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Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

  1. How to Ease Fears in a Fearful World

    March 20, 2020 by Diane

    These are challenging times.

    As humans, we’re meant to roam with our tribe, something our primitive brains seek to ensure because there’s safety in numbers. Now, with the threat of coronavirus, the government is forbidding togetherness except with people in our immediate household. If you live alone, you may feel further isolated from human touch.

    Please know, you are not alone. We’re all a little afraid, a little anxious, a lot unsettled.

    But here’s the good news: there’s something we can do to change fearful thoughts into a sense of calm, to shift from feeling unsettled to feeling grounded. And this is where I want to turn our focus now.

    Here are five tips to help you navigate the next several weeks as you shelter-in-place.

    Claim your power 

    While sheltering-in-place may leave you feeling powerless, based on current knowledge, the only way to flatten the curve of the rapid rise of coronavirus is to stay at home. So, in a sense, it’s an act of power. You are taking back power by defeating the spread of this virus. And together, we can do this. Think of yourself as a superhero! Strike the pose every morning when you get out of bed. If nothing else, it may make you feel silly, which is a very good way to start the day.

    Choose your words wisely

    The words you use have an immediate effect on your mind and body, and on the minds and bodies of those around you. When feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, replace those scary, stressful thoughts in your head with uplifting words and phrases such as:

    I look forward to the time when I can see my loved ones in person.

    I’m so grateful for the internet and telephone, so I can keep in touch with family and friends.

    This moment in history is an opportunity for us all to support one another, offer healing thoughts and prayers, and discover how strong and resilient we really are.

    Above the clouds, the sun is always shining.

    Distraction is an antidote to fear

    Rather than ruminate on something you can’t control, find ways to distract your mind to give those fired-up synapses a rest. Here are twenty distracting activities to try:

    • Check in on a family member, friend, or neighbor via phone, text, or email.
    • Mail a letter to a friend. Who doesn’t love receiving a handwritten letter!
    • Send an email to a loved one, saying “I probably don’t say this enough, but I love you. I’m here for you.”
    • Visualize a relaxing place you’ve visited, or one you invent in your imagination, and bask in that image for twenty minutes.
    • Do crossword puzzles.
    • Learn a new language.
    • Play cards and other games. Monopoly can go on for days.
    • Check out e-books and streaming videos from the library website and have a movie night, snuggled on the couch. 
    • Play with children and pets. If you don’t have children or pets, play like you are one.
    • Take a walk outside to broaden your perspective and get those feel-good ions from nature.
    • While walking, see how many species of trees you can name.
    • Read uplifting literature or motivational biographies.
    • Watch movies or television shows that make you laugh or that feed your soul. One of my favorites is the old Dick Van Dyke show. Van Dyke’s physical comedy never fails to make me laugh out loud.
    • Invent something.
    • Paint something.
    • Write a poem or song or short story or some other form that’s all your own.
    • Teach something to someone else.
    • Start a virtual book club.
    • Do 2 pushups. The next day do 3. Keep adding one a day.
    • Declutter your living space. Or at least your desk.

    Habits help you feel grounded

    What habits have you developed or would you like to develop?

    Rising at the same hour every day, eating at specific times, going to bed at the same hour every night: these habits help normalize life. You can add other habits, too, such as writing for fifteen minutes every day after breakfast. Make a big X on a calendar every day you complete the habit, and don’t break the chain of Xs. Make it a game with yourself!

    Take tiny steps. Doing only 1% can make a huge difference in the long run. Which brings me to my final tip.

    Tiny actions cause a ripple effect in the world

    You’ve probably heard of the Butterfly Effect. A meteorology professor at MIT, Edward Lorenz, posed a question: “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” He ran a computer program simulating weather patterns and then left his office to get a cup of coffee while the machine ran. When he returned, he noticed an unexpected result which led Lorenz to a powerful insight about the way nature works: small changes can have large consequences.

    What small change can you do today that can result in a more peaceful, joyful world around you in the future?

    I don’t know about you, but just the evidence of hoarding in local grocery stores has amped up my anxiety. It’s a clear manifestation of people’s fear. In Whole Foods one evening, the produce section was empty except for one banana that two guys fought over until they realized the banana was banged up.

    What if, instead, we bought what we needed, trusting in abundance rather than scarcity, and left enough for everyone?

    What if we smiled at the cashier and expressed our appreciation for their hard work? In turn, that cashier may brighten the next person’s day.

    What if we found humor in the day to day and sent out ripples of laughter?

    What if we practiced meditation, prayer, or another contemplative practice to radiate peace and calm? Every day at noon, sit for twenty minutes. Tell your family and friends to sit, too. I’ll be sitting, focusing on peaceful images and thoughts, or just observing my thoughts as if they were clouds drifting by, or a movie reel unscrolling. We don’t all need to be in the same room to spread calming vibes into the universe.

