Written by: Lauren Littlewood
Feeling your way through anxiety can feel like solving a puzzle while in a tornado. Pieces fly everywhere, you are concerned about being hit in the head by a random cow, and all the while you are trying to figure out which way is up.
At least that is how I felt. My life was a mess. I felt lost, confused and emotional. I was in a loveless marriage, hated the company I was working for and being a highly sensitive and emotionally connected person working in health care with sick and sometimes dying patients can be… horrible.
I would find myself looking for an escape every night and still was left with a feeling of hopelessness, heartbreak, and uncertainty.
When you are experiencing a storm of emotions, we can sometimes get lost. We try to control it, hide from it and we get lost in it. We sometimes spin out of control with the thought of self-doubt, victimizing ourselves or we replay the pain like a video loop in our brains.
If you are in a forest and a storm started, what would you do? Lightning is striking; rain is pouring and trees are swaying. Many people freak out. They run around like crazy trying to find a place to hide, screaming, crying, feeling like they have no control and are in a state of terror. Or you could walk over to that cave over there and sit and watch the chaos until it passes. Which sounds like a more pleasant afternoon to you?
Our emotions are the same way. You have a choice but we often pick the most traveled road or the most familiar path out of habit. But if you always do what you have always done, you are always going to get what you always got. When we are having an emotional storm, we can spin out of control in it or we can go sit on the side and watch those feelings.
Watching your feelings is odd initially. We feel like we should be engaging or avoiding our emotions. Instead, we give our feelings space to be exactly what they are. We don’t push them to be anything they are not and we don’t avoid them like the plague.
In a sense, we are taking the mind out of the equation. Which can be a struggle all on its own.
Our mind is always racing and has something to say about everything but if we can get the mind to pull back and listen and connect to what the heart is expressing, we can reach a point of understanding and clarity.
Many issues we struggle with such as depression, anger, and anxiety are symptoms of a disconnect.
We disconnect from our hearts and emotions to function or to avoid discomfort but no matter what we do, it never gives us resolution. The heart just wants to be heard and the emotions need to be felt. The discomfort comes out in one way or another.
The starting point to learning how to witness the weather is to stop and take a breath… or a few just to calm your breathing and your heart rate.
Ask yourself what you are feeling and label the emotions. Do not go into a mental rant on all the whys and whats of the feeling. A simple “I feel scared” will do for now.
After you have labeled your feelings ask yourself “Why are you scared?” For which you reply in the most straightforward and concise way.
“I feel scared that I am not going to find a job I love and will become a bitter or heartless person to cope.”
To which you reply, “What can you do today to change how you feel?”
“I could find something that makes me happy. A new job or a side job and maybe do some volunteer work that fulfills me for now.”
By breaking things down we free ourselves from the feelings of overwhelm thereby calming down that tornado to maybe a little dust devil or the hurricane-like storm to a simple thunderstorm. With this method, we can learn to accept what we cannot change.
In this example, we cannot just up and quit the miserable job today because we need to eat. But we can change what we cannot accept. Which is that we need to be happy and feel fulfilled. So how can we achieve that while also working towards a greater change?
The plan gives us hope where we otherwise felt hopeless. The witnessing or giving your emotions the floor allows us to acknowledge our feelings and process them appropriately. Thereby, dealing with the anxiety crisis. So, step back and witness the weather, feel the emotions, process them and repeat as needed.
Lauren's Bio: As a child I was a very sensitive person and very empathetic towards everyone and everything. This is probably why I because a vegan, a therapist, a yoga instructor and a health coach. Through my life I have struggled with rage issues, anxiety issues and depression. I have learned many techniques to overcome these issues which I love to share with others. If we are not lifting each other up, then what are we here for?
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