How to Deal With Anxiety: From Worrier to Warrior
By Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel
Fall is the season when the air is motivating, crisp and fresh; the trees shed their leaves to reveal their simple uncluttered structure, yet many of us are not in synchrony with natural rhythms. Instead we look down, trudge with stooped shoulders taking shallow breaths, our minds cluttered with anxieties and problems. We are worriers who do not delight in the sky, the earth, a breeze, or a good cup of coffee. We are always in a hurry – no time for anything, busy living in the future or the past, certainly not in the moment, restless and fearful of failure, relationships and aging. As a result the worrier identifies herself as a victim, overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities. Sometimes we realize that we need to change because we get sick. Often illness triggers internal investigation: what am I sick and tired of? While all this sounds grim, the good news is that to go from worrier to warrior simply involves a change in perception.
There is more to a knight than a sword as revealed in King Arthur. Some people let defeat ruin them; others let victory ruin them. A true warrior triumphs in victory or defeat. Neither the win nor the loss makes you triumphant, only your feelings about yourself. A warrior views problems as obstacles and her feet are directed toward a vision, clearing the path as she proceeds. The warrior encapsulates the ultimate victory: to stand up for the self truthfully because she knows who she is and likes who she is. Here are ten steps to metamorphose from victim to victor.
The Ten Commandments
• One: Become an alchemist. Transform base elements of personality into golden virtues. Believe in the magic of your spiritual power. You possess the power to change your energy by changing your mental picture. Motivation is key. Consider writing a contract with yourself declaring what you resolve to change and let go.
• Two: Let go your personal history. The past is over, but keep the lessons of memory. Re-examine parental and communal values. You are no longer a dependent child, but a self-supporting adult. Re-parent yourself.
• Three: Empty your cup to fill it with knowledge. We learn from everyone; the most unlikely source might provide an epiphany. Even one word can change your life.
• Four: Be present to yourself. Learn to be here and now. Use your five senses to live in the moment, for the moment may be all that we have. We are often fatigued at work because we don’t just do our work; instead we bring along problems with family, relationships and co-workers. If we just do our work, we wouldn’t be tired. Begin to concentrate on each experience.
• Five: Cultivate a comic eye. Laughter is still the best medicine releasing serotonin and activating the immune system. Simultaneously become an observer and participant to reinterpret humorously. Anthony De Mello writes, “If your house burns down, you have an unobstructed view of the sky.”
• Six: Confront fear. In the face of adversity, do not be afraid of who you are. Stand up for yourself by not judging shortcomings, yet remain realistic about limitations. Use fear as a stepping stone to growth—work on your capabilities. Negative self-talk promotes self-doubt. Banish “I should or I cannot” from your vocabulary. Instead say, “I could, or I choose to; I am not alone, God and me.” Visualize the successful result.
• Seven: Define your goals concretely. Write them down. A Clear vision leads to manifest destiny. Do not give goals a time limit, for that causes stress; instead enjoy the process. Remember we enter the world in the middle of the movie, and leave in the middle. What you focus on will expand in your life.
• Eight: Develop serenity through breathing. The in-breath inspires and helps restore personal power. The out-breath exhales toxins, expelling negativity. When breathing mindfully, you relax your heart-beat and calm agitation. We used to count from 1 to 10, now a better practice: breathe 10 conscious breaths. Inhale through the nose for 2 seconds and exhale through the nose for 4. Visualizing your breath as a fog is helpful.
• Nine: Awaken dormant intuition, the sixth sense. Learn to read life’s symbols. Trust your inner voice. If it doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t. Often where your eye is drawn, such as a poster, holds a symbolic clue. Learn to distinguish between the loud voice in your head and the soft voice in your heart. Even if you have suppressed intuition through hyper-education, it still exists. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, creating self-empowerment.
• Ten: Integrate higher and lower nature. Balance earth practicality with spiritual vision. This balance forms true identity. Each morning take a moment to imagine alignment. The solar plexus, your gut, the ego, is golden sun. Your heart is white, center of true feelings. The middle of your forehead, inspiration, is blue. Every morning envision these 3 colors, yellow, white and blue as you align your ego, heart and mind to start the day positively.
A Personal Experience
I would like to share a personal experience which shows how I applied these commandments to transcend tragedy. Several years after my father passed away from Alzheimer’s, my mother who had had also contracted the disease was moved to a nursing home as her cognition became quite low. Two years later it was high time to clean out her apartment and rent it. I waited this long, for I welcomed the illusion of my mother still living at home. Then I made up my mind to confront the fear, the memories, the reality and the guilt. I emptied the apartment donating her furniture to charity and personally scrubbed it clean, inch by inch with my own hands. As I vacuumed the last remaining dust and had just reached the front door—ah completion! I found a laminated green card I had never seen before. It must have emerged from behind the China cabinet. I picked it up and knew that it was a special coincidence. It was my green card for entering this country from Rome, Italy, a child of two holocaust survivors. On the card was a photo of me, an infant held in my mother’s arms. Here was the spiritual message: “Don’t feel bad about moving on. I am still with you, embracing you. I am alive. Go visit me in the home and bring me some of my favorite photos of you, me and your father in better days.”
So, guess what? I did! I began to empower the “worrier” transforming myself into the “warrior” who does not merely try to survive, but strives to live!
Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Brooklyn College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIR 92.7 FM in New York City and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com