My anxiety is high at the moment. I’m a little triggered.
I thought I’d write about it. About how anxiety is currently happening in various degrees to most people in the age of COVID. About some simple things you can do to help calm the mind and body.
I was thinking about it while sitting outside under the deck. I was thinking about anxiety, breath, and muscle tension. I was thinking about how progressive relaxation and deep breathing helps. About how anxiety comes in waves and how fighting the first one can dramatically reduce the severity of the storm.
And then my cat fell off the balcony.
Not really and not for the imaginary first time.
But my anxiety is up and my depression is up which means I dissociate more. It’s one of the things anxiety can do. One of the ways I dissociate is by drifting into realities that don’t happen. They feel real even though I’m aware I’ve drifted away.
She was hurt in the imaginary fall, of course. Dissociation rarely take you nice places. Just once I’d like to dissociate to a truly excellent vacation in Cancun.
I saw her lying there on the rocks. I picked up her broken body as she made horrible, injured-cat noises. My imagination broke all four legs and her pelvis.
In my imaginings, I took her to the vet. Luckily, there was no one else in the imaginary waiting room. After examining my cat, the vet told me the treatment would be in the thousands, something I can’t afford in any reality.
I started crying.
This is where the real world and the dissociated one cross. I grieve in the real world. I get anxious in the real world. I react emotionally in the real world.
The anxiety-based mental meanderings feel physical. Pulling yourself out is hard. But you do it and then you’re there, sitting in a chair in your backyard, devastated over death that didn’t happen.
I took a breath. I wiped my face. I relaxed my shoulders. I took off my shoes.
Getting grounded helps with anxiety. Being directly connected to the world soothes. It reminds me of where I am. Outside is best, feet in the grass, but if you happen to be in a highrise, feet on the carpet is fine. I breathed and relaxed with each exhale, over and over, until things started to settle and ease.
It doesn’t take long.
Breathing and relaxing and grounding work work well.
When we get anxious, we get tight. Our thoughts follow dark paths more easily. Our breathing speeds up. Our muscles tense in preparation for battle. If it’s chronic, the problems can escalate into headaches, gastric distress, and fatigue.
I used to like the little white pills that took it all away. Unfortunately, they take everything. No pesky emotions sneak through their numbing effects. But I was willing because the unpleasantness of high anxiety was more than I thought I could bear.
If I’d believed in “breathe deeply and relax” and tried it sooner, I could have saved myself some ugly withdrawal. It seems simple. It seems almost facile. But simple doesn’t mean ineffective.
Life can be hard. It can be hard personally and globally. We struggle to deal. We struggle to stay present. We struggle to keep difficult and unpleasant emotions and feelings from taking hold. Ironically, fight is the last thing we need. Relax. Be easy. Let go.
Anxiety and tension and stress like to pretend they’re the bosses of you. They aren’t. You’re in charge of how you react.
Take a moment. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders. Get grounded and let the anxious thoughts and feelings drift away.
We live in interesting times. We’re having hard days. We’re all a little triggered.
Do you have a relaxation practice such as breathing, or yoga, or tai chi? Do you find your anxiety has climbed of late?