I wanted to talk about anxiety today—what it is, how you can stop yourself when you are stuck in a pattern of feeling anxious and how to ground yourself back into the present, but first, I want to tell you a story about young me and the first radish I ever ate.
When I was about 8 years old I was in a 4-H afterschool program and one day we cut open milk jugs, filled them with potting soil and decided to grow something for a county fair project. I planted a whole pack of radish seeds in one milk jug. I watched my little milk jug radishes excitedly, watering them each day, waiting for the day I’d be able to pull up the juicy green plants and see a nice, big bunch of bright red radishes like you see in the grocery store. My little jug of radishes thrived, and it wasn’t long until they were spilling over the sides of the jug and I could just see the little red tops peeking through the potting soil. I still remember imagining the salad I’d make with my special radishes. The day finally came and I pulled up my plants and there was the big bunch of juicy red radishes just as I’d imagined. I felt a little bad at destroying my pretty green plant, but my concern didn’t last long as I washed and cut my first radish. I popped it into my mouth and chewed and chewed and…it was awful!! I learned in that exact moment that I don’t like radishes at all! I was so disappointed that the brilliant red color and the flavor I’d imagined was all wrong! All my work for nothing and my poor pretty green plant ripped up and destroyed. I was mad!
I’m telling you about my little radish adventure because it taught me not to plant and invest your time and care into what you don’t like and don’t want in your life! Anxiety is like using your thoughts to plant and then water and care for – exactly what you don’t want! You are planting thoughts and allowing them to grow, but the harvest is awful!
There are “classic” or “common” symptoms of anxiety most people would recognize such as — worrying, overthinking and, the big one, panic attacks. But, there are also unusual symptoms that can still be pointing to anxiety. Sometimes anxiety shows up as anger, impulsive behavior, controlling others, sleepiness, crying, nausea, a feeling of being unable to settle into any activity, irritability, forgetting things, or, an inability to decide what to do or do anything at all (feeling stuck and frozen).
What is that the heart of anxious feelings?
Mind in the past— Guilt and regret can’t change the past. It wastes the time we have today to use our thoughts to relive re-evaluate and be stuck in guilt, regret or remorse for things that happened to us or were done by us in the past. When we refuse to learn from and move on from the past, it keeps us stuck, trapped and without hope in the present and into the future.
Mind in the present— When we misuse our thoughts in the present we are focused on negative ideas or feelings. Using thoughts in this way takes away energy, hope and drive to create positive things in the moment or get things done in day to day life. It is setting yourself up to fail before even trying.
Mind in the future – Worrying about the future – thinking always of imagined scenarios and what could happen is a trap. Those things might happen, or they might not, but they probably won’t. Wasting all of the energy you have today does nothing to make the future better. Some people think that they are planning for the future and that this is a positive thing, but when the initial research and planning about a potential idea you’d like to explore in the future makes you feel bad, or stuck, you are now leaving the realm of planning and moving into thinking of the future and worrying which is anxiety in action.
What can you do if you are stuck on the anxiety merry-go-round?
One often mentioned exercise is truly helpful for people in the middle of experiencing anxiety, no matter where they are or what they are doing in the moment. You can reground yourself into the present moment by changing your attention from your thoughts to the world around you.
- Look at 5 things and say their name to yourself
- Touch five things and say their name and how they feel to yourself
- Listen for 5 things you can hear around you
- Ask yourself what can I taste? Imagine tasting an orange, a lemon, a banana, a piece of chocolate and a peppermint
After just a few minutes of centering yourself in the present moment most people can regain enough equilibrium to control their thoughts and stop the cycle of anxiety.
Grounding in what is going on in the moment instead of believing whatever story is going on in your head is a wonderful exercise in restoring balance, taking yourself out of the cycle of anxiety and returning to the positive moment, the only moment where you can actually think of, create and effect real change in your life.
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