Monday, June 9, 2008

Worry, Part IV

There’s an old truism that says we’re not given challenges without the tools to meet them. I certainly think that most of us most of the time have effective tools at our disposal. But just like the condom left in the drawer, the best techniques are only good when used.

Although I’ll give some specific suggestions for developing those tools, I suspect you already know what’s needed. If you carried out the anxiety assessment suggested in Part III of this series, however cursorily, you’ve likely become aware of things that need to be handled differently; you also may well have received impressions of how to go about making those needed changes. 

So with the caveat that you likely already know what you need to do, I offer the following. I’ve somewhat arbitrarily divided these suggestions into physical, psychological, and spiritual interventions, although there is, of course, much overlap.

Physical: There’s just no substitute for a healthy body. A body that has been treated lovingly will be better able to manage stress with less depletion. The following are particularly helpful in regards to anxiety:
  • Aerobic exercise is one of the most effective ways to discharge the adrenaline build-up of modern life. You don’t need to run marathons; any sustained activity~~such as brisk walking~~which keeps your heart rate in working range will do.  Exercise restores the innate stress-relieving mechanism our bodies are designed to use.
  • Alternatively, you can pursue activities that promote a peaceful disposition~~yoga, gardening, knitting, deep breathing, specific relaxation techniques. Any calming activity, done with presence and intention, will calm the body, and likely the rest of you will follow.
  • Avoid or limit your use of caffeine, sugar, and other stimulants. Ya can’t blame a revved up body that’s being fed a diet designed for revving! Even substances designed to calm often lead to a rebounding anxiety.
  • Eat well and choose wholesome foods; get plenty of rest.
Psychological: Two people can have totally different responses to the same event. This underscores the fact that our experience of life is quite subjective. If you want a different experience, you could begin by altering your outlook in the following ways:
  • Become aware of the running commentary you give to your life and commit to making your story line a positive, nurturing one. When a child under your care is frightened, you wouldn’t amplify their uneasiness through suggesting even worse outcomes than they’d already imagined. Yet this is precisely what we often do to ourselves. Let your self-talk be as you would speak to a nervous youngster~~soothing and reassuring.
  • Perhaps your anxiety is suggesting that your life is out of balance in some way. Are you engaging in harmful relationships, spreading yourself too thinly, not allowing needed time for self-care, attending to everything and everyone else before yourself? Decide on a change you’re ready to make in one area, beginning in some small way.
  • Since worry is at heart a creative act, choosing another creative expression might do wonders. If you have known artistic outlets, use them. If you haven’t discovered one yet, commit to finding it. It would be helpful to leave aside your assumptions about what counts as creativity. Creativity is your birthright~~it comes with being a human being~~and you can be creative in any number of ways.  Don't let worry be your main one!
  • Listen to what your anxiety might be communicating about the issues that underlie it. You know, life will always give us excuses to be anxious, but often our anxiety exists independently and we simply glom onto some external difficulty to justify it. Perhaps it’s time to heal issues stemming from a childhood that taught you to be on edge, an emotional wound that is using anxiety to get your attention, or a perfectionistic, pessimistic, or over-functioning style that needs to be softened. Journaling and talking with loved ones may be all that’s needed. There are some wounds, though, that reach deeper and require additional help for safe and complete resolution; don’t hesitate to give yourself this gift through self-help books, support groups, or formal psychotherapy.
Spiritual: I believe worry is essentially a spiritual issue. Therefore, spiritual responses will likely be needed to ease it. You may want to:
  • Develop or strengthen your spiritual practice. Experiment with new approaches. Do some research on-line, at your favorite bookstore, or through classes. Meditation and prayer have long been known to ease tension and change an anxious approach to life.
  • Review the list of negative spiritual beliefs detailed in Part II of this series. Develop a few affirmations that embody the positive beliefs you would most like to adopt; commit to consciously employing them frequently throughout your day. Stop worry as it occurs, replacing it with a life-affirming statement.
  • Practice offering up your anxiety, as I related in Part I of this series, and choose to fill the space thus vacated with Spirit.
  • Review the Sacred Space technique discussed in an earlier essay (Creating Sacred Space Internally), and develop your own internal refuge. Go there frequently.
As I said, these are simply suggestions to add to those you’re already called to pursue. Although anxiety causes various degrees of difficulty for us all, I believe ultimately it is a friend, come to tell help us clear a space that will deepen and enrich our experience of living.

May you find the friend embedded within your own anxiety and begin today the process of healing.


Loanne Marie

PS. I’ll be taking the next week off for vacation, so I won’t be posting again until the end of June. See ya then!

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