    Together, with tiny actions, we can help our community heal. And who knows: we may very well set off a tornado of good feelings around the globe.

    Blessings to you and yours.

    Please share this message via email or social media if you found it helpful.


  2. Random Thoughts While Meditating #9

    July 21, 2019 by Diane

    Wherever you focus your attention expands that moment in time. Which moment would you rather expand: the present, or some fearful event in the future that may or may not happen at all?


  3. How to Change the Rules in the Game of Anxiety

    August 6, 2017 by Diane

    This week, I played the game of anxiety in the circus of my mind.

    It goes like this:

    Visualize the worst possible outcome for a future event and fixate on it, running the movie loop in your mind until your body reacts with sweaty palms and skipped heartbeats and a rise in blood pressure and a plethora of digestive issues, and then visualize the worst possible explanation for what’s happening with your body.

    This is considered round one.

    You may continue playing rounds, choosing different future events to obsessively worry about. You’ve won the game when you become a nervous wreck.

    I realized there’s a better game.

    It goes like this:

    Visualize the best possible outcome of events and fixate on them, running the loop in your mind until your body reacts with a smile and a bounce to your stride and a wide-open grateful heart, and then fixate on how wonderful you feel.

    You might have noticed it’s the same game.

    It just has different playing pieces.

    Since anxiety is a game manufactured in the mind, it occurred to me: why not set the mind to visualizing happy tidings rather than worrisome thoughts?

    Oh, you can’t fool the mind?

    That’s what I thought. Until I caught on to the fact: my mind isn’t all that bright.

    I’m sorry, but my mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s nothing more than whatever squirrelly thought I’m feeding it. Don’t believe me? Here’s a test:

    Imagine eating a lemon. Can you see the juices squirting as you cut into it? Can you smell it as the two halves fall away? Now, suck on one half of the lemon.

    I’ll bet your taste buds are tingling like crazy right now.

    See? Your mind was duped into thinking you were really eating a lemon, and sent that message to your taste buds.

    Granted, it’s not my mind’s fault that it’s none too bright. After all, it’s buried under a lot of grey matter without eyes to see or ears to hear. It relies on me to give it the real McCoy.

    It’s my fault for feeding it a bunch of malarky.

    Dave had surgery this week. I volunteered to be nurse for the day.  Had someone else volunteered me for the task, I would have questioned their sanity. Sending a hypochondriac to be a Florence Nightingale is a sure sign of Squirrels in the Doohickey.

    But I love the guy, so I stepped up to the plate.

    Here’s how:

    I worried endlessly, peppering my thoughts with “what if?” scenarios. What if the surgery goes badly? What if he gets sick from the anesthesia? What if he starts bleeding? What if he gets an infection and I have to take him back to the hospital? What if the surgery goes badly, he gets sick, he gets an infection, his incisions bleed, and I keel over? That was my real concern; that I wouldn’t remain upright through the whole ordeal. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle whatever happened, and Dave would end up taking ME to the hospital.

    I worked myself into a proper anxiety attack. I fretted. I ruminated. I lost three pounds.

    I WON THE ANXIETY GAME!

    Then the moment arrived: the changing of the guard.

    Carolyn, who drove him to and from the hospital (definitely not a job for a hypochondriac), brought him home, and I showed up, ready to take over.

    I took a deep breath.

    I cautiously called his name, and stepped inside.

    Dave was peeling off his shirt. He turned toward me.

    I avoided looking at his gauze bandages. I wondered about all that rusty-colored stuff on his skin. Blood? Antiseptic? Please be antiseptic.

    “Warning!” he said.

    I braced myself. This is it.

    “I saved my gallstones,” he said. “They’re in a bottle on the kitchen floor. Wanna see?”

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

    I almost cried in relief.

    “Um…maybe another time. How are you?”

    “Good! I don’t feel any worse than I do on Monday mornings getting up for work.”

    I gave him a sponge bath, a shoulder massage, and some energy treatments, opened a package of Saltines for him to eat, and hung around until he got into bed. Then I watched over him from the Jesus Chair.

    I was able to do this because, well, the visualization I had conjured up was much worse than the reality.

    And before arriving, on the verge of panic, I grasped the epiphany that anxiety is a mind game. The true winner games the system.

    Since my mind does an ace job reacting to my fearful images, why not choose images that tap into feel-good chemicals, instead of all that adrenaline and cortisol? I told myself I can just as easily visualize lying on my sky blue blanket on a vast green lawn, a cool breeze wafting by, the faint sound of a bi-plane motoring overhead, someone mowing their lawn in the distance, a father, perhaps—nice, safe, comforting, neighborhood sounds.

    Then, instead of worrying about whether I would be okay, I could focus on making sure he was okay.

    Game over.

    Now, about those gallstones…

    I did take a peak. Then I left Dave with a small bag of cherry pits from my lunch, so he could show them to the guys at the office. “Look how big my stones were!