It seems like it can arise out of nowhere. It’s confusing. We want it to go away but it’s here to stay. We don’t like it and try to ignore it. That doesn’t work. We ignore it some more and it may trick us into thinking it left, but it’s just playing hide and seek with us. Sometimes we don’t know what to call it, other times we just wish we didn’t have to call it anything. That’s anxiety.
Like an unwelcome guest, anxiety barges in with a one-way ticket. It seems like sometimes we try to close all the doors in its path but somehow it gets by anyway. We may avoid it until we run out of steam,- the feelings burst and we’re left feeling even more out of control. The tears fall, the chest tightens, the breaths shorten. What if instead of averting our attention elsewhere we got to know this foe? It’s not easy, nor can it be pleasant. But then again, neither is what ensues when we disregard it. We’d like to inform you (or remind you) that doing so is the most effective way to ward off the discomfort that anxiety brings along with it.
Follow these four reminders when anxiety makes its next trip your way:
1. Take a moment to pause
When we take a break from what we’re doing we’re essentially giving ourselves a moment of healing. This space draws our attention away from not only sources of anxiety, but also other stimuli (phones, work, kids, chores, etc.). It may be an arbitrary amount of time -whether it’s 60 seconds, five minutes, or thirty minutes. However long it is, give yourself this mental break to lead into the next step:
2. Ask yourself what purpose does this serve
What are these tears trying to tell you? More often than not, anxiety’s purpose is to inform you of something. Is it burnout? Is it a strain on a relationship? Anxiety has a funny way of communicating to us and it’s our responsibility to try and decipher the language it’s using and translate it into something we understand.
3. Reflect on what’s going on for you
If you’re experiencing a tightness in your chest* while you’re sitting down eating your lunch, your immediate thought might be, “Why now? This isn’t stressful.” But once you’ve given yourself that pause, ask yourself what’s going on right now around you/in your life. You may have family visiting from out of town, a deadline approaching at work, or an endless to-do list. There’s more to right now than you’re probably immediately thinking of.
4. Do something to self-soothe
We put this last on the list because we want you to remember to engage in something that still honors this feeling you’re having, not distracts you from it. That might mean taking a few deep breaths or engaging in some sort of mindfulness practice. It also might mean listening to your favorite song or flipping (or scrolling) through a photo album.
One more thing to remember: more often than not it’s not a one-time visit. It’s here to stay. Going through this list when anxiety pops in will not only help you begin to understand it a bit more, but also will help you to have more say in what the agenda is while it’s here.
*Any physical symptom or ailment should be checked by your primary care doctor.
Catherine at Revive