I’m writing this as I’m waiting to hear back from the doctor about whether or not my son has Lyme Disease. I’d love to report that I’m one of those women who maintains a rational outlook on life in times like these. I’m not. My heart clenches, my mind races and I freak out. No one would know this to look at me — I'm amazing at internalizing. On the outside, I appear to the be the same, perhaps with less of a sense of humor. On the inside, I want to cry and scream. Hello, anxiety.
When anxiety surfaces, it’s tough for me to perform. I have a business, and I have clients that I care deeply about. I have children to show up for. For whatever reason, I’m built to “turtle.” I want to duck into my shell and protect myself from life. Thankfully, the more work I do on myself and the more I grow as a person, the more diminished my anxiety becomes.
But for the past three days, it's been a real effort to keep my anxiety in check. My thoughts snowball into a flurry of “what-ifs.” This creates a lot of suffering. As you can imagine, I’ve been doing a lot of grounding work. These are the tricks I’ve been using to keep myself from careening into outer space:
1. Acknowledge the anxiety.
In order to help release the hold anxiety can have on you, you must first acknowledge that it’s there. Most of us walk around unaware that we're caught in anxiety’s web. Anxiety is great at “tricking” you into believing something is real. So all these fear-based thoughts you are having are simply that: thoughts. Thoughts aren't real. Thoughts aren't happening. If I remind myself that my thoughts are “the anxiety” doing its work, it helps me detach from the fear. I know it’s not real.
2. Start with your breath.
Have you noticed that when you get anxious, your whole body tenses up and your breath moves from deep and calming, to shallow and light? This kind of shallow breathing keeps the anxiety alive in your body. If the body can’t relax, neither can the mind. Take deep, full breaths all the way down into your belly. Breathe in through your nose and as you exhale through your mouth, make your exhale longer than your inhale. This deep breathing signals the body to relax and helps calm your mind and spirit.
3. Connect to your body.
Movement is one of the most amazing ways to get into your body. When you're stuck running in circles on the hamster wheel in your head, nothing grounds you more than moving your body. So get up and get moving. Yoga, running or walking — or my personal favorite, a one-minute dance party — all can you out of the fear of an uncertain future and put you directly in the present moment, the only place worth being.
4. Try EFT or tapping.
This is a huge craze right now — and for good reason! It allows you to conquer fears and limiting beliefs all while putting you in the driver's seat. It’s part acupressure and part mantra. It stimulates your body’s meridians and stabilizes your body’s energy flow, taking the “charge” off of whatever thought is having its way with you. You can get the scoop on tapping here.
Being stuck in your head, worrying and fretting about some imagined and feared future event is the ultimate form of withdrawal. By putting your focus on someone else, it engages your mind with a new activity. It serves a second purpose as well: giving you perspective beyond yourself. An anxious thought can become your whole life. You may forget that there's an entire world out there. When you connect with that, it broadens your perspective and helps draw you back into the rhythm of life.
6. Get into nature.
Nature can be a refuge. It calms, helps you connect to something larger than yourself, and provides a much-needed respite from your busy life. The simple act of listening to water rushing over rocks, staring at the moon, or watching the trees blow in the wind can remind us that there is something greater than ourselves out there. Tapping into that power can create a feeling of acceptance.
I’m so happy to report that my son is fine. While I was definitely not worry free during the past few days, my anxiety never got the best of me. Whenever I found myself teetering on the brink of an anxiety attack, I used one of the steps above. These aren't meant to take the place of professional help for clinical anxiety, but I hope you can draw on these in times of stress in your life. And always remember, you're not alone.