I’ve gone through roller-coaster days of “general, nonspecific grief” over the loss of so much I had taken for granted. Now I’m struggling with anxiety, including clenched teeth, middle of the night “busy brain”, over-eating, and oh-those-so-snarky comments. I’ve managed my anxiety over the years with meditation, journaling, and regular exercise, which all help. But….the pandemic-related issues, social unrest, concern for my family, California wildfires and poor air quality have overwhelmed me. I know I’m not alone.
All my usual anxiety-reducing good habits just weren’t working. So…. I dug deeper to explore, learn and add to my self-care toolkit. What I’ve learned may be helpful to you.
Acknowledge it. Name it.
Rather than brush it off or pretend I wasn’t feeling what I felt, I named it. Anxiety. There’s something powerful about giving it a name. It reduced its power over me. I depersonalized anxiety and saw it as an emotional response to these very abnormal times.
Anxiety is NOT me or who I am. Nor is it a character flaw or a weakness, it is a just a feeling.
Acceptance without judgement. That’s what I do in my meditation practice. Mindfulness. Simple, definitely not easy. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling in this moment. With rare exception, these feelings pass and the level of intensity subsides. (If not, then professional help may be recommended.)
I’ve substituted soaking in the daily news to watching my favorite comedians’ take on the deadlines. I read comics (still love Dilbert), enjoy romantic comedies, and read lighter fiction. I spend more time with my friends who are fun and optimistic and still find life’s lighter side. We easily laugh at our mistakes such as bread that became a large hockey puck; crooked masks, and our early Covid hair styles and the color.
Laughter has been medically proven to reduce stress, ease tension, relieve pain and improve your immune system.
See it from a philosophical perspective.
Kierkegaard is one of my favorite, oft-quotes philosophers. (Gee, that sounds so geeky!) In The Psychology of Anxiety, he writes that anxiety informs us about the possibilities of our new lives, the uncertainty of the not-yet known and undecided future. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
We don’t know yet where we’re going on all this…and we are all stranded on this wobbly ground. If you have “enough” today, let that be ok for today. And yes, there will be a future, we just can’t see it from here. No one can.
“Learning to know anxiety is an adventure which every man has to affront…He therefore who has learned rightly to be in anxiety has learned the most important thing.” –Kierkegaard
I can look at this time as an adventure. Can you?
Walk, run, swim, bike, hike, tennis and yoga. I’ve tried them all. Get outside and move. The sunshine, fresh air, seeing other people out are all positive and life affirming. Exercise is a proven anti-depressant and reduces anxiety. Set a personal goal of fitness or establish daily exercise streaks. They can help give us a sense of control, feel fitter and healthier.
Use movement to get together (socially distanced) with friends. Or walk in solitude.
Like so many people these days, I have found novel ways to be more creative. I make masks specifically for family and friends. Unicorns for my granddaughters, fly-fishing patterns for my son. Star Wars for my grandson. Hawaiian prints for my friends and for me as we long to travel again! Whether its sewing, redesigning your garden, decorating cakes, or painting old furniture, creativity nourishes the soul and beautifies our world.
Anxiety Nudges Us to Greater Curiosity, Faith and New Choices
Anxiety is a nudge to act. It asks us to be curious and figure it out our own path to get through rocky emotional times.
These are times to lean into our faith, deepen our spiritual practices and participate with our faith-base communities.
We can identify new personal self-care practices, share honest vulnerable conversations with a friend, seek the help of a therapist, or read the words of well-regarded philosophers and sages.
The choice is mine. Everyday, I decide and make a short list of what I’m going to do. Fortunately, I am blessed with an innate curiosity about people, how things work, and finding ways to deal with what shows up.
If you have ideas, please share what’s worked for you. I can always add to my self-care toolkit!