Could this be a description of you?
~ Feeling more, sensing more, thinking more, knowing more
~ Extreme sensitivity to sounds, smells, tastes, colors, touch, emotions, weather, food, chemicals, energy, bad news, criticism, the invisible world, and beauty
~ A mind that moves at warp speed, seeks meaning, analyzes the hell out of everything, wonders, generates millions of ideas, and watches itself watching itself
~ A heart that weeps at the cruelty humans inflict on one another and on the planet
~ A soul that yearns for knowledge, understanding, and love
And you wonder why you are anxious?
Anxiety is such a real phenomenon for people with finely tuned nervous systems, which you know you have. Not to mention, your capacity to feel the suffering of neighbors, trees, children everywhere, and your lonely Aunt Lucille. And, these days, not to mention pandemics, climate crises, racism, civil wars, psychopathic dictators, and more.
And, if you had to start worrying when you were two years old because your mother was screaming obscenities at you and your father was unreliable and self-absorbed, for example, well then, you likely have developed a remarkable ability to become anxious at a moment’s notice. Or to remain anxious all of the time on all occasions. Just in case. You never know. You need to be prepared for the worst.
And so, your anxiety may manifest in many ways:
You want to strangle your neighbor who uses her leaf blower to clear the dust off of her driveway every morning. The chaos at birthday parties leaves you and your child shrieking. Your very active, creative mind imagines unending catastrophes. You can’t stop ruminating about the horrific story you just heard on NPR. You have migraines, allergies, and insomnia.
What, then, are some ways you can help yourself?
- Make a list of self-soothing techniques that work for you. Try the different apps that exist such as Calm, Insight Timer, and Headspace. It often helps to create a daily meditation practice or exercise plan. Some people have found morning pages from The Artist’s Way to be useful. Notice if food sensitivities or hormones are a factor.
- Make a list of calming reminders. Here are some items on one teen client’s list: I’m a fallible human. I make mistakes, like everyone. I’m learning. I’m experimenting. Making a mistake does not make me a bad person. Am I catastrophizing? Do I need to be this upset? My body tends to be anxious, but I’m actually safe. It’s going to be OK. I’m older now and I have more control over my experiences. It makes sense that there are many things that I don’t know.
- The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Bourne is a good resource if you need many specific techniques.
- Procrastination by Burka and Yuen is a good resource for perfectionism and procrastination.
- You have great compassion for others. Let yourself receive some of that sweetness, too. Forgive yourself for not being perfect.
- Understand that your perfectionism and anxiety might exist not because of something you have done wrong but because of the nature of growing up gifted. The complications begin at an early age. You have a right to take the time to focus on your self-understanding and growth.
- You know how fear tends to make you want to freeze or shrink or hide or push it away? Instead, notice it and be with it. Where do you feel it in your body? Hello, anxiety. Then, remember that it is just a part of you. And you are bigger than it. Imagine yourself expanding. Breathe and expand. As odd as it sounds, welcome the anxiety. Bring it on, baby! And keep expanding. You will begin to feel your higher Self and the Love that is in you and around you. Breathe. You might start to notice that you feel lighter and more peaceful. The fear may still be there but you’ve become so large that it becomes insignificant. Imagine that! The more you practice this, the easier it will be to get into this more peaceful state. And if you want to take it one step further, turn it into a tonglen practice (from Pema Chodron) where you breathe in all of the anxiety all over the world (Seriously!), and you breathe out Love to everyone, including yourself.
- Move your body. When worried, we tend to freeze. That only increases the anxiety. Try moving. Walk, dance, shake, exercise, sing.
- If you grew up in a seriously dysfunctional family, get psychotherapy. Events in your present life can trigger PTSD symptoms where you are unconsciously re-experiencing trauma; feeling anxiety that makes no sense. Therapy can help you identify the triggers and learn ways to cope and to heal.
- Keep a journal and write dialogues with your anxiety. Visualize the anxiety as a person and be curious. Ask why it continues to hang around. You may be surprised by the answers
- Find your sense of humor. If you are alone in your car, scream obscenities at passing drivers. Avoid eye contact.
- Try one of the research-based guided imagery CDs produced by psychologist Belleruth Naparstek. She has CDs on anxiety, stress reduction and many more topics. Experiment with emotional freedom techniques (EFT) also called tapping.
- Read the research from the Heartmath Institute and see if you might want to try one of their devices to improve what they call your “heart rate variability” and reduce your stress.
- Get hugged by someone you love, including your animals. Breathe and feel the connection deeply in your body.
- If you are a parent, share these ideas with your children. Listen to them as they share their frustrations and fears. Careful listening and reflection often works better than advice giving or rescuing. If they are very young, give them the specific words for their emotions. Let them know you will keep them safe. Don’t take their meltdowns personally. Take time away.
- Consider working with a team of sensitive, capable practitioners (naturopaths, physical therapists, psychotherapists, doctors, acupuncturists, healers, shamans, teachers, artists, etc.) who will help you find the best tools for your particular needs. You are complicated so there is no one practitioner or one technique that will be the perfect answer. You do not have to be alone with your anxiety. Even though you tend to solve problems for others and you may be the smartest person in the room at any particular time, do not give up on finding help for yourself.
You may be naturally inclined to worry. Because you think a lot, it is easy to slip into an anxious state. You have a mind that needs to be active, questioning, and dancing. Imagine that if you get more intellectual stimulation, you will worry less. And, yet, during times like these, anxiety will likely be a frequent visitor.
So, if all else fails, go for beauty. See the gorgeousness of the flower, the rainstorm, the laughing children. And the beauty of you. Worries and all.
To my bloggEEs: I am sure we are all anxious about the horrific situation in Ukraine. Here is a place you can go to help. For the climate crisis, Jon Stewart is one resource. For racism, look for the work of Resmaa Menakem. I am sending you so much love. Let us know what calms your anxiety. Speaking of love, I am still looking for your thoughts on love and all types of relationships for my new book. And remember to tell me about the many forms of love you experience outside of partnership. Thank you!