We are standing on shaky ground… It appears that the foundational structures that we have believed and trusted in are crumbling before our very eyes. It remains to be seen what history will reveal about this time, but right now the collective feelings of shock, insecurity and fear are palpable in every one I talk to, everywhere I go.
The following four antidotes for anxiety have helped many of my clients navigate particularly stressful times in their lives. It is my hope that these simple tools will help relieve your anxiety and promote positive and productive responses to this difficult time.
When you feel threatened, it is natural to want to do something, anything, to get out of the feeling – and right away! Many a misstep has arisen from not being able to tolerate the discomfort of anxiety or fear. It is important to pause before reacting and distinguish what you are feeling. Name the feeling, “fear (or whatever) is here,” and be willing to make a space for it, not to resist it, no matter how scary and uncomfortable it may be.
Feelings are usually connected to thoughts, but are a distinct visceral experience (i.e., we feel them). The adrenaline rush that accompanies a fight or flight response is a good example. Pausing to notice that you are feeling as if your life is threatened makes it possible to observe the feeling, rather that being consumed by it. That alone will help lower your anxiety response.
In fact, you will find that when you lean in toward a feeling, it will most often dissolve. Only then you can notice that even though something scared you, your life is probably not at stake in this moment. You can look around, take a breath, take stock… “What information do I need?” “Where can I get it?” “What help do I need?” “Where can I get it?” The trick is to first be present to your self and to sort out your emotional response from the facts. Then you will be able to respond to the actual events at hand with thoughtful, measured action.
Action is one of the most powerful antidotes for anxiety, but not re-action or a rush to solution which actually feeds fear. If you don’t know what to do first, or next, you need more information or more help. That’s your next step. One small, intelligent step will reinforce your momentum and feeling of empowerment. Depending upon how overwhelming the big picture might feel I often have clients pull their focus back to one day at a time, or one hour; sometimes just the next 15 minutes. You can manage just about anything for 15 minutes and that will break through the paralysis of fear and build your confidence, one next right step at a time.
Accepting that you may not know what is going to happen, how exactly this is going to work out, is very challenging for most people. Being fully present in the moment and trusting that the step you are taking now will provide information, learning and guidance for the next right step, and the next, requires faith that a power greater than your self is managing the outcome. Trusting the process is a potent antidote for anxiety; it raises you up spiritually and leads to enlightening and enlightened results.
The inclination to let your personal self-care habits and practices slide during times of stress, especially financial stress, is not unusual. However, the antidote for anxiety is to step up whatever activities are self-care to you: exercise, meditation, movies, reading, massage, being with friends, adequate rest, healthy food – whatever it is that supports your body, mind and spirit. Being good to your self is to your mind what endorphins are to your body. Besides, your unconscious actually needs time like this to work behind the scenes. Make spaces for those flashes of inspiration.
Also, resist the (understandable) temptation to “hunker down,” turn inward or isolate. Events that threaten your sense of security often stimulate unresolved emotions from the past. It is also a prime time for those self-saboteur voices to strike up the “Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda Chorus.” If you find yourself stuck in panic or obsessively worrying, it is important to reach out for help to sort it out.
In any event, finding an objective person to help you see problems from a different perspective, to strategize outside of the box, and to support you in planning and taking action, will reduce your anxiety and expand your solutions. It is also useful to get help with learning how to communicate about problematic or frightening issues with family and friends, while still managing your stress, and theirs. Seeking assistance is a sound, strategic action. Bottom line… self care is getting the help you need.
As elementary as it seems, in shaky times, it is easy to stop noticing what is going right. No matter what, you can look around you right now and find something that evokes your gratitude. Keeping a Gratitude Journal (the practice of recording five things that you are grateful for everyday), when done over time, will change the lens through which you see your world. Simple things such as a smile from a stranger, a good meal or an opportunity to be kind or helpful work just as well as more obvious blessings.
Gratitude is magnetic and will attract more good to you. Gratitude is a high vibration and when you join with it, you experience your self as more than your circumstances and conditions. Gratitude will help you have a sound night’s sleep and a new sense of possibilities upon awakening It is awesome (in the true sense of the word) how quickly and completely gratitude antidotes anxiety, one moment at a time.