I know what it’s like to feel anxious. I’ve experienced a heightened (and random) sense of unease throughout the last couple of years and I’m learning to weather the storm. A lot is changing and we need to stick together and use this challenging time as fodder for growth and self-development. That’s the opportunity that life presents us with every single day.
I’ve come to see anxiety as a messenger, the mind and body’s way of tapping us on the shoulder and requesting attention. If we ignore it or suppress it (with food, drugs, alcohol, web-surfing, etc.), it goes underground. Temporarily. In time, it usually reappears.
As I read through the hundreds of emails that arrived last week, it’s clear that many of us are feeling anxious. Here are a few things that have helped me in addition to meditation.
When I feel anxious, I do one or more of the following:
Breathe calm into the body. I always start here. I play a game with myself where I breathe deeply in through my nose and then see how long I can take to exhale out through my nose. I focus my attention on the exhale. When you extend the exhale, you engage the body’s parasympathetic nervous system and your muscles (and mind) relax.
Drink water. Years ago, when my father was in the hospital, I learned that the body activates anxiety as a warning signal when something is amiss. One afternoon my dad started feeling anxious and when the nurse came in and suggested he drink a cup of water, his anxiety disappeared within minutes. Dehydration is rampant and it may be the cause of your anxious feelings. Drink at least 16 oz of water and see what happens.
Move the body. Did you know that movement metabolizes cortisol, the stress hormone? When I feel anxious I’ve noticed that if I start walking I feel better pretty quickly. I might walk around the house, in my neighborhood, or on the treadmill downstairs. Any kind of movement will help.
Feel your feelings. On Thursday, I went out the front door to meet my friend Beth for a night walk and tripped and fell on our front steps. I could feel my ankle twist as I went down and I immediately tried to stand up. But I felt anxious and scared that I had done real damage (I didn’t), so I stopped, sat up, and allowed myself to feel into the moment. I stayed there for several minutes noticing what was going on in my mind and body while speaking gently to myself. I stood up when I felt calmer and it was a powerful lesson in allowing the fear to move through me. In two days, my foot felt back to normal and I suspect my decision to be loving, kind, and accepting of the experience helped.
You are not alone. We are in this time of challenge and change together and you can feel calmer and more empowered in spite of any chaos happening around you. I know this to be true.
I hope you’ll join me in my free “Zoom Gathering” on January 19th.