Last night was a night before a big trip for me, and my mind quickly became a worst case scenario machine.
It ran through scenarios such as missing the plane, the plane crashing, getting sick, improperly booking accommodations and forgetting passports. In my head, everything that could go wrong, would go wrong.
And of course, because of this crazy mind chatter letting me know danger could be imminent, my body reacted accordingly. It felt anxious.
If there is one thing I really wish I had a solution to—for both myself and all humans—it’s anxiety.
Anxiety is such a horrible feeling, in both the mind and body, and the reality is many people are feeling it much of the time.
I have so much compassion for this truth.
Getting better at dealing with anxiety is one of the best skills we can cultivate.
I think people try a lot of techniques to get rid of anxiety. Pills, breathing, limiting exposure to experiences, and often blame.
Instead of these, I am working to get better at noticing anxiety, naming it as anxiety and not making any connections in terms of deciding there is a problem.
Because we hate the feeling of anxiety, we often want to try to figure out what is causing the anxiety so we can avoid it in the future.
For me, this would be impossible.
Anxiety comes when I am in large groups of people, trying something new with my business or telling someone I love them. But I don’t want to stop doing these things.
Instead, I use mindfulness.
I notice my funny tummy. I notice that my mind is a little scrambled and not quite thinking straight. I notice I have gone into a kind of fight or flight response to my environment, and I just label the whole thing, “anxiety.”
And then I use breath. Well of course, I was already breathing, but I breathe in a way that my breath has all of my attention.
I drop into mindfulness and notice my surroundings. I remind myself I am safe, and I send love and compassion to myself and this uncomfortable feeling. I send love and compassion to all the people on the planet who are also coping with the uncomfortable sensations of anxiety.
This is all I do now with anxiety.
And then, if I check in 10 minutes later, the anxiety has usually passed. If it hasn’t passed, I just note, “Wow, this circumstance really brings up a lot of anxiety for me, isn’t that interesting.”
Then I start again, noticing my breath, noticing I am safe and dropping back into the moment—anxiety and all.
When we deem certain feelings too difficult to feel, we cut ourselves off from the full experience of life.
When we deem some feelings are bad and some feelings are good, we live a kind of life where we are always evaluating our existence—rather than living it.
Nobody wants to feel uncomfortable sensations, but the reality is we do, and fully showing up for reality is what mindfulness is all about.
Therefore, my mind can make up as many worst case scenarios as it wants, but that is not where I am going to be putting my attention.
My attention will go to my stomach, my legs, the beating of my heart. My attention will go to my loving self-inquiry of, “What do I need to do right now that is in my best interest?”
My attention will go to listening without resistance to that answer, which usually sounds like:
Get some fresh air.
Ask for help.
Take a break.
Have a cry.
Admit it hurts.
Get more sleep.
Anxiety for most of us is here to stay. We live in fragile yet resilient human bodies. We push our boundaries and stretch our comfort zones, and hence anxiety arises.
For me, seeing anxiety as just anxiety has been freeing.
Nothing needs to be fixed when anxiety arises, there is nothing I have done wrong when anxiety arises, and there is no way I need to be improved when anxiety arises.
I just note that anxiety has arisen.
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Toby Israel