That Sinking Feeling
A red letter kind of day
Well, I guess we can all resonate with this happening to us occasionally, and in the grand scheme of things this seems like a low-level trigger for an anxiety spike. Some people are able to shrug this off, get on with their day and deal with it when they have time. For many others however it is a totally different experience, many of us feel consumed by anxiety and worry which can drastically effect our day or even longer. The anxiety can start a spiral of negative thoughts and feelings such as guilt, shame and self-loathing for ‘getting something wrong’. These thoughts and feelings are incredibly painful and serve to stoke the fire of anxiety, making it grow even more and maybe even as far as a stage of panic.
The chemicals of anxiety are powerful and once triggered, are free flowing and have an affect on our whole system tingeing everything we think and do until we find a way to reset ourselves. Sometimes we use positive ways to bring ourselves back into balance, but often our reactions, even though seemingly effective in the short term can end up being negative for us. An anxiety spike can make us irritable and less tolerant of others leading to problems in our relationships, both at home and at work. We can lose focus, and concentration which can lead to mistakes happening, which of course feeds the fire, very soon our behaviour will change as we seek to move from the discomfort back to comfort. Some of us withdraw into ourselves and disengage from activities and people. Some engage in behaviours to gain reassurance (people pleasing) and others might engage in coping mechanisms to gain a sense of control. There are as many reactions to anxiety as there are people and in some individuals all of the above and more can occur, (many addictions are associated with trying to soothe anxiety).
Well today I had a red letter day, and I felt that sinking feeling as soon as I saw that brown envelope plop onto the mat. Historically, the instant anxiety spike would have an immediate behavioural reaction (The ostrich syndrome) of shoving the letter away to help me to bury my head in the sand. This would work in the very short term, but it would not be long before the self-loathing, irritability, mistakes, and lack of focus would begin to change my day or longer, for the worse. These days my approach to such events is not perfect but it is better, I still get anxiety spikes over such things as scary mail, but I am now able to sit in my discomfort for long enough to be able to be with my breath, relax my body which enables me the space to apply compassion and kindness to bring me back to balance, instead of rushing off into immediate self blame and reactionary negative behaviours.
Over the years as a therapist, I have learned many things about anxiety and how to work with myself compassionately to bring me back to balance and I must say it has changed my life. I would like to share with you one of my techniques that I find hugely helpful.
The 60 second tranquiliser
As soon as you recognise that anxiety has been triggered, drop your shoulders down and away from your ears, let your tummy relax, place your hand/s over the middle of your chest and as you breathe in say to yourself “Take control” I can do anything I want to ” and breathe out long and slow
- Slowly breathe in through your nose and out through gently pursed lips, allowing the abdomen to soften and rise on the in breath then deflate and return to normal on the out breath.
- Slowly repeat this for 6-8 breaths over the minute with the out breath being slightly longer than the in breath.
- Say to yourself each breath cycle – ‘I am breathing in peace & blowing away tension and fear’
- Each time you breath out, make sure you relax your face, jaw, shoulders, tummy and hands.
- do this exercise for as long as you need to, until you feel calm and relaxed.
Remember – if you are relaxed – you can’t be tense!
I hope you found this article useful and remember; practice, practice, practice and slowly you will learn that anxiety does not need to colour your life.