When Anxiety Comes to Town


We’re old friends.

Fear is an old friend, too, but for me, anxiety and fear are different.  They’re close cousins, for sure, but distinguishable in many ways.  Fear arrives crashing throughout my front door, up in my face, in this alarmist, everything is big and scary sort of way.  Whereas Anxiety tends to sneak in through the basement door, lurking unseen, waiting for that opportune moment to climb on my back, so subtly and quietly.  It can be days before I even realize he’s there.  And once I do realize he’s there, I often don’t know why.  But “The Why” is an important part of managing my anxiety and over the years I’ve developed a set of strategies to help me recognize it, discover its source, and let it go.

The first step seems so basic and so obvious, but without it, the rest can’t happen.

1.)  Recognize and acknowledge that I’m anxious.  I can’t deal with my anxiety, if I don’t know I’m anxious.  Like I said, my anxiety is sneaky and often arrives without any sort of announcement, so I have to be pretty savvy to know he’s there.  It usually begins with an inability to focus and the overwhelming feeling of not being able to get anything done.  It’s an – I’m out of sorts and I don’t know why – kind of thing.  And when I pause and allow myself a moment to recognize the familiar signs, then I can begin to connect the dots and start to do something about it.

2.)  Say it out loud. (I used this same technique with Anxiety’s cousin Fear, which you can read about here.)  “I’m anxious,” I say and wait for the exhale that inevitably follows.  Then I Say it again.  “I’m anxious.”  And exhale.  And repeat as necessary.

3.) And I drink water. Lots of it.  And remember that my body is an energy circuit and energy flows best and freely through water.

4.) And I recall what I’ve eaten, or not. Hmmm, it’s 11am and I’ve had 2 cups of coffee and a half a gluten-free peanut butter cookie. Time to feed myself, preferably some protein.

5.)  I look back on the night before. How many glasses of wine did I drink? Is that the same pit in my stomach I felt the last time I poured one glass too many?

6.)  Nap. Speaking of last night, what time did I go to bed?  A 20-minute lie down would do me wonders.

7.) Close my laptop. How long have I been sitting in front of this computer?

8.) Walk. Get out into the woods, my sanctuary.

9.)  Write. This step is key.  I know that once I begin writing, once that pencil touches the paper and the words begin to flow, I no longer have to carry all of the unease around.  I never know from one time to the next what form this will take, it may be a list, a bunch of jumbled words on a page or formed paragraphs. No matter.  What matters is that the page holds the worries and they’re no longer inside of me mucking up the works.  Writing leads me to “The Why” behind my anxiety.

10.) Put on MusicWindham Hill and The Be Good Tanyas stations on Pandora are two of my favorites.

11.)  Wrap a scarf around my neck. Or put on an extra sweater.  Warmth makes me feel safe and secure.

12.)  Rescue Remedy.  This flower essence was first introduced to me right before we brought Andie home from the hospital. It comes in liquid form, cream, spray, and even a new, delightful gum.  A few drops under my tongue, a dab of cream behind my ears and wrists (meridian points) or a chiclet-like piece in my mouth and we’re talking instant calm.

13.) Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth CD grounds me and brings me right back to my center. Reading the book was an amazing experience, but listening to Tolle himself read the book, which I’ve done over and over, is phenomenal.

14.)  Reiki.  My teacher always says, Hands on, Reiki’s on. So I sit quietly and put my own hands on my cheeks, shoulders, and abdomen and feel my life-force energy return.

15.)  I consult my calendar and note when was the last time I had an appointment for Self-Care. Massage, Reiki, a game of tennis, a walk with a friend? If anxiety’s back in town, I’m usually due.

16.)  Get organized. This is a new addition to my list of strategies and came as a bit of a surprise. While I was writing about anxiety and at the same time enlisting all my known techniques, I discovered that a lack of order is quite anxiety inducing.  It wasn’t until I began my whole organizational quest that I came to recognize the importance of order in my life and found that a pile of unopened mail, unpaid bills, or a misplaced document  can invoke lots of stress in my life.

And once I’ve gone through all those strategies and my breath has hopefully returned, I remind myself of my favorite Eckhart Tolle quote,

“And this too shall pass.”

And this too shall pass.  It always does, doesn’t it?

What about you? How do you mange your anxiety?

(On a side note, since discovering a gluten allergy two years and cutting all wheat products out of my life, the level and frequency of my anxiety has decreased significantly. I’ve received many emails and questions about Gluten-Free Living and hope to post a blog on the subject soon.)