Conquering Anxiety: A Comprehensive Approach using Heart Coherence

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By Gabriel Gonsalves

In an era where stress and tension pervade our everyday lives, comprehensive and effective strategies for conquering anxiety have become crucial. This article serves as the culmination of a three-part exploration into understanding and managing anxiety, beginning with identifying its 20 most prevalent symptoms and disecting the 12 most common triggers. In this final part, I want to share a transformative and heart-centered approach to help you master anxiety, empowering you with tools to not just manage but transcend this unsettling emotion.

This approach, which I created for myself and has proven beneficial for all my clients and students, is quite unique. It leverages the science of heart-brain coherence, proven psychological processes, and spiritual technologies to help you address the root cause of your anxiety. It will also strengthen your emotional and spiritual core so that you can face life’s unexpected twists and turns with greater ease.

After sharing the framework, I’ll provide an example of how I applied it to get back on my feet during the most critical period of my life. Applying this framework to your life will not only transform you into a true heart warrior but also enable you to live a deeply fulfilling and purposeful life. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”– Franklin D. Roosevelt

A long term, sustainable solution to conquer anxiety needs to address the root cause behind our feelings of anxiety: fear. This involves both awareness and a deeper understanding of what is really going on beneath the surface. Along with this, we must calm the nervous system, rewire our brains, develop new habits, cultivate self-love, compassion, and acceptance, and establish a strong connection with our inner selves.

The heart-centered approach to managing anxiety that I’m about to share emphasizes the important role of the heart in this process. Your heart, remember, is not only the center of your emotional system but also the epicenter of your electromagnetic system, as well as your spiritual core. As you’ll shortly see, it holds the key to helping you transition from fear into love.

A Guide to Conquering Anxiety the Heart-Centered Way

1) Recognize the Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety often manifests through a range of physical and psychological symptoms. In the first article, I discussed 20 of the most common ones. These can include feelings of unease, such as worry or fear, physical sensations like a rapid heartbeat or heavy breathing, and changes in behavior, such as avoiding situations that may cause anxiety. Recognizing these symptoms is the first step in understanding and managing your anxiety. It’s important to note that these symptoms can vary greatly from person to person and it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

2) Identify the Triggering Situation

The second step in conquering anxiety is identifying the situations that are triggering it – as I discussed in my previous article on 12 common situations that trigger feelings of anxiety in most people. These could be external scenarios like high-pressure work situations, financial strain, or toxic relationships, or internal triggers like unresolved trauma, negative self-talk, or excessive worry. The crucial part here is awareness – knowing what brings on your anxiety can help you prepare and manage your response effectively.

By identifying these triggers, you can begin to anticipate and prepare for them ahead of time and do the necessary inner work that will allow you to manage your anxiety more effectively. The goal is not to avoid these situations – most of them are simply unavoidable aspects of life and part of the human condition – but to develop effective strategies to navigate through them with grace and resilience.

3) Acknowledge Your Reaction

Now that you’ve recognized the symptoms and identified the situation that’s triggering feelings of fear and uncertainty – and therefore your brain and nervous system’s response – it’s time to tackle anxiety. You must become aware of, acknowledge, and take ownership of how you typically react to stressful events. This involves examining three key components: your reactive emotion, the reactive story, and your reactive behaviors. Let’s explore each.

Reactive Emotions

Emotional reactions are the immediate feelings that surface when you’re stressed. For instance, you might experience feelings of anger, fear, impatience, or frustration. These emotions might be uncomfortable, but they are natural responses to stressors. Hence, ask yourself:

  • What feelings usually emerge when you’re anxious?
  • What is the initial emotion that arises?

Reactive Story

Next, become aware of the stories you begin to tell yourself. These can manifest as thoughts like, “I can’t handle this,” “I always mess up in these situations,” “People don’t like me,” or “There must be something wrong with me, maybe I’m not good enough,” among others. Even though these thoughts may feel real in the moment, they don’t accurately represent the truth. They are merely mental narratives that your rational mind constructs to comprehend what might be happening, based on past experiences. Thus, ask yourself:

  • Which negative thoughts often surface when you experience anxiety?
  • What is the story that your mind begins to weave?

Reactive Behaviors

Finally, become aware of your behavior when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. This could be avoiding the situation, denying there’s a problem, withdrawing from others, blaming others, or criticizing yourself. By becoming aware of these behaviors, you can start to choose healthier responses. Think about this:

  • What do you usually do when you’re feeling insecure, fearful, or anxious?
  • What are some of the habits or behaviors you engage in order to avoid feeling insecure?

