The recent ice storm had numerous elements to it: freezing rain, cold temperatures, ice, wind, the weight of the ice on the trees causing huge branches to crack and fall, pulling down power lines, causing houses to loose electricity. These various elements coming together created a beautiful, yet quite dangerous situation. People felt powerless (both literally and emotionally) frightened, victimized, angry. Life became very difficult for many people over the holidays.
Anxiety is a “storm” of different elements whirling around within us, happening all at once…overwhelming us, flooding us, frightening us. It is unpredictable and takes our feeling of control away. We feel powerless and victimized by it.
We have a rush of thoughts and beliefs, emotions, and felt sensations (which are what were experiencing in the body) all at once. These elements coming together, as in the ice storm, create an instantaneous, dire picture of the future. ”Worse case scenarios” fly through our heads. We become lost, overwhelmed, out of control, panicked and anxious.
If we can isolate and identify the individual elements occurring within 'the storm' of our anxiety we begin to feel more in control. Staying present in the moment and not getting ahead of yourself is important yet difficult to do. The ‘threat' in the moment causes all of our emergency responses to go off all at once.
Much like the fire sirens we heard during the storm, all of our inner fire sirens go off all at once, alerting us of the danger and potential threat.
With some assistance we can learn to manage our anxious thoughts, beliefs, emotions and body sensations. We can challenge and question our thoughts and beliefs by asking, “Is that true? Do I know that for a fact?" Often the answer will be no…it’s your fear running away with the moment. Just recognizing this can calm you down in the moment.
Noticing what sensations we’re having in the body that lead us to the emotions and the thoughts and beliefs is valuable. We begin to challenge the links we are making. We think, if this is true, then this, this and this must be true. Not necessarily. If I’m feeling butterflies in my stomach it does not necessarily mean that I must anxious, therefore I’m weak and they’ll see that I’m useless and I won’t get the job and I’ll never get to do the things I want to do, I’ll fail at everything and be alone all my life and die unfulfilled.
It might just mean that I have butterflies in my stomach... I smile and think of how excited I feel at the prospect of this new job with all the possibilities of expansion and growth. I can do the butterfly dance, embodying my excitement. A very different response to the same body sensation. It’s getting to know that we have options as to how we choose to respond to our body sensations with our emotions and thoughts.
I can observe what I’m feeling in my body and be curious and spacious with it. I can embrace it or release it through sound or movement… or just enjoy embodying it. Yes, it is possible! It can be done with some practice.
Then the butterflies or tensions or what ever else you may be feeling in the body does not have to mean anything other than the feeling you’re having in your body at that moment. No conclusions need to be drawn. No attaching a meaning or story to it (that frighten you) needs to happen…it’s just a feeling you’re having in the body at the moment.
I’ll finish by saying breathe, breathe and breathe some more. We usually breathe very shallowly when we are feeling under pressure. Take a deep breath, relax your jaw and feel your tongue lying thick and heavy on the floor of your mouth. Picture yourself in a white room. Feel the weight of your legs and the soles of your feet on the ground. Wiggle your toes in your shoes.
These techniques and many others can be customized specifically for you. You need to experience them first hand in your body with the positive effects they have. With practice you will have them in your body when you need them.
These techniques can create a sense of calm, soothe and settle in your body. You can 'trick' your body into feeling relaxed whenever you need to.
You don’t need to feel hijacked by frightening events in your life. You can remain present in the moment with options and feel a sense of control.
I can help you develop a 'creative mastery' over the anxiety that plaques your life.
Photo: SOUL CARDS, Deborah Koff-Chapin