Has a well meaning friend ever told you, “It’s just your imagination. Don’t worry. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” Did your fear go away? Of course not. We’re rational beings, we know there is nothing to really be afraid of but we still are. And our anxious bodies follow suit, as if something real is threatening or something bad is going to happen. Right here and now.
Thanks to these “false alarms” in our minds and bodies, we and millions of others fail to accomplish our goals and live the lives we want. Let's change this.
How you ask? Be a buffalo. Wilma Mankiller, the first ever female chief of the Cherokee nation once said, “Cows run away from the storm while the buffalo charges toward it – and gets through it quicker. Whenever I’m confronted with a tough challenge, I do not prolong the torment, I become the buffalo.”
In a totally counterintuitive twist of fate, avoiding things that make us anxious or run away from things when our anxiety strikes, actually makes our anxiety worse. Repeatedly connecting avoidance or running away with things we fear strengthens our brain’s understanding that there is something real to fear. Dr. Hebb’s neuroscience research helps explain this connection when he found that, “Neurons that fire together, wire together”. Simply, what we repeat strengthens.
So, let’s start making different connections and transform our anxiety. Let’s learn to be the buffalo.
In doing so, we need to approach it head on. We need to label those anxious, pessimistic and worrisome thoughts false alarms and then grab the controls of our breathing.
As it turns out, our breath is one of the only major systems in our bodies that we can take control of. Seriously, once we realize that we can control our breathing, and our breathing majorly impacts our anxiety, we have at our disposal an amazing system hack!
So, after labeling, focus on purposefully taking slow, deep belly breaths. That’s it. The slow exhale sends a signal to your nervous system that everything is A-OK and aids in our confidence to get head first into our great, big life.
And this will work in every situation that is holding you back because, with practice, it will retrain your brain out of sending you those irrational and paralyzing messages. Remember, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” And you get the back-up help you need by using your breathing to temper and avoid your fight/flight/freeze response.