The pressing desire to do better while believing you can’t.
Having too many worries leads to anxiety. The emotion hits like a tornado or earthquake we are always underprepared for. Here I’ll show you the temporary fix followed by a permanent solution.
Try this breathing exercise when you feel anxious. It takes less than a minute.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of four.
Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of four.
Hold your breath again for a count of four. This is one breath.
Inhale and repeat the cycle three more times.
Do you feel calmer now? Good. You just completed the tactical breathing exercise designed for Navy SEALs, SWAT teams, and police officers to remain calm in high-stress situations. 5 This technique breaks the moment of tension and allows oxygen to infuse your body to boost energy level. The next time you feel overwhelmed by stress, try this breathing technique to regain control. A research study by Nobel prize-winning researcher Elizabeth Blackburn shows a regular routine of mindful breathing or meditation strengthens genetic expression and even slows the natural process of aging. 6
Let’s move on to finding a permanent solution for your anxiety. The key is reverse engineering. The Cambridge Dictionary defines reverse engineer as the act of copying the product … by looking carefully at how it is made. 7 This technique has been used widely in pharmaceutical, technology, and business industry.
To reverse engineer the best solution to a problem, we must start from the endpoint and work backward until we reach the starting point. This method keeps us laser-focused on our goal, preventing the unnecessary detours and unintentional backsteps. Once you grasp the concept, you can apply it to other issues at hand. This is very useful tool for planning and problems solving.
Think of a particular problem that keeps you up at night, and write it down at the bottom of a page in your notebook. Use as few words as possible to consolidate your thoughts. This is your starting point. You want to be anxiety-free; that’s your endpoint. Write STOP WORRYING ABOUT X PROBLEM on the top of the same page. Now, focus your mind on this question: If everything goes as you wish, what has to happen to relieve you from anxiety? Consolidate your thoughts into specific points, and record your wish list below the phrase STOP WORRYING ABOUT X PROBLEM. Next, brainstorm actions you can take to get you closer to that wish list. When you’re done, record the steps you come up with.
Here’s the example of how I dealt with anxiety over sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). When my son, Ethan, was little, I was plagued with the fear that one morning I would walk up and find his plump cheeks icy cold. Everyone told me not to worry about it. But the nagging fear stayed with me every time I left his room. I woke up at random hours, checking on him, arranging and rearranging his blanket to minimize the risk of suffocation. This went on for months until one day I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to put an end to this ridiculous fear, or I would go crazy.
I wrote STOP THE UNREASONABLE FEAR ABOUT SIDS at the top of the page. Then I identified two things that could alleviate my anxiety.
I can find a type of blanket that won’t suffocate Ethan and still keep him warm and comfortable at night.
Ethan isn’t at risk for stopping breathing on his own.
Then I looked for options to get me closer to my wish list.
For item 1: I could put Ethan in a sleep sack and remove his blanket.
For item 2: I looked up the information and statistics about SIDS and found Ethan wasn’t at risk for spontaneous respiratory depression. Ethan’s pediatrician assured me that as well.
I posted the piece of paper on the wall. Every night, I would read it before tucking Ethan in, and I’d force myself to stay in bed when I habitually woke up in the middle of the night. I told myself if Ethan wasn’t hungry or needed a diaper change, I shouldn’t get up. After two weeks, my anxiety lessened. Soon, I cured my anxiety.
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