The Fit Student – Combat Anxiety through Nutrition and Emotions

A good cry could help heal you of anxious feelings. An anger attack on an unsuspecting pillow can alleviate anxiety levels. When anxiety threatens to overwhelm, the expression of emotion is an extraordinary stress-reliever. Similarly, self-esteem and assertiveness both contribute to an overall stress reduction regime. In his book The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, Edmund J. Bourne takes the reader through rounds of strategies on how to stop anxiety in its tracks.

Express Your Feelings
All too often, anxiety rises when we bottle up our emotions, which can range from anger to sorrow. When these emotions arise, there are plenty of safe and positive ways to express them. By expressing these emotions safely, we can unleash the pent up feelings that hold us hostage to anxiety and phobia.

I consider myself someone who rarely feels anger. I also have learned how to control jealousy so it rarely impacts me. But, I have almost forgotten how to cry as my days bring so much joy that my years of tears are all behind me.

While these may on the surface appear to be positive developments, the lack of expression of such natural emotions may contribute to the anxiety I regularly experience.

Edmund J. Bourne provides a wealth of information on how to express pent up emotions and relieve pent up anxiety and stress: first, try to tap into what emotion you are feeling by labeling it. Notice what form the feeling takes: whether it has shape, size, color, or intensity. While this may seem like an abstract exercise, giving your feeling a physical reality will help you cull it.

Once you notice your feeling and can express what emotion defines it, journal your feelings or express your feelings physically by slamming your fists against a pillow or engaging in vigorous exercise. But never take out anger on a physical person or animal, and don’t express anger every day. You don’t want anger to become habitual. Only express anger onto physical things every so often.

You could also consult with a therapist or close friend to discuss your emotions of anger or sorrow. But make sure they know that you’re not asking for feedback, you just want someone who will listen intently. If you truly need a good cry, try listening to sad music or watch a movie with a sorrowful ending.

After journaling, or after discussing your feelings with a therapist, and you’ve calmed down, you might be ready to approach the person who your intense feelings are directed toward. Never blame, judge, or put-down the person. Instead, start your sentence with “I’m feeling…” with emphasis on first-person. Speak in a cool, slow-downed manner so that your voice doesn’t speed up and the emotion doesn’t unleash uncontrollably.

Assert Your Views
Throughout my life, I have had a tendency to resort to passive behaviors. I shied away from literature on assertiveness as much of it taught behavior I considered borderline aggressive?that is, until I encountered material that confirmed my view. In other words, assertiveness could be humble. Assertiveness could be friendly and amiable to all. This perspective of assertiveness sold me on its value.

A long time ago, I learned a model for assertiveness using the acronym DESC, which stood for describe, express, suggest, and consequences. Bourne provides a similar model: (1) be aware of all your basic human rights, including the right to be happy and the right to be treated with respect. (2) Seek out the person you need to address for infringing on your rights, and find a suitable time to meet. (3) Describe the problem in terms of its consequences for you. (4) Say “I feel…” and then fill in the feeling and finish with “when you…”. (5) Ask the person to change his or her behavior and (6) relay the consequences for him or her either meeting or denying your request for change.

Nurture and Love Your Inner Child
When I look back on my inner child, I think to myself that I was a shy, sensitive little thing. I whispered when I talked and heaped on the manners. My third and fourth grade teachers made me their pets. I was a people-pleaser.

Yet, when I think back to the positives of my inner child, I have reservations. My childhood lacked much of the luster that some children experience, and I would never want to relive my childhood over again. I’m much happier existing in present-day circumstances.

While this may seem to entail positive developments in my life, my inner child missed out on a lot of the love and nurturing that I’m now able myself to provide her. Right now is my opportunity guide and nurture my own inner child.

You may have an inner child, too, who experienced the negative elements of life, ranging from abuse to neglect to alcoholic parents. Whatever it may be, now resides the opportunity for you to mentally and emotionally go back in time to nurture your inner child.

Bourne provides the means for loving and caring for your inner child. After all, you are never too old to play, laugh, and have fun. First, you need to learn how to overcome “attitudes of criticism, rejection, and/or denial of your child within” (p. 323). Instead, write a letter of support to your inner child, carry photos of your inner child in your wallet, use visualizations to heal your inner child, or engage in childlike play to re-establish that playful being within you.

Approach your insecurities, fears, weaknesses like you would those of a little child. Show empathy and support to yourself. Coo your inner child into a state of comfort. Buy a teddy bear or rubber ducky. Do special things for your inner child. Take him or her to a movie. Treat your inner child to a special dinner alone. Pamper yourself.

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