Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the United States. Before the pandemic, 40 million Americans were struggling – 20% of the population. Now, in our second year of a global pandemic, anxiety is at an all-time high.
So if you are feeling more anxious than ever, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
This pandemic has tested our relationships, social structures, and political systems.
It has also tested us as individuals, including our mental health.
The constant static of an unknown and unpredictable threat triggers a low-grade fight or flight response — the physical and mental effect of which should not be underestimated or ignored. It can be disorienting, stressful, and exhausting.
As we look toward another long winter, bringing less light and colder temps, and consider boosters to protect us against variants, what can we do to reduce our anxiety and prioritize our own self-care?
Consider this an invitation to drop your mask, silence your smartphone and sink into a comfy chair with your beverage of choice.
Below I’ve laid out six short practices to turn your disorientation and disconnection into a conscious, guided return to yourself.
The intent is to remind you of the gifts you already have and ground you in that foundation by
seeing them with new eyes
appreciating them with an open heart
utilizing them with a renewed focus
celebrating them with restored energy
Reflect. Refocus. Restore. Revive. Receive. Rejoice.
In reflection, you’ll identify areas of your life that you value most and deserve more attention, time, and space to grow. You’ll also identify habitual behaviors, destructive patterns, triggers, or even toxic environments or relationships that you need to shed light on and either confront or discard entirely.
Grab a pen and divide a sheet of paper into two columns. Then ask yourself these questions and just write. Don’t think too much. Your first instinct is usually your authentic voice talking before your brain tries to change your mind.
What’s working in your life and what isn’t? When something comes to mind and you aren’t sure of which column to put it in, see how it feels in your body. Does it feel warm or cool? Even if there is fear or discomfort, do you want to move towards it or away from it?
If you are struggling with triggers, check out Defuse Your Triggers in 4 Simple Steps in the Anxiety Relief Power Pack here.
If you need to shed something or break up with it entirely, grab your copy of the Break-Up Letter Template here.
What do you need more of and what do you need less of?
What are your strengths and what areas could use some work, some focus, some extra love. Look at each aspect of your life (family, friends, professional) with a clear mind and a compassionate heart. Be fair but forgiving, objective but empathetic.
Now consider what direction are you headed.
What major decisions in your life set you on this path? What were the small choices you made every day, intentionally or without any thought, that have subtly changed your direction over time?
Does that direction align with your core values and goals? What would a slight pivot look like or a complete sea change entail?
Now rub your eyes and refocus on where you want to go. Refocusing your energy with manageable adjustments will produce significant changes over time.
Here are some prompts to help refocus your energy on consciously paving your own path:
Identify the thoughts that creep in and cause you to act in ways you never intended, shifting your direction, choice by unconscious choice. Are you prioritizing what is important or procrastinating and why?
Pick one thing every morning that you can do that will give you a sense of accomplishment and prioritize it. Practice mindful awareness throughout your day to maintain your focus on it.
Decide each morning how you want to show up. Who do you want to be and what thoughts will help you embody that?
Recognize your thoughts when you feel your happiest, most creative, most confident, most fulfilled, and most hopeful, and when you feel your saddest, least creative, least confident, unfulfilled and hopeless.
Make a list of which thoughts contributed to your positive mental state and which compromised it. Replace the compromisers with contributors.
Recognize, replace, refocus, repeat.
Restoration isn’t about merely returning something to its former state, but it is about receiving back more than has been lost to the point where the final state is greater than the original condition. Let’s make that our mission!
Now that you have reset your compass and refocused your energy, start taking restorative steps, both body and mind, to create the physical energy and mental state necessary to change the negatives and build on the positives.
Restorative practices are very personal, so find what works for you.
Here are some suggestions –
Meditate to find your inner peace point, your “silent center”, your authentic connection to God and/or the Universe; to plug into the source of creation, energy, and renewal within yourself. If you are anxious or just don’t think meditation is an option for you, try my meditation “Taming the Anxious Mind”. I will give your racing thoughts a place to run.
