With the destruction left after the landfall of Hurricane Ian, economic challenges that impact our wallets, and sociocultural debates, it is so hard to fathom ways to stop feeling anxious, and dreadful. These feelings can be made worse if you have experienced destruction to property or a loss of life.
Sadly, we do not do ourselves or those around us any good when we maintain a state of anxiety. Such anxiety can paralyze and prevent us from moving forward and even making good decisions. So how can you reduce your feelings of anxiousness even during times of chaos and uncertainty?
In this blog, I will discuss some elements of anxiety and worry. Share some strategies to help you reduce your anxiety, create forward momentum, and enjoy your present moment despite your circumstances.
Despite Great Planning, The Unexpected Happens
It was surprising to me to turn on the news and see a middle-aged, white-haired, woman standing in water, looking at her house that was flooded by the surge, and stating she was going to rebuild. What resilience I thought. She continued, "We prepared for this hurricane, we did our best but obviously, this was stronger and worse than we had expected." Her voice was hopeful as she actively assisted with the cleanup, accepting the assistance of neighbors and family.
I am sure as the water rose in her home she experienced fear, anxiety, and dread. I know I would be questioning my decision to stay put.
Yet, she was able to quiet her anxiety (not silence it) and stay present in the moment. Surely there is worry, she isn't a teenager, and she may have health problems. She may even be experiencing feelings of fear for the future, as a retiree living on a limited budget. This was definitely not part of her retirement plan.
Can you see yourself picking up the pieces of your life and planning to rebuild or would you be stuck, overwhelmed looking at the destruction, questioning your decisions, dreading the future?
Creating Forward Momentum And Calm by Turning Inward
You know that saying, " worry changes nothing". Do you realize that while you're reading this blog a few minutes have already passed that will not come back again and that you are already in the future? Therefore, The only thing you can control is the present.
Living In The Moment With Anxiety
So what's my takeaway about reducing anxiety even when there are adverse events…illness, loss, change?
Ask yourself "how do you feel?"
Be honest with the answer and deal with that answer. Are you angry, are you sad, are you worrying? Be honest with that answer and deal with that as well. To create movement forward out of anxious moments, first ask yourself, "how am I feeling in this situation? " This question allows you to do a total 360 of your thoughts, looking inward. Performing a total head-to-toe assessment so to speak on yourself allows you to know what you're feeling and what you're thinking.
Are you aware of what your senses are saying?
Another benefit to turning your attention on yourself is heightening your awareness of your 5 senses. You become super sensitive to what you hear, see, feel, smell, and taste. This is important because when we are anxious we do not pay attention to our physical signals, which are there to help us survive our present state. What are you standing on? Are you hungry? What song is playing? What are you seeing? Are you aware that your grandson is showing you a new trick he learned? Are you aware of the hand comforting you on your shoulder?
Just becoming intentional and mindful can reduce your sense of anxiety and create a sense of calm. Connect to your senses
Ask yourself "why am I filled with anxiety?"
Is it because you gain some weight and you don't like how your clothes feel on you? Is it the incongruence or disconnection you feel when you see yourself in the mirror? Do your feelings of vibrancy, youthfulness, and beauty, not always show up in the bathroom mirror image (god forbid you use a long, door mirror and see yourself naked)?
The aging body and our minds play really horrible games on us. I don't know about you but sometimes I ask myself who is that imposter in the mirror. Seriously, this dissonance can drag the best of us down and depressed. Making us doubt our plans to travel, go out on a date, or even start a new hobby or career in a world made for youthfulness.
Ask yourself "am I worried about past events or are you worrying about the future?"
Sorry to break it to you, (as your friend), but the past is gone. Yes, it may have influenced decisions and your present condition but there's nothing you can do about the past. Ground yourself in the now. When we worry about the past we think mostly of "what ifs". What if I had made a different decision? What if I had gone to college? What if I had not retired early?
Worrying about the future is not fruitful either. Worrying about the future only once again increases our anxiety and makes us dread what can happen. Once again not allowing you to enjoy the present.
As the lady in the news clip stated she prepared for the hurricane, she did everything she could to be safe. Yet, the result was not what she expected. Worry would not change past events nor would it influence future happenings. You can plan but the results are in the future and they are unforeseen and subject to so many variables in life that you cannot plan for them all.
Ask yourself, "Do these feelings of anxiousness and worry help you to move forward to solve your present problem, to make you productive and have a sense of inner peace?"
I don't know if you realize that when you're worrying you are talking to yourself. Fact check me! You worry silently, at night, while you are driving, and in quiet moments. By yourself. You are answering your own questions with your limited information...
Problem-solving requires you to communicate with OTHERS. Using strategies such as setting smart goals, getting out of yourself and out of your way, and engaging in conversation with others who can be objective. Other trusted family/friends may encourage you to see the facts of what is going well, and what you may be thankful for. You may find that you are doing pretty well despite the circumstances. You may say to yourself "I'm alive, still have my job, health, and family/friends", and at that moment you will realize that you are doing pretty darn good.
Carpe diem! Ground yourself in the now
Seize the present moment, make it count, and fill the present with memories. I lost electricity during the storm. Instead of worrying about when the lights would be back, sulking that I couldn't binge-watch 911 on Hulu, I took photos of my family performing activities they do not even consider when life is 'normal'. It was refreshing to see how everyone in the household adapted.
The board games came out, and the kitchen table filled with laughter and competitiveness under the ambiance of flashlights. Everyone was in one room at the same time interacting. A real family moment, a precious memory. Oh! And the grands were exceptionally well behaved...Hmmm (in grandparents' eyes)
My Ne'r to Know friend, there are so many events, planned or unexpected that we encounter every day that can keep us spiraling in a whirlwind of anxiety preventing us from seeing the beauty in the moment. It is left up to you and me to stop the roaring winds of anxiety and worry that can flood our minds by focusing on ourselves, identifying and controlling what we think, and trusting that we did not live all these years without already perfecting some resilience and coping techniques.
Here are a couple of apps you may download and start on your journey to living in the moment. Please do your own research to get the best fit for you. (I have Stop, Breath, Think app on my phone, while doing research for this blog I found out that the app is no longer supported 😅).
Verywellmind has a list of some mental health apps that can provide exercises in mindfulness, and even connect you to a therapist. Note some are free.
Other apps to explore would be:
Take a deep breath,
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