How to Navigate Your Way Out From Anxiety and Into Tranquility
Dr. Chad Sato
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
While working with individuals over the past 22 years, I have observed that when a decision is made from a place of fear, it rarely works out. Instead, it actually pushes us towards having to deal with what we fear the most. The recent media reports of the spiking Coronavirus cases due to the variants can be scary and therefore take a toll on our mental and emotional wellbeing.
To fear is a normal response to unknown circumstances. So don’t worry if you are anxious about contracting COVID-19, transmitting it to a loved one or wanting to isolate yourself once again instead of reintegrating yourself back into society — you are not alone. But when that fear becomes the driving impetus in how you make decisions, it becomes nearly impossible to live a thriving, vibrant life. That’s why I urge you to pause and reassess when you feel overwhelmed by your fears. I will share some strategies to creating more days of thriving and not just surviving. The four areas I want you to assess are: your thoughts and emotions and your physical and spiritual self.
You have the power to choose what thoughts you entertain. By nurturing focus and certainty you can navigate your thoughts away from fear. Your thoughts and perceptions create your reality. The mind is extremely powerful and by addressing your thoughts first, you can keep the mental chatter at bay and prevent rampant speculation.
First, mentally focus on staying positive by limiting the amount of news that you expose yourself to, read something inspiring and stay away from negative people. Create positive affirmations such as: Everything happens for me, and not to me, or With every challenging situation comes an unexpected gift.
Make it a point to set an intention in the morning to set a positive tone for the day. The more you focus on something, the more you increase your chances of manifesting that which you entertain in your mind the most. By focusing on good things that are happening instead of all the possible problems and difficulties that could arise, you will be able to stay in a positive mindset.
One last mental strategy to minimize your fears is to list out the benefits of having a particular fear. Once you can see how that future feared event benefits you or your loved ones, the intensity of the fear will be diffused bringing you back in balance. For example, if you are afraid of falling ill, think about some of the benefits you’ll receive, like a loved one caring for you or being forced to take some much-needed rest.
Address your emotional state by being clear about how you feel and know when to ask for help. Emotions tend to be trickier to manage, especially when your body gets activated with shortness of breath, dry mouth, tightness in your chest, upset stomach or heaviness in your limbs.
The first way to deal with your emotions is to acknowledge what triggers you. Triggers can vary from the tone of a person’s voice to past events that were uncomfortable eliciting fears anytime you think about it. From my own personal experience as well as my clients’, detaching or suppressing your emotions and feelings is not a good approach to use. Think of emotion as “energy in motion” which means that if you do not allow for the energy to move out, then it will get expressed somewhere in your body or may explode in your life. Repressed anger, for example, often leads to muscle tightness, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. Acknowledging your triggers is not a sign of weakness. Facing your fears builds your resilience and confidence preparing you to take on unexpected situations in the future.
Another exercise you can try is to allow yourself to feel fear and see how it shows up in your body — restricted breathing, tightness in chest, or feeling nauseous, to name a few. The trick is to stay with the fear and do your best to push out whatever thoughts pop in your mind to justify the fear. The longer you can just stay with the feeling and not go into your mind, within 10 to 15 minutes you will move through the fear rather than being frozen and trapped.
Your Physical Body
The third strategy is to learn to connect with your body and know its signs when you are anxious. Always establish and maintain a strong, intimate connection with your body like a trusted confidante when there is conflict or when life becomes unpredictable.
By creating a strong mind-body connection, you will know if your shallow breathing and tightness in your chest is not due to a heart attack but rather you being in a state of panic. Panic attacks can be extremely debilitating and scary, but if you have keen body awareness, that knowledge will decrease your anxiety quicker. If you are in tune with your body, then you are more aware of how to care for yourself. You will be able to sense whether you might be infected with COVID-19 versus just needing to rest, drink more water or find time to relax from stress.
Intimate body wisdom will help you to also know when to seek professional help and to freak out less. Like learning a new language, the more time you dedicate to observing your body’s reactions — to fear, anxiety or feeling pressured to do something that doesn’t align with your values — the more you will understand your unique body language.
One way to practice connecting with your body is, when you first wake up in the morning, take five minutes to do a quick scan of any areas of your body that is tight and which areas are at ease. This action step creates a baseline for you to know how your body feels and where you carry tension, because when in fear those tense areas of your body tend to get a lot tighter.
Your Spiritual Self
Last but not least is to focus on developing your spirituality. Adopt a spiritual practice and surround yourself with like-minded individuals who have a deep faith and trust in a higher power. Whether you believe in God, Allah, Jesus, Buddha or follow a guru, making time to deepen your connection to your soul and spirit is paramount during times of challenge and uncertainty. If you establish a strong belief in a higher power, this will enable you to have faith during times of fear. To know thyself and be certain of what your truth is further enhances and deepens your connection to spirit. This is where the practice of meditation can be instrumental in helping you to quiet your mind and to get centered in the present moment.
In closing, to thrive in this new world where the ongoing fear of COVID-19 (and now its variants) exists, know that you have the power of choice. You can choose mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually to deal with the fears of uncertainty. Choose this time to become more connected with your body and to determine your truth and what works and doesn’t work for you. Make your choices from a place of deeper knowing rather than a place of fear. In so doing will help you to navigate these unprecedented times with more confidence and ease.
Dr. Chad Sato graduated from UCLA in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and earned the Doctor of Chiropractic degree with honors from Life Chiropractic College West in 1998. Sato founded his practice, Aloha Chiropractic (alohachiro.biz), in Mänoa valley, O‘ahu, on Oct. 1, 1999. He is a sought-after educator, speaker, author and mind-body specialist who helps people reach new levels of empowerment when it comes to their health and wellness by staying present with their body signs, making appropriate life choices and utilizing stress instead of managing it.