While COVID grabs the headlines and newscasts, another virus is stealing our individual and collective energy…ANXIETY.
It is highly transmissible through in person-contact as well as by phone, email, texts, news…you get it…every way that we interact with information. It can be learned as a way of living in families where fear becomes chronic. I come from a clan where we are Olympians in the anxiety decathlon. Some have been known to take it to a whole new dimension of “worry (note: not action) as an effective means of warding off an undesired outcome.” Another version some of you may be familiar with is “waiting for the other shoe to drop.)
So while anxiety and fear may seem alike, there is a distinction. Fear is a survival instinct. As one of my favorite mindfulness resources, Rick Hansen explains that fear is generated in the primitive part of the brain. It is what once compelled mankind to hide from the saber tooth tiger as today it drives us to jump out of the way of an oncoming car. Life-saving, no thought out process, but essential to our safety. Anxiety, on the other hand, is actually a destructive response. It wears body, mind and spirit to a frazzle. It’s the survival mechanism stuck in the “on position.” It is the relentless dragging of “what ifs” to the moment of “what is.” It is an overload of information causing confusion. It is the lack of information sending the mind into endless possibilities of disaster.
In my therapeutic world, I am less concerned about what this maladaptive response is called: it can be Generalized Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Phobia, Panic Disorder and so on. What I do care deeply about is that it never feels good emotionally or physically.
I recommend assembling a “tool kit” for self care, Number 1 requires no purchase or special equipment. The first “go to” remedy is PAUSE. Notice your breath! Intentionally, inhale letting the belly rise . Then slowly exhale blowing softly as if blowing dandelion seeds into the warm air. Repeat twice.
Your nervous system will appreciate the reset. Check in with yourself whenever necessary but as a habit 3 times a day. Consider it a lubricant for that stuck survival switch!