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March 5, 2019

Not only can we Survive Anxiety—we can Thrive Because of It.

“Because anxiety, eventually and inevitably, makes us sit in our sh*t. It takes us there, to the darkness. It forces us to do the journey. And only then can we see what we were looking for. We can see the truth.” ~ Sarah Wilson
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She is the siren’s song, luring me to return to familiar depths.

The waves of darkness tug gently at my feet. I’m not surrendering to her, as I know how that story goes. She is the two-for-one deal of depression and anxiety.

The journey of depression and anxiety has taken me to unexpected dark and beautiful places. It has forced me to be present with the sensations of deep sadness and incredible joy. My highs are experienced in brilliant colour. The leaves of trees are neon green and the sky is brilliant blue. The blinds are lifted, I can see clearly. I sense the wind caressing my cheek as I walk with my family and hold my daughter’s little hand. I hear the flying foxes at dust squawking and watch the colony take flight against the dusk sky.

And the flip side is of course the lows. The colour grey oozes slowly like lava, relentlessly covering everything in its path. The blinds go down, and I’m deep in my own sh*t.

Actually, I’m doing the backstroke in an ocean of my own sh*t. I know that I have to duck dive down into the dark depths before I can surface and see the light.

The anxiety presents initially as my heart thumping, followed by breathlessness, and climaxes with a panic attack. The climax feels as though a tiger has clamped down on my jugular. The aftermath of exhaustion from these attacks can be debilitating, followed by a good serving of shame. After years and much work, I am often able to catch the attack at the heart thumping stage with breathing techniques and the support of my mental cheerleading squad.

My journey has led me to self-discovery, and I have built up a ton of resilience, for which I am truly grateful. I have learned to love my anxiety, for it has taught me resilience and given me the gifts and rewards of a self-care practise.

Anxiety is here to stay and serves a greater purpose than us, the individual. We are the yellow canary in the mine warning the miners of low oxygen levels. We are the protectors of society and our communities. Anxiety managed well can be beautiful.

Four ways to deep dive into anxiety with acceptance:

1. Be specific with gratitude.

Find things that you are grateful for, and then be specific.

I am grateful for having my favourite cinnamon orange rooibos tea from my ceramic mug with hand-painted trees.

2. Move your body.

Movement and exercise are the antidotes to depression and anxiety. Lift weights, go to fitness classes, dance, or walk. Move. Move in whichever way feels good and calls to you. Get out of your head and into our body through movement.

3. Heal with animals.

The healing power of animals is well-documented. Pet therapy provides companionship, fun, excitement, and joy. Animals have been used in the treatment of anxiety with many examples of pets assisting veterans through the use of companion dogs. If you don’t have a pet, spend time with friends who have animals or consider volunteering at an animal shelter.

4. Create a nourish list.

Create a list of daily nourishment. In our responsible lives, it is easy to look after others instead of ourselves. Do something for yourself each day, no matter how small it is. On my nourish list is:

>> Take a bath with salts.
>> Paint toenails bright colours.
>> Take a nap.
>> Go for a short walk.
>> Leave the office for coffee.
>> Sit in the garden.
>> Drink my favourite tea.

Anxiety is a journey to acceptance, through gratitude, nourishment, healing, and movement. We are forced to dive deep into our sh*t in order to find the light, the truth, and our way.

To explore anxiety triggers, management, and the anxiety experience, pick up a copy of Sarah Wilson’s First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety and Elephant Journal articles, “Why I Love my Anxiety.” and “5 Simple Grounding Exercises to Ease Anxiety & the Stress of Daily Life.

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Note: This advice does not claim to be professional medical advice and is based on personal experience. If you are suffering from anxiety and depression and require help, please see a medical professional.

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author: Mary Timms

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Editor: Kelsey Michal