To better understand yourself and grow, commit to spending a few quiet moments each day observing and becoming aware of how you react emotionally, mentally, and behaviorally when triggered by an unexpected situation or event. Do this with kindness and curiosity, not judgment.

4) Connect With Your Heart

Now that you’ve acknowledged your reactions, it’s time to establish a deeper connection with your heart, creating a bridge to your emotional, energetic, and spiritual core. This science-backed practice involves focusing your mind on the rhythmic beats of your heart and regulating your breath, a key strategy to mitigate the grip of anxiety. 

Accomplish this by placing a hand over your heart and breathing slowly, deeply, and rhythmically. Visualize and feel each breath you take flowing in and out through your heart. This simple technique, developed by the HeartMath Institute, will help you neutralize the destructive effects of negative emotions. For a detailed explanation of this technique, read my guide, What is Heart I ntelligence? 

With each slow, focused breath, your body’s stress responses are deactivated, reducing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This proven method halts your brain’s basic stress responses that amplify anxiety. Simultaneously, it enhances communication between disparate parts of your brain, the logical and emotional, promoting a sense of grounded clarity. After a few minutes of practicing this, you’ll feel grounded, and start seeing the situation triggering your anxiety differently.

5) Address The Root Cause

Feeling more grounded, calmer, and present, it’s time to dive deep into the more fundamental aspects of your being. This inward journey involves uncovering those core feelings, core fears, and unmet core need that your reactive feelings, stories, and behaviors were trying to protect. This requires self-inquiry, a process that needs to be approached with complete honesty, open-mindedness, and patience. Only then will you be able to address the root cause of your anxiety!

Uncover the Core Feelings

Your core feelings represents those intense, often underlying emotions that lie beneath your feelings of anxiety. These could include feelings of vulnerability, grief, loneliness, abandonment, shame, or insecurity – to name a few. Sometimes, it’s a tumultuous yet gloomy mix of these feelings. To explore what might be the core feelings behind your anxiety, consider these questions: 

  • What is the more profound feeling you are experiencing in relation to your anxiety?
  • When in your life have you felt this way before? Can you trace it to a specific situation in your past?
  • What situations or people tend to stir up these feelings within you the most?

Confront the Core Fear

Immediately following our core feelings are our core fears. These can range from a fear of inadequacy, to being viewed as insignificant, or simply harboring a fear of not being enough. Others may fear abandonment, death, or even the unknown. These anxieties serve as defense mechanisms and only by identifying them can we hope to effectively address them. Consequently, here are some questions: 

  • What is the deepest fear being triggered by the situation you’re in?
  • What would happen if your worst fears about this situation were realized?
  • Is this fear based on a credible threat or past experience, or is it an irrational construct of your mind?

Address the Core Need

The core need represents the fundamental emotional needs that each individual craves. We all have them, as they form an integral part of our human experience. Whether it’s the need to feel safe, loved, valuable, or simply acknowledged, these emotional needs are paramount to our survival. Acknowledging these needs does not exhibit weakness. Rather, it signifies a profound act of personal strength. Reflect on these questions to better understand your needs: 

  • Which core emotional needs are not being met or are threatened by this situation?
  • What exactly do you need to feel or experience deep down in order to feel safe?
  • If these needs cannot be immediately met, how can you create an environment that nurtures them?

By attending to your core feelings, fears, and needs, you embark on a personal journey of self-healing that originates from within. This empowers you to manage your anxiety in a more conscious, compassionate, and heart-centered manner.

6) Embrace a Bigger Truth

Having exposed what is really happening at the core, it’s now time to tap into the wisdom of your heart. Transcending anxiety’s circumscribed perspective requires invoking a deeper, more expansive truth about the reality of our existence. This truth can only arise from the profound spiritual beliefs and convictions you hold deep inside your heart. This change of perspective will inevitably result in a change of heart. And when the heart changes, everything changes. 

Pose these empowering questions to yourself: 

  • What is the ultimate truth about my innate capacity to transcend this situation?
  • What is the broader spiritual lesson I’m being asked to master or learn?
  • What belief or conviction will help me get through to the other side?

When you sincerely connect with the wisdom of your heart and the most transcendent aspects of your spiritual understanding, your perspective on a particular situation changes. It morphs into one which contextualizes challenges as opportunities for initiation into greater self-actualization, personal mastery, and soul-awakening. 

