentle with yourself, and trust in your ability to find the inner calm and serenity that you deserve.
The 10 Tools (Overview):
- Daily deep breathing exercises: Engage in 1-2 five-minute sessions of slow, deep breathing and long exhales to promote relaxation.
- Focus practice: Practice exercises that help you observe and gently guide your thoughts, allowing you to cultivate a more present and centered mindset.
- Maintain a clean diet, exercise, and get enough rest: Take care of your physical health by nourishing your body with nutritious food, engaging in regular exercise, and ensuring sufficient rest.
- Writing: Use writing as a therapeutic tool to express your thoughts, emotions, and experiences. It can help you gain clarity, process challenging feelings, and facilitate mental healing.
- Therapy: Seek professional therapy to explore underlying issues, develop coping strategies, and receive guidance and support from a trained therapist.
- Be of service and help others: Engage in acts of kindness and contribute to the well-being of others. This can bring a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and connection.
- Spend time in nature every day: Connect with the healing power of nature by spending time outdoors. Engaging with natural environments can promote relaxation, reduce stress, and enhance well-being.
- Reading self-help books: Explore literature that offers insights into your past, psychology, and solutions for personal growth and development.
- Prayer or meditation: Engage in practices that align with your personal beliefs and help cultivate inner peace, connection, and a sense of spirituality.
- Creative projects: Channel your energy into creative outlets such as art, music, or other forms of self-expression. Engaging in creative endeavors can be therapeutic and provide a sense of fulfillment.
These tools, when practiced consistently and tailored to your individual needs, can contribute to reducing anxiety and promoting overall well-being. Remember to approach them with patience, self-compassion, and an open mind as you find what works best for you.