Anxiety: fear of the unknown
It is fascinating, beautiful but also madness how our mind works. I was observing my worries about relatively little work and private things. You then notice the mind can’t let go of worries until they are dealt with. With the result that we are living in constant anxiety and are trapped in the prison of the thinking (mind). Basically the mind wants to control the unknown, the uncontrollable. That is madness, right?! Instead of just being in this moment. In that present place. If you really stick to your experience, there are no worries or anxiety. Fortunately we can train our mind to stay more present and unlearn blindly following it. This is a blog about staying in the present moment, seeing and being with our anxieties and tips and tricks how to deal with it.
Stepping out of security
Besides Beyond Mindfulness I am also a job coach for Millennials. Interestingly enough a major aspect – if not the biggest – or these undertakings, is overcoming (anxiety) the fear of the unknown. Clients often come because they are not happy with their job and are looking for another one. After a few sessions some already know what direction, kind or organizations and jobs they want to pursue. But to step out of their security of their current job (salary, nice colleagues etc.) is a much bigger step. This is clearly fear related and very understandable. We will talk later how to tackle this.
Dare to dream
For others it is harder to find a direction, more suitable job or job environment. I have been a career trainer for many years so I know the more practical cognitive steps to get people to discover their talents, strengths, weaknesses, inspirations, job environment etc. But we often get stuck with the part where we are invited to start dreaming. To think about where our passion really is, far beyond our mental blockages. In the last part of coaching the realistic part becomes important again but this dreaming phase is crucial. To link yourself with your desires (your passion) is a big motivator and place of enjoyment.
Start focusing on the positive
First of all, check if you are someone who is more inclined to see the obstacles then see opportunities. If so, it is good to slowly start rewiring the brain by placing more emphasis on what you do well, the positive. By for example taking a moment in the week to write down or share with someone three things you did well that week. Or on a daily basis mention one quality you used, a good thing you have done or said. After a while you will start to see more opportunities in your work live and then you are ready for the next step, pursuing them!
Challenge your thoughts
One of the things you learn in mindfulness is to not to see you thoughts as objective facts but as pieces of information you can use to live your life. For example if you think “I can never do that” or “it takes too long to make that career switch” then don’t ignore them but also don’t blindly follow them. Challenge them. You can think of these kind of questions:
• Do I draw premature conclusions?
• Do I think (too) black and white?
• Do I completely condemn myself because I did one thing wrong?
• Do I focus on my weaknesses and forget my strengths?
• Do I expect perfection?
• Am I reading / predicting the future?
If you change the way you look at things
The things you look at change.
Feel the fear and step out anxiety
I often mention this but for good reason I think. The Dalai Lama often says that our ‘emotional hygiene’ is quite poor and I agree. One of the most powerful ways to deal with fear is allowing it to be as it is. The best entry point to do that, as far as I know, is the body. Be curious, friendly and welcoming to this feeling. Don’t analyse the feeling but actually feel it experientially in the body. Ask yourself questions like. Where do I feel it in the body? Does it move or is it more static? Does it change or not? Is there any image (for me it can feel like an avocado pit in the belly) that resembles the feeling? Etc.
Bring it to practice
Here are some meditations you can practice with or you can write down your experiences. Take some silent moments to really feel it and then write this down and do that for a while. 5, 10 or 20 minutes is more then enough. Or use this logbook to help you do this. Don’t forgot you are not trying to get rid of the feeling but allowing it to be and to stay as long as it wants to. Why? Because if you fight it, it will get worse. Especiaally with Anxiety, it will get stuck in you. Also avoiding it doesn’t work, it will just come back (often stronger then before). If you mask it, it will cause you much energy to do so. Moreover it brings you further and further away from yourself. Allowing will not make it disappear instantly but it will go away more naturally, more calmly (less over thinking) and often also much sooner. And don’t forget, ‘everything you resist persists’! Here a poem of Rumi which makes this point so beautifully and if you want to read more on fear and spirituality then click here.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.