Heart-Centered Meditation can be powerful tools in anchoring this broader truth within ourselves. Regular meditation helps us to cultivate a state of calm and centeredness, allowing us to better access our inner wisdom and resilience. Prayer can also be a potent method for connecting with a higher power or universal energy, providing a sense of comfort and guidance during times of anxiety. Incorporating these practices into our daily routines can help us maintain a heart-centered approach to managing anxiety, reminding us of our inherent strength and transformative power of compassion and self-understanding.

7) Choose Your Response

You’re finally ready to break free from the vicious cycle of reactive feelings, stories, and behaviors by consciously choosing a more compassionate, loving, or heart-directed response. This response is not driven by a reactive ego or survival instinct, but rather arises from the heart. This key change reshapes our neural connections, paving the way for healthier responses. This concept aligns with Tej Steiner’s Five Ways of Being – a framework I teach in my courses and programs. In this process, unconscious reactions rooted in fear are replaced with conscious responses that are driven by wisdom, compassion, and a deeper alignment with your core.

Respond with Compassion 

The first step is to confront the symptoms of anxiety, as well as the reactive feelings, stories, behaviors, core feelings, core fears, and unmet core needs with kindness and compassion towards yourself – or any others who may have triggered these responses. Everyone is doing their best with the information and experience they have at the time, including you. Instead of being hard on yourself, affirm your inherent worthiness, and accept your sensitivities and profound emotions as essential elements of your human experience. 

A useful technique for achieving this is the HeartMath technique previously shared. Once you’ve neutralized negative emotions, recall feelings of care, appreciation, gratitude, or compassion. Think of a time in your life when you experienced compassion, and then consciously extend those feelings towards yourself. 

As I discussed in my recent article on the distinctions between sympathy, empathy, and compassion, compassion represents an energy that nurtures and respects all life and strives to alleviate suffering. The key is the activation of self-compassion, so your response emerges from a compassionate place, subsequently reducing anxiety or fear.

In essence, I want you to feel compassion towards yourself. That’s the first step in easing your own suffering.

Reframe Your Story

Now that you’ve eased the pain and can view the situation through the lens of compassion by acknowledging the larger truth about this experience, it’s time to reframe the story in your mind. The way to do this is by replacing it with one that will serve you better and empower you to move forward, thus conquering anxiety. Here are some questions to consider: 

  • What new story can you start telling yourself about this situation?
  • Do you have a specific affirmation or power statement that you can use as a mantra?
  • What fresh narrative can you create that reveals the truth about this situation?

By reframing the story, while infused with acceptance, appreciation, and compassion, you can navigate this situation with greater efficacy. This new mindset will also enable you to consciously choose more empowering behaviors. 

Choose Empowering Behaviors 

Empowering behaviors are actions or responses that support your wellbeing, honor your core needs, and align with your heart’s desires and fundamental truths. This might entail setting boundaries in interactions that typically provoke anxiety, prioritizing self-care, or reaching out to a trusted friend or professional when you need to express your fears and concerns. 

To discover these new behaviors, ask yourself: 

Given what just transpired and how I’m feeling about it… 

  • What is the most loving or compassionate thing I can do for myself?
  • What is the most loving or compassionate thing I can do for others?
  • What would God / Life / Source / Spirit have me do in this situation?

By consciously choosing empowering behaviors, you cultivate an internal environment that fosters emotional resilience and spiritual connection, thereby reducing anxiety. Your world perspective shifts, with fear and stress dissipating, replaced by a sense of safety, acceptance, and compassion.

By adopting this heart-based approach, you are empowered to shape a life founded on heart-brain coherence, self-awareness, and emotional resilience.

How I Applied This Framework During the Most Critical Moment of My Life

“The only way out, is in. The only path to transcending fear and anxiety is through the heart.”

In 2008, I experienced a series of traumatic events that shook me to my core. Shortly after traveling to South Africa, I was mugged, lost my job, and worst of all, my mother passed away due to lung cancer. Living abroad in a foreign country, I found myself grappling with intense feelings of anxiety about my life, future, and survival. However, this challenging period also served as the crucible in which I learned to apply the heart-centered, scientific, and spiritually based approach to managing anxiety that I’ve shared here. 

Here is how I applied it: 

Recognize the Symptoms of Anxiety: My anxiety manifested in various ways, including sleepless nights, pain in my chest, a constant sense of dread, and an overwhelming fear of the unknown. I realized that these were all symptoms of my anxiety, and acknowledging them was the first step towards managing it.

