Happy Monday from the river. It’s cold and sunny here in Central Ontario, Canada. New week and my anxiety game is high. How’s yours?
The most frustrating part of living with anxiety and PTSD is that things go along pretty chill for a while and then, even though you’ve done the work and continue to do it, a blip shows up. For me, a blip is when I begin the ever fun and always exciting mind fuck of unhelpful thoughts based on my mistaken beliefs.
What that looks and sounds like for me includes but is not limited to sleepless nights where I play out conversations to consider where I might have upset someone. Or the ever favourite history lane jaunt in the middle of the night, where I play out decades old choice or conversations and beat myself up about something I have zero control over. And of course, the ever elusive but often present thought that somehow, somewhere, in some way, everything I love or care about is actually a joke and is about to all fall apart in the coming days, so I’d best prepare myself for that. Oh, it’s no joke my friend. And it’s real. It doesn’t happen as regularly as it used to, but when it does, it requires immediate attention.
You would think that my being a mental health professional, that this shit doesn’t show up for me. But it does. And it always has. My entire life. In fact, I think these feelings of never belonging or fitting in, fear of being hurt by others, terror of losing whatever love I have in my life began in early childhood. I have memories of playing u dear my bed or in my closet and feeling safe. I also have memories of inconsistent messaging and the withholding of love based on my behaviours, which laid a beautiful foundation for what now plays out in my life. Don’t get me wrong, they did their best, but they weren’t equipped to adopt me and support the myriad of psychological needs I would have coming up.
But enough about me. We have loads of time to get to know each other. How do YOU manage anxiety? After years of therapy, and practice, here are my tried and true strategies:
1. Notice. If you have rapid thoughts, unhelpful thoughts on repeat, are moving faster than normal, having difficulty sleeping or eating or resting……notice
2. How do you notice? Start getting into your body in the day- schedule moments of quiet to breathe and check in with yourself. Ask yourself how the day is going? How are you feeling physically and psychologically? Breathe. ( breath work is the single easiest, most portable and effective way of settling your central nervous system)
3. Ask yourself if you are feeling triggered. What is triggered? It is usually previous situations replaying in the present on some level ( conflicted that isn’t resolving/ fear of doing or not doing something because of repercussions/ history of abuse or assault/situational moments of fear where you had zero control). This work requires practice and therapeutic supports, but meditation and grounding strategies can help you begin to get to know these bad boys
4. Ground. Get quiet. Unplug. Get in nature. Write/journal/talk therapy/ connect in safety ( meaning people who feel safe to you) and reconnect with yourself
“For most of my life, when I felt anxious, I felt like I was wrong. I wasn’t coping because I was a mess or inadequate or a failure at something. It turns out that I had a history of a dysregulated nervous system because I am an adoptee and was conditioned to believe who I was or how I felt, if nothing short of sunny and happy, was wrong and bad.’
So, if today, or any day for that matter, you are feeling out of sorts, anxious, or triggered- you are not alone. You may feel alone, so reach out and connect with yourself through soothing activities. Begin to understand how to create safety within yourself and bring your reactions back down. Today, I’ll go for a walk, disconnect from too much social chatter, go to work, and eat super healthy. I’ll meditate, take my supplements, do some yoga and ground back into myself. I’ll gently shift the unhelpful thoughts with affirmations and reframing, and I’ll rinse and repeat for a few days until I’m back into regulation.
No matter how you show up today, you’re not alone. You’re a beautiful, worthy human who deserves love that is safe and predictable. Everything is ok. Be kind to yourself even if no one taught you how. I see you. I am you. 💚