Find a mind-body connection and increase your energy with yoga. This can be done through gentle stretching in your home or through virtual or live guided classes. I used to have a slight panic attack just thinking about a yoga class packed with super fit people who could balance on one hand (levitate really) with their legs in the shape of a pretzel. But now that I can do it in the privacy of my home, I’m not complainin’!
It still amazes me that as a Division 1 college athlete, I didn’t even stretch out, never mind attempt yoga, until I was in my late 30s. I knew that there was unprocessed pain and trauma hiding in my body on a cellular level and I was terrified of letting that genie out of the bottle. But once I made that leap to excavate my wounds, I started feeling parts of my body and soul opening to a new sense of healing and restoration.
I am pushing physical and mental boundaries with each session. Pose to pose, inhale to exhale, that flow in my body quickly translates into a sacred flow that stays with me long after I roll up my mat.
Awaken a dream that has slumbered too long and awaken your spirit.
You’ve reset your compass, refocused your energy, and infused some restorative practices into your life. Now, what could you breathe some life into? What could you resuscitate and revive?
What idea has been idle too long? What vision is now just a blur?
What dream has become a distant memory? Remember what that dream looked like, what it felt like, what it smelled like, what it sounded like, what it felt like to hold it. Give it space, meditate on it, and bring it back to life.
Why did you set it aside and move on? Did others discourage it?
Did your own internal dialogue disavow its importance, its relevance, and its probability?
Think about the journey it may set you on. Think about the challenge, the healing, the creativity, the fun, and maybe even the whimsy? You may think you know what the result will be but you can never know how profoundly that journey will change you. When you find something of value you weren’t searching for, that’s serendipity.
The end result is far less important than the person you will become striving for it.
Go back and honor that part of you, the part you now know is authentic. The deep knowing that calls to you. If you need permission, here it is! I hereby give you permission to breathe life into that space again.
Reviving those dreams will do nothing less than infuse enthusiasm, courage, and confidence into your life.
Let go of labels, rid yourself of rules, rethink your definitions. Open your mind, empty your cup and receive.
At so many times in my life, my first (and sometimes second, third, and fourth) reaction was to control the situation to achieve what I thought was my desired result. Whether it was starting a new endeavor, revisiting an old challenge, feeling under assault in some area of my life, or just generally overwhelmed.
As I focused on the goal, I didn’t realize that my view had narrowed and my perspective was distorted. I thought I had all the knowledge and experience I needed to create a solution. But in most cases, I am acting from a place of fear, or even shame, and I’m completely unaware of it.
The problems, the results, the goals, the responses, and the paths are all tainted by this undercurrent of pain. The result was that my experiences didn’t serve me because my true goals were awareness and connection.
I love the story of the wise old monk that was visited by an eager young man who proclaimed himself to be well accomplished in Zen philosophy and wanted to confirm there was nothing more the wise monk could teach him. As the monk poured the young man tea until it poured over the edges of the cup, he calmly said, “Just like this cup, your mind is so full of ideas that there is no room for any more. Come to me with an empty-cup mind, and then you will learn something.”
In order to receive the gifts, hear the whispers, feel the subtle shifts you are consciously attracting from the Universe or praying for, you cannot believe you know it all and are done learning.
Acknowledge what you know and then empty ourselves to receive all that we do not.
Make space for the new, consider that there is more than one right answer or path to your goal.
Open your heart and mind to new possibilities, new ways of seeing yourself, and how you relate to others in order to receive all that the world has for you – all of the love, opportunity, inner peace, and joy.
Now it’s time to rejoice!
Gratitude is giving thanks for the big and the small, the unanswered prayers, and the unimaginable gifts. In a state of gratitude, there is no toxicity, no fear, no panic, no holding a grudge, no feeling less than or unlovable.
Rejoicing is the outward expression of that gratitude. Rejoicing is dancing with the Universe, singing with it, swimming through it, and walking alongside it. It is co-creating at its best.
However you rejoice, quietly or with a megaphone, find time to melt into it. Let it envelop and embrace you. Feel blessed and restored. Let it run through your veins until your heart bursts open feeling revived, renewed, and transformed.
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