Updated: Jan 9, 2021
Well, it has been quite some time since I have written last. Since I've last written, I've graduated from my MA program in Marriage & Family Therapy, went on a getaway trip with my love, and have begun working full time. I've entered a transitional stage in my life where I am beginning a new chapter. I've been in school for what seems like forever, and life outside of school is a bit foreign to me.
I've noticed that for myself and a lot of other people, when entering transitional stages in life, anxiety can come up. The thought of the unknown can bring up a lot of worry or even fear for a lot of people. Not knowing what is coming next, wondering if you had made the right decisions, or even that waiting period for your MFT Associate number can make you feel...anxious!
Anxiety is a very normal human emotion that is essentially there to protect us from danger. Anxiety serves its purpose in fight or flight situations and as a defense mechanism. Although anxiety can be beneficial in life or death situations, it becomes a problem especially when it appears in every day life. It becomes problematic once anxiety finds itself arising in situations where it shouldn't even be there to begin with.
Anxiety can look like many different things for people. For some, it can be as obvious as panic attacks, restlessness or on edge, easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating or your mind becoming blank, irritability, muscle tension, or difficulty sleeping. For those with high functioning anxiety, it can look as simple as being detail oriented, overthinking, people pleasing, inability to slow down, trouble saying no, overachieving, procrastination or over-planning, or even poor boundaries.
When dealing with anxiousness, it can especially feel hard to slow down, and it doesn't help that we live in a culture that moves at a fast pace and a high value for productivity. This can make it hard for anyone to feel more calm in every day life! So what can we do when we are feeling anxious? Here are some of my favorite grounding tools that anyone can use anywhere and at anytime:
The Flower and the Candle Breathing Exercise
Imagine that you are holding a flower in one hand and a candle in the other. Taking a deep breath pretend that you are smelling the flower and on your exhale, imagine that you are blowing out the candle. Do this as many times as you need to slow down your heart beat.
Either standing or sitting in a comfortable position, begin taking some mindful breaths, and use your senses to do the following:
-Look for 5 things in your current environment that you can see
-Find 4 things in your immediate surroundings that you can touch
-Listen for 3 things around you that you can hear
-Notice and bring attention to 2 things that you can smell
-Notice 1 thing that you can taste
The Happy Place Exercise
Place yourself in a comfortable seated position and either close your eyes or keep them open (whichever is more comfortable for you). Think about a place that brings you happiness. Imagine yourself in that place. Think about the things that you see when you are there. What are the things that you hear? What are the things that you smell? How does the ground feel beneath your feet? What are the things you can physically feel while you are there? Who are you there with? Or are you by yourself there?
While these exercises can help to ease anxious feelings, I feel that many of us when we experience them tend to shame these feelings. A friend of mine from graduate school once shared with me an approach that she takes when feeling anxiety. Instead of trying to make it go away, she had started to sit with the difficult emotion and have a internal compassionate conversation with it, along the lines of honoring it almost. That internal dialogue can look something like this:
Hi anxiety. I can feel that you are here. Thank you for being here, as I know that you are here to protect me. Although you are here to protect me, I am not in any danger right now and I don't need you at this moment. But thank you.
I understand that these tips might not work for everyone, so it is always important to consult with a professional when experiencing mental health issues.
I hope that this post is helpful to anyone who may need it!
With Love, Light, and Healing,
DISCLAIMER: Please note that the content of the posts of this blog are not to substitute for psychotherapy. If you are in crisis, please call 1800-273-TALK (8255) for immediate support.