I asked my marketing person (yes, I have a marketing person), for suggestions on blog topics. He suggested I write about “stress relief.” My first response was to laugh. As someone who has struggled most of my adult life with anxiety, I thought it was kind of a funny prospect. I was envisioning that we could add a picture of me meditating on this post, to show the world how relaxed I am.
Most people that don’t know me well are surprised when I tell them I deal with anxiety. For the most part, it's no longer a part of my daily reality. Mostly, I think because my kids are no longer toddlers with a desire to run in front of moving traffic on an hourly basis. (Yes, I have come to believe that having young children, as amazing as it is, has literally given me acute symptoms of trauma.) Yet, even with a drastic reduction in daily sweaty palms, spinning thoughts, and heart palpitations, I do still need to sleep with a mouth guard, because I grind my teeth so hard that I have worn them down to the level of a 90-year-old woman.
You might be asking yourself, why on earth would I want to go see someone to help me with “stress relief,” who has a missing layer of enamel?
The truth is, I used to think that I couldn’t be a healer until I was completely healed myself. I thought that in order to help others I had to be some sort of yoga, meditation, healthy-eating guru that lived my life in complete balance. (Oh, I could write another blog about the New Age perfectionism and the anxiety it produces but I digress.)
After 10 years of therapy, multiple stints with acupuncture, chiropractors, medication, not eating gluten/sugar/dairy/processed foods, taking a million different supplements, practicing daily yoga, focusing on my breathing and everything else one could try, I remain perfectly imperfect. The irony is that in order to improve yourself, you must radically love and accept yourself.
What I have learned is that my experience and understanding of anxiety helps me to help others that are struggling. When my thoughts are spinning, and I am grinding my teeth and my heart is racing, there is little I can do at that moment to make it stop. However, there are a few things that I have learned to do that can help. Every person is unique and different so it is important to find the tricks and skills that work for you.
1. Acknowledge how you are feeling. A lot of times when anxiety and stress kick in, it feels like it is the world outside that is responsible for your stress. Realizing that the locus of control is within you, is actually very empowering. You can acknowledge how you are feeling with compassion and without judgment.
2. Choose your own adventure! Evaluate the situation. Ask yourself if the stress is necessary. Our biological response to stress is evolved from our hunter-gatherer ancestors that lived in physical threat for their lives. As a hunter-gatherer, there were situations when it was necessary for human beings to be filled with stress hormones to respond to life-threatening situations (like a tiger outside your cave). Ask yourself, “Am I going to die if I don’t do something about this right now?” If the answer is NO, here are some suggestions to help you calm down!
3. Remind yourself that you have gotten through it before, and you will get through it again.
4. Ask yourself, what is the “worst case scenario that might happen?” If your thoughts are irrational, it sometimes helps to try to throw a wrench in your thinking.
5. Visualize everything working out exactly as you want it to! Visualization is a powerful tool to shift your thinking. Imagine how you will feel when everything has resolved.
6. Ask for support! You don’t have to do it alone. Call someone who loves you and cares about you, or tell your friend. Talking through what you are worried about often helps your faulty thinking come to light. Your friend might offer some much-needed reassurance or clarity.
7. Ground yourself, take deep slow breaths into your heart and focus on feeling the connection of your feet to the earth. It does not make the feeling go away, however, it is like putting a cooling balm on a burn, it helps. Notice where your feet make contact with the earth. If you are in the midst of a full-blown anxiety attack, it helps to keep your eyes open. If you can go outside, open your senses and notice what you are experiencing. Pay attention to the colors that you see, the sounds that you hear, the physical sensations in your body.
8. Essential Oils are a simple and easy tool to ground yourself, calm your mind and bring yourself into balance.
Learning to bring compassion and kindness to any situation, and develop effective tools for coping is the first step in relieving stress. The next step is to start implementing activities into your daily life that bring you joy and heal the root cause of the stress from the inside.