During college, I was in Ballroom Dancing Club. (Nerdy, I know.) I really loved my ballroom friends. I got comfortable practicing with them on the stage in the school’s theatre. What I wasn’t comfortable doing was going to The Crystal Ballroom an hour outside of town. My friends wanted me to come.
But, I was panicked at the thought of strangers asking me to dance and looking like a fool. I bet you can relate. (Well, maybe not specifically to ballroom dancing. But, we’ve all gotten anxious at the thought of a big crowd, right?)
How could I tell my friends I felt like I was going to throw up when I was in crowds or a new environment? Well, I didn’t tell them. I took the ride, went to dinner, ate the chicken fingers. Less than an hour later, I was on the floor of The Crystal Ballroom’s bathroom--throwing up those same chicken fingers. (Keep reading if you don’t want to be that girl.)
Anxiety comes from “future tripping”
“Future tripping” is a term author Gabrielle Bernstein came up with. And, I like to say it’s where I spend most of my time. “Future tripping” basically means you’re stuck thinking about the future rather than living in the present. You’re all caught up in what could be, imaging scenarios left and right.
Back to Ballroom Dancing
That nausea didn’t come on all of a sudden. It had the whole day to build up as I thought about the evening:
- What if someone I don’t know asks me to dance?
- What if I forget how to waltz?
- How will I leave early if I ride with someone else?
- Will anyone notice that I don’t belong there?
Anxiety thrives by causing us to think about the future because it’s something we can’t control. If you think about it, anxiety comes down to wanting to control those future scenarios. You don’t want there to be any chance encounters or scenarios. But, the truth is, we can’t control much in life. All we can control is the present moment.
When the What-If Wheel starts spinning, take a breath and come back to what you’re doing in the moment. Force yourself to focus on that instead of coming up with what-ifs. Don’t let your brain play tricks on you and amp up the stakes.
What were the real stakes?
None. Because--I could have said no. I could have said I forgot. I could have said let’s leave early. I could have outed myself and just told my friends, I’m nervous and I feel like I don’t belong.
None of those things would have been as bad as how I made myself feel because I choose to fixate on the future instead of the present.
Anxiety lives in the mind
Anxiety thrives on over-thinking. You know, you’ve been there.
Tapping into the body can help us stop anxiety in its tracks. I’ve found using the senses works best.
- What is something you see? Right now, I see an Ikea pillow on my couch.
- What is something you feel? I feel the knitted afghan draped over my legs.
- What is something you hear? I hear my pitbull biting her nails.
- What is something you taste? I taste the vegan sausage I ate for lunch.
Anxiety is temporary
When I feel overwhelmed and wound up, it can be hard to remember a time when I wasn’t feeling that way. But, that time existed. And, it will again. Verbally telling myself, “This moment is going to pass. I’m going to feel better soon,” helps. It reminds me that while I’m anxious in this moment, I won’t be anxious forever. No feeling lasts forever.
Have you ever felt anxious? What helps bring you back down when anxiety hits?
If any of these suggestions resonated with you, please share this post with a friend who could use them, too.