Are you feeling like with everything going on in the world right now it’s just downright distressing and anxiety provoking?
We have all been tested mightily over the last two years, and now barely out of a pandemic we are all feeling the weight of horrific conflicts that are playing out on the world stage as we speak. Not only are we dealing with the normal stresses of work, family life, overwhelming schedules and demands, but all the above on top of major adverse weather events, inflationary concerns and more.
It’s a good time to pause and take a collective deep breath.
One of the first things I attempt to do with my clients that are more stress and anxiety prone, is increase their awareness of their breath- that thing we do automatically without thinking that ensures we keep ticking, yet without awareness it can also often be the thing we hold when stressed. Many people are shallow breathers – we breathe short and shallow- just enough to keep a pulse because we are not thinking about it. It’s the fallout of too much stress and not enough mindfulness. Try a pause right now, and take in a big breath through your nose, and exhale a nice slow relaxed exhale out your mouth. Repeat.
Breathing deeply as a regular practice is a significant tool in the toolbox for helping to calm our brain when we remember to use it. It doesn’t change any of our world circumstances or conditions, but it does change us in the moment to allow us to cope better with what feels distressing.
Here’s some other things you can do to tame the tigers of anxiety and stress.
1.Determine to let go of what you cannot control. When we allow ourselves to think about all the chaos and maladies in the world right now it can get overwhelming in a hurry. Identify that which is within your control, and that which you ought to let go. The things you let go you may influence through prayer or making a donation to a cause so you can feel like you are contributing something positive. The things that you ought to take control over will require enough of your time and energy, so learning to let go is not only prudent it makes productive use of the time and energy you do have. Focus on what you can exert change or influence over.
2.Notice your signs and symptoms of anxiety. While some of these are common, you and your body and brain are unique so what are they for you? Maybe you notice changes in your breath but also tension in your muscles, a feeling of panic, or an uneasy knot in your stomach. Tune into what your signs and symptoms are so you can quickly recognize them when they occur.
3. Give your anxiety a name. The weirder the better. If the name you give to your anxiety signs and symptoms makes you smile or laugh, all the better. Then when your first notice that you are feeling these signs you can simply announce to yourself, “Oh look Gertrude just showed up”. Sometimes naming our fears and feelings can help take the power away that we’ve given to them because these feelings can feel so overwhelming. Gently remind yourself that Gertrude just showed up uninvited again, and then consider your strategy.
4. Have a plan for when your uninvited guest arrives. Your plan can include many things, but the important part is to have a plan. Often times just stopping what you are doing and taking a pause to listen to what your body and brain are trying to tell you is enough. Remember anxiety won’t kill you- it’s just your body and brain’s way of signaling to you that something is awry that you need to pay attention to.
5. Create an Emotional Tool Box. Many of my clients have several tools or more from which to choose from so they can restore calm to their brain and balance to their body. There are so many ways to accomplish this so learn more about what they are and practice these tools so you have muscle memory when you need them most. Along with deep breathing, consider meditation, havening, tapping, or journaling to help quell the anxious feelings that occur. Some of my clients take this a step further by creating an “Emotional first aid kit” which may include something soft and comforting, a favorite poem or song lyrics, and “emergency” dark chocolate, chamomile tea bags to name a few things clients have shared their kits contain.
6. Create a safe support system- in other words, know who your tribe is. Who is that person (or people) you can call on to say “hey I’m in a dark place right now, or I’m feeling uneasy or anxious.” Choose people who are able to consistently show up as nonjudgmental safe people who can be there for you. Let them know what you need in the moment. It may be just to hear the sound of someone else breathing on the other end of the phone, or you may need some encouragement or someone to deep breathe together with. Asking for help is a sign of strength and courage. It says I matter enough to take care of me.
7. Seek professional help when needed if stress, ability to cope or anxiety seems like it’s getting worse. Some people are more prone to stress or anxious thoughts. Many parents or sibling who never got help for their anxiety modeled anxious behaviors and that may be what you’ve grown up with. Sometimes our anxieties are born out of trauma that we have not dealt with or healed from. There is help available for you and all you have to do is seek it. Let us know if you need a referral. The Live Well Kitsap team is here to help. Reach out at email@example.com.
The causes and conditions that lead us to feel stressed and anxious are going to be with us. There is not a time on this side of heaven where all our personal or global problems disappear and our need for good coping skills and resilience evaporates.
Whether we are dealing with personal circumstances and distresses and / or community or global ones, it can go a long way for our own health and wellbeing to feel equipped that we can manage ourselves well even when we are feeling stressed or anxious.
You matter and so does your health and wellbeing.