Identify the Triggering Situation: The triggering situations were clear: the mugging had left me feeling unsafe, losing my job brought financial instability, and my mother’s death caused immense grief. Recognizing these triggers helped me understand what I was dealing with.

Acknowledge Your Reaction: I noticed a pattern in my reactions to these stressful events. I felt fear and helplessness, told myself that I was alone and incapable of overcoming these challenges, and started withdrawing from social interactions. Acknowledging these reactions was crucial in understanding how I typically responded to anxiety.

Connect With Your Heart: Amidst the chaos, I started practicing heart-centered meditation. Focusing on the rhythm of my heart and controlling my breathing helped me feel grounded and reduced the intensity of my anxiety. This helped me feel more calm and at ease, and somehow lessened my suffering.

Address The Root Cause: I delved deeper into my feelings and realized that at the core, I felt abandoned and scared. I was afraid of being alone and not being able to survive on my own. My biggest fear was that I would not be able to survive this experience. My core need was to feel secure and loved. Acknowledging these feelings, fears, and needs was a major step towards my healing.

Embrace a Bigger Truth: Despite the overwhelming fear and uncertainty, I held onto the belief that I had the strength to overcome these challenges. I believed that God was with me, and he was putting me through these situations to make me stronger, and that these experiences were pushing me to become more resilient and self-reliant, and in many ways closer to Him. I started to tell myself, ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’ and ‘My heart will guide me towards the life God has prepared for me.’ This shift in perspective helped me see my situation in a new light.

Choose Your Response: Instead of letting fear control my actions, I made the conscious decision to respond with compassion and courage. I made myself available to others and took steps to ensure my safety, sought new job opportunities, and allowed myself to grieve my mother’s loss. I reframed my story from one of victimhood to one of growth and resilience. This new response ultimately led me along the path towards Heart Leadership and ultimately becoming the person I am today and being able to help thousands who like me are going through similar experiences.

The heart-centered approach to conquering anxiety not only helped me during this difficult time, but it has also empowered me to face future challenges with greater resilience and grace.

Creating an Integrated Lifestyle That Minimizes Anxiety

In addition to the seven steps I outlined above, it’s crucial to embrace new lifestyle habits and supplemental practices that promote wellness. For instance, regular exercise not only reduces stress hormones but also stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural mood boosters. Consuming a balanced diet provides our body with essential vitamins and minerals that positively affect our mood and energy. A good night’s sleep is as important as it bolsters resilience against anxiety. Poor sleep can exacerbate anxiety symptoms, making it key to prioritize quality rest and sleep. 

Being part of a supportive community and spending time with loved ones provide a sense of acceptance and belonging. It assures us that we’re not isolated in our struggles, which is empowering during challenging times. Engaging in creative activities can act as a therapeutic outlet for expressing emotions and reducing anxiety. Such activities can foster a sense of achievement and purpose, significantly enhancing self-esteem and mood. 

Practicing heart-brain coherenceheart-centerd meditation, and heart-centered prayer can also be beneficial. These practices promote inner peace and balance, strengthening the communication between our heart and brain, allowing us to manage stress more effectively. Adopting these lifestyle choices can enhance our emotional systems and promote mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

By consciously choosing these nurturing behaviors, you arm yourself with tools to manage anxiety effectively and cultivate harmony and wellbeing.

Final Thoughts

The heart-based solution to conquering anxiety I have shared here, brings together the most effective strategies, tools, and techniques I have learned to address not just your emotional, but also your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. By being aware of your personal triggers and responses, deepening your connection with your heart, and addressing the root cause of your anxiety, you will undoubtedly be able to conquer anxiety and eliminate its symptoms. 

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed this three-article series on anxiety. My overarching intention has been to empower you, increase your awareness, and help you live more fully and wholeheartedly, allowing you to see anxiety from a completely different perspective. All of this is for you to become the best, most loving, courageous, and compassionate version of yourself. 

Finally, remember, fear is natural but anxiety is optional. We all experience fear at times, but we also possess the power to manage, conquer, and transcend the negative effects of anxiety through the power of our hearts. It’s my hope that, armed with these insights, you’ll harness this power to turn fear and anxiety from a dominating force into a motivator for personal mastery and spiritual growth.

So breathe deeply, keep calm, and take the first step on the journey to conquering anxiety once and for all! You got this.

From my heart to yours, 

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