Anxious times call for soothing measures
A lot of us have been experiencing anxiety over the last 12 months – some continuously, others in bursts. I have succumbed myself and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We are living through uncertain and worrying times. ‘Uncertainty’ seems to be the theme; anxiety, discomfort and fear are natural reactions. So I thought I’d share three of my favourite methods for easing anxiety:
1. The ‘What If..?’ Game
If you are worrying and feeling anxious, you might find you are playing the ‘What if’ game – either consciously or you might not be aware of it. Anxiety and worry is often induced by fears that something bad will happen. We don’t want it to happen and we are not sure we can cope if it does.
So if you’ve been having thoughts that something might go wrong or some trouble will befall you; you are playing the ‘What if’ game. These are things that haven’t happened yet and usually things over which we have no control. Some examples I’ve heard:
“What if my mum gets Covid?” “What if she dies?”
“What if we have a terrible economic recession and I lose my house?”
“What if I can never get my business going again?”
I worked with a wonderful mentor in 2012 and he told me to flip the ‘What ifs’. So every time I feel anxious and I see it’s because I’m worrying that something bad will happen; I interrupt my thoughts with the positive and often opposite ‘what if’.
“What if my mum stays really healthy and lives happily for the rest of her long life?”
“What if I make more money than I’m expecting?”
“What if my business goes really well regardless of a recession?”
“What if I pay my mortgage off early?”
This helps to let go of the negative thought and realise we can’t control it anyway. Plus it paints some happy future possibilities, offering us things to look forward to rather than worry about.
Sometimes our anxious feelings are not about the future but about what is happening right now in front of us. The anxiety is heightened by ‘resisting what is’.
For example a person who can’t wear a mask might be thinking –
“I hate that I get asked why I’m exempt all the time” ;
“I get upset by the looks I get and the comments people make”
or a grandmother might be thinking
“I’m upset that I can’t see my grandchildren”;
“Its not fair I can’t travel, I should be in Austria visiting my son”
Underneath this, there is a sense this shouldn’t be happening. We shouldn’t be living like this and it’s wrong. That might be true. However, it is happening and we are living like this. Resisting reality only makes it more painful. So the key is to practice accepting what is.
Note: this DOES NOT mean ‘acquiescing’.
Acceptance of your current circumstances not only engenders a peaceful state of mind but it opens the door to new opportunities and ways of dealing with what is. People often think that accepting something will keep us stuck where we don’t want to be. Ironically ‘acceptance’ enables us to make changes.
I remember a few years ago, I had a recurrence of a chronic illness. I was furious it had returned. I immediately started doing all the things diet and lifestyle-wise that I’d done before to cure it. The solution was not a quick fix and I knew that. But weeks into this, I was silently railing against the injustice of the illness coming back. I was incensed it was so unfair. My thoughts were ‘this shouldn’t be happening’. I was resisting what was.
It was during a spiritual community meeting, that I suddenly realised I was refusing to accept I had the illness. I mentally and emotionally dove into this revelation and made the decision to accept it. As I left that meeting, a deep sense of acceptance came over me . I accepted I had the illness. I also accepted that it might never leave me. I accpted that I didn’t know the outcome. Then, with a mind now at peace, I continued to take the action needed to get well. In fact I took the action with a renewed sense of purpose. I did get well and the journey there was all the more enjoyable.
3. There is always a way out..
This is a personal favourite mantra of mine. Whether you are worrying about the worst happening or have landed smack bang in the middle of the worst case scenario; this is a good one. Simple too.
A long time ago, an old friend of mine had got himself in a lot of trouble. He found himself arrested with a bag of illegal recreational substances after being at a party that was raided. He was only 24, had just been promoted at work and was on track for a successful career. He was popular, had just met a new girlfriend and was highly respected in his family and community. Loss of reputation, job, relationship and a potential prison sentence loomed. He rang his best pal from a police cell distraught that his life was over. I happened to be with his best mate as he took the call. I will never forget what he said:
“Listen mate, there is always a way out…”
It was deeply reassuring. It assuaged the panic and it turns out there was a way out for that chap. No previous offences, he was let off with a caution and went on to lead a very successful life.
So whenever I’m looking down the barrel of a loaded gun thinking that’s its game over, I silently chant “There is always a way out. There is always a workaround. There is always a solution’.
Write it down. Say it in the mirror and trust that something miraculous will turn up.
If you’d like my help: