Anxiety hit me again with a vengeance on Saturday as I stepped into a very crowded gym. The room shrank in. I felt like no matter where I stood, I was being intrusive, in the way, unwanted. The music, the heavy breath, the pounds as legs and fists made contact with the bags shouted at me, getting louder and louder. As I sat, curled up in the back room of the gym, the pound. Pound. Pound. Of someone kicking the bag wasn’t a calming beat to the music or my heart (which was pulsating profusely in my chest). It was the agitating sound of nails dragging down a chalkboard. It was unclear if I would be able to release myself from that moment. I felt like a captive. I felt trapped. I felt defeated. More than anything, I felt frustration brewing inside of me because I haven’t been on the verge of this type of attack in a long time.
In that moment of defeat and frustration I texted a few people who know and understand me better than anyone and understand these types of moments. I knew I could trust them because they wouldn’t try and “fix” it for me or make it go away; they would help me push through it and not be defeated.
My sister told me “Retrain your brain. Ground yourself in the moment. Pick all 5 senses and relate them to where you are at.”
Retrain your brain. Those three words kept resonating through my mind as I attempted to start my workout 15 minutes later and my anxiousness began to subside. Retraining my brain has become a new goal for me to practice in my life. Truth be told, I suck at retraining my brain. I resort back to old mindsets, old beliefs, old emotional responses—all of which apparently weren’t the best, so why continue to allow them refuge?
Retrain your brain.
Retrain your brain every single time you get that sugar craving or that carb craving. You know that craving you are determined to forget about and not let defeat you. Remind yourself that that box of sugar glazed donuts sitting in the office break room aren’t there to tempt you. They aren’t your enemy. They aren’t there to bring you down. Retrain your brain to not see them as an obstacle standing in your way. Retrain your brain to see them as something that is okay to pass by.
Retrain your brain every single time you want to see or contact the person you know isn’t the healthiest option for you. In the moments you doubt your significance in life or feel like you have to be in touch with the person because you feel disconnected as a human being and are too fearful to experience life without that person, retrain your brain to see what in your life can be healthy without them. Remind yourself that sucking out the toxin in your life makes room for something better.
Retrain your brain every single time you tell yourself something negative and believe it as a truth for you. This is the hardest one for me. I don’t like to address that inner critic, the one who makes room for shame and guilt to infiltrate my life, caking my entire life like a sticky molasses. The moment you tell yourself “I’m not good enough for him” or “I’m not pretty” or “I’m too fat”, retrain your brain to see those as lies not truths. Instead it should be “I’m not right for him” or “I am beautiful and won’t let others define my beauty for me” or “I’m not where I want to be physically. And that’s okay”. Retrain your brain to lift yourself up and push yourself to be the best version of you. Don’t let it tear you down.
Ways to retrain your brain.
While discovering my wellness over the past few months, I have realized the importance of implementing these tools into my life in order to live my fullest, best life I possibly can. One where I don’t look at moments and decisions as mistakes or regrets or situations that tear me down.
Know what triggers you:
Whether that be a person, a food, a lifestyle choice, a situation, a location. I could continue the list because it is different for everyone. For me it tends to either be people or allowing myself to be consumed by one thought, my lack of self-love. Know what your triggers are and work to limit or eradicate completely those triggers from your life. Why choose to have something in your life as a constant reminder of unhealthy you? Don’t allow—as a friend of mine so beautifully put—those things to live in your mind or life rent free. That isn’t fair to you. Take note, write them down as a reminder to you to rewire your brain to avoid those triggers instead of embracing them with open arms, welcoming them into your life only to cause you to shrink down.
Positive thinking and fight your inner critic:
Create your mantra, your motto to repeat over and over. I’ve said mine before. It comes in those moments where I feel I am dragging. “What’s the point of me doing it if I’m not going to push myself?” I tell this to myself on a daily basis when it comes to workouts, dating, friendships, work, my depression, my anxiety. In moments I feel like I am holding back, lacking vulnerability, lacking my truth, I remind myself of this. I’m discovering what it means to be more aware of my surroundings in every moment of my day. If I am too caught up in my mind, focusing on the negativity, I can’t be accessible to others or fully accessible to myself. Your inner critic wants to tell you not to be accessible to others, not to be proud of yourself, not find the good within your soul. Your inner critic, not others, wants to destroy you. Don’t let the inner critic trample all over your life. Don’t listen to it and don’t avoid it. Stare your inner critic right in the face and tell him to scram.
Stop hating on yourself. Stop hating on others. Stop judging others. Stop judging yourself. Stop focusing on the victim mentality. Stop telling yourself you are never good enough, pretty enough, fit enough, successful enough. Stop telling yourself you are not a complete, whole person on your own. Instead listen to me when I say: You are loved. Others are loved. You are strong. You are beautiful. You define your own success, others shouldn’t have that power over you.
Retrain your brain to believe that. It’s not easy but getting in the habit of rewiring your previous thoughts will help you thrive. And what’s the point of doing positive thinking if you aren’t going to push yourself?
Write it down:
Seriously, writing out, processing will help you retrain your brain to focus on those positive thoughts and discover what helps you thrive–even if you aren’t passionate about writing or you claim you are a horrible writer. So what? You are writing this for you, no one else. Write down the things that cause you heartache, frustration, agitation, anxiety. Whatever negative emotion that dictates you in that moment, write it down. Writing it down, and then repeatedly writing the opposite, helps you discover triggers, helps you figure out what positive thinking you need to focus on. Writing it down will rewire your brain to believe something different. Last week I struggled with feeling stagnant again, feeling like I wasn’t seeing any progress in my journey. As a result, I began to tell myself that I was a failure. So in my journal I wrote “I am a failure”, crossed it out and filled out the rest of the page with “I am discovering something new about me”. I retrained my brain to not look at myself as a failure but realize that something not going my way is me discovering something new. I am learning to thrive in this process.
You can’t expect a different result or outcome when you go into a situation with the same mindset as you did before. You have to retrain your brain to go back to your “why”. Retrain your brain to remember your goals. Retrain your brain to want a thriving lifestyle not a depriving lifestyle.