This morning I felt anxious—like crawl out of my skin, almost panic attack level anxious. I couldn’t even put my finger on what it was that was causing this level of anxiety. Maybe it was my kids screaming like wild banshees from all corners of the house. Maybe it was oversleeping /sleeping through my alarm and feeling more rushed. Maybe it was the over caffeinated, under hydrated ratio. Or maybe it was just waking up with this mood and there really wasn’t any trigger. Either way it felt intense, like a weight on my chest and the inability to really gather myself up. I did go through the motions; I got the kids ready for school, got myself ready for work, the day in and day out tasks that really just needed to get done. And at one point I even took the time to stop and breathe, implementing tools that I’ve given to my own clients as recently as yesterday.
I’m a therapist, and I get anxious. No one’s immune from it, no one has it altogether and is “fine”. I hate the word fine, we’re never fine, far from it. We are experiencing any range of emotions at any given time. It’s what we do with these emotions that is the most important. So I chose in that moment to not judge myself, but to care for myself through the feelings.
I did the tasks I needed to do, breathing deep and putting one foot in front of the other. And do you know what eventually happened? I got outside, took a look at the sun shining and heard the birds chirping and the weight on my chest eased up. I felt some relief.
Because relief does eventually come and we can be the carriers of relief with a few simple steps to help ourselves through this anxiety.
1.Approach yourself with a non-judgmental, curious mindset
In my case, this morning I could have started off by getting angry with myself using self-talk like “I can’t believe you’re feeling this!” “What’s wrong with you?!?” I’ve done this in the past and trust me it really does not help. Instead, I approached myself with care and compassion. I noted that this anxious feeling was here but did not criticize myself for it.
Breathing is the single most useful tool we prescribe as therapists. You see, anxiety takes our parasympathetic nervous system and puts it in overdrive with increased adrenaline. Breathing takes our body from experiencing “danger” and helps us center and calm ourselves. Often times I advise matching your breath work with a mantra, something that you can connect yourself to. A few examples may be “I can do this.” “I am calm,” whatever works for you.
3. Partialize the steps
Rather than thinking about the mountain of things that are ahead of you, take it one small step at a time. Focusing on the whole project at once can be way too overwhelming, but take it in small chunks that are manageable. That’s what we mean when we say, just take the next right step. Don’t focus on the mountain, take it one small step at a time.
This is a small list, not an exhaustive one, of how to best deal with anxiety. There are so many more tools to try, but I guarantee if you start with this list you will begin to feel some relief.
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