Easing Anxiety

Anxiety has become something of a buzzword, a catchall for freaking out. It manifests differently for everyone, and sometimes people blame their wild overreactions on it. I’m not one to say if they’re blowing the situation out of proportion or not – anxiety is real if you’re experiencing it. And it can feel overpowering.

Crowds like this one give me the jitters. Listening to my anxiety, I avoid them or involve myself carefully.

Crowds like this one give me the jitters. Listening to my anxiety, I avoid them or involve myself carefully.

Sometimes I feel fragile, brittle, fractured, like a pane of glass that’s just been shot but hasn’t fallen yet. Cracked in all directions, waiting only for a breeze, a breath, a look to clatter to the ground in a hundred little shards. I can be very sensitive to energies, and often it gets so overwhelming that I have to step away, breathe, just take a moment. This is one way that anxiety manifests for me. That feeling of fragility, accompanied by irrational fears that I’m losing control, spinning out of orbit, about to explode – that I can’t. Whatever it might be, sometimes the situation can overtake my rationale. And that’s a scary place to be.

Here’s how I deal with it –

  1. Take a minute. Step back, pause, breathe. I had my first anxiety attack a couple years ago, at lunch with my mother – for whatever reason we were talking about marriage and all of a sudden my heart started pounding out of my chest and all I could do was shake my head and repeatedly croak, “I don’t want to get married.” Looking back, I think I was scared of the intense vulnerability that comes with such a close bond. At that point in my life, I fought self-loathing on the daily and had barely taken the time to get to know and accept myself, so thinking about someone else loving me seemed impossibly catastrophic. Luckily my mom is no stranger to anxiety, and she coached me through it – feet flat on the floor, sit up straight, hands on the chair, breathe. Calm your body down, then gain enough distance to look at the issue with your wits about you. Because usually – not always, but often – it happens for a reason.
  1. Explore/Analyze. Getting to the root of the issue clears the way for potential solutions. It’s easy to brush it off and say that anxiety just happens for no good reason – sometimes it does. And it’s not always for a good Social anxiety usually comes from insecurity, and who wants to dig into that bed of thorns? It’s difficult, but necessary, like sucking the venom out of a spider bite. I’m mathematically minded, which is part of the reason I was emotionally stunted for most of my adolescence. Emotions seemed a weakness – irrational and ridiculous and overly feminine. I prided myself on being logical, reasonable, pragmatic – practically Vulcan. Upon realizing that my emotions could no longer go suppressed, I found that I could use my logical skills to explore my emotional world. Stepping back in a moment allows my mind to run emotions through the system – what am I feeling? Why? I dissect my feelings. And in doing this, I make sense of them. This leads to greater awareness and healing, especially because – utilizing your reasonable side – you can generally talk yourself down from any feelings that attempt to carry you off into the land of irrationality. Logic can keep you grounded in the real world, while still allowing you to be emotional.
  1. Being emotional is not a bad thing. Learning how to feel has taken more strength than white knuckling it through bad times or turning to substances to feel better or just to feel something. It’s difficult, and I respect people who are in touch with their emotions. I know the work it takes, and I’ve also learned just how worthwhile it is. It’s as if half of my soul was dead, and, in exploring my emotions, I’ve come back to life. Feeling has never come easy to me because each emotion registers at such a high intensity. Often bodily discomfort precedes emotional – I call this emotional constipation. Just as I chew fennel seeds and take coconut oil to keep my digestive system happy, I exercise and write in order to feel. If I didn’t actively work for my emotions, I’d regress to a place of suppression/constipation – I know it’s icky, but so is having a lifetime’s worth of backed up feelings. It helps that I hate being uncomfortable.
  1. Get Comfortable. I get anxious when I’m uncomfortable, and I’m rarely uncomfortable for no reason at all. As a kid I’d freak out if my shirt was itchy, and that hasn’t changed much. Style is important to me because I like to be comfortable in what I wear. This type of anxiety manifests as feeling weak – the fragility returns, and every act of the world around me feels like a bullet in my brittle glass bones. Since I can’t control the world around me, I take special care with all the things I can control. Any level of physical discomfort can be averted, whether it takes changing clothes, going outside, laying down, going for a run. Whatever it might be – I get anxious when I have a stomach ache – investigating why is crucial. If I don’t take special care in times of unavoidable discomfort, I’ll slip further and further down until I’m buried in a pit of depression. But that doesn’t have to happen. It just takes focused awareness – vigilance.

So – next time you get anxious – stop. Breathe. Investigate. Feel. And find a way to get comfortable. Those steps might seem monumental now, but with practice it does become a little easier. Stay mindful – you’ve got this.

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