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Holding Anxiety Gently


Holding Anxiety Gently


What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you wake up in the morning? Is it an anxious thought—maybe about all the things you should do today? Or maybe you’re setting expectations for yourself about what your day should look like? As soon as you notice your anxiety, what do you do? Do you start dreading the day and wonder whether your anxiety will ever subside?

Have you noticed how the word expectation implies rigidity? When we place high or unrealistic expectations on ourselves, whether emotionally, physically, or even just about what we think we should accomplish today, our emotional well-being suffers. Now, that’s not to say you don’t need to have goals and dreams about your career, your hobbies or interests, your relationships, etc.

We all need goals, dreams, and values in order to live a full and meaningful life. The problem arises when we put too much pressure on ourselves and for one reason or another (one reason being anxiety), things don’t go as planned, and we can’t achieve those dreams and goals.

When life doesn’t pan out exactly as we think it should, it’s easy to feel discouraged, anxious, guilty, frustrated, hopeless, and depressed. However, it’s important to reflect: How flexible are we when it comes to adapting to reality when life throws us a curveball? Some of us can handle curveballs; some of us can’t because of other challenges we cannot control. That’s okay. We all have different temperaments and genetic predispositions. Have you noticed whether you tend to be too rigid in your expectations about life? How has this rigidity worked for you so far?

Society teaches and influences us to have certain expectations. Again, it’s good to have goals and dreams, but unreasonable expectations can lead to disappointment and distress.

Sense of Expectancy

What if instead of waking up in the morning with expectations about what the day should look like, you had a sense of anticipation?

Do you remember when you were a kid how you had a sense of excitement and curiosity about things like your birthday, Christmas, or special trips?

You can be more at peace with yourself and your life if you develop a similar sense of expectancy regarding each day. As you develop more curiosity and flexibility with anxiety and the events in your life, you won’t need to feel like you have to get rid of anxiety. Think about all the amazing things you might see on your journey up the mountain—called life!

Holding Anxiety Gently Practice

Extend your arms together and open up your hands. Imagine someone placing a small creature in them. You hold it gently and feel a little nervous. You’re not sure what to do with it. It appears innocent and frightened.

Attached to the small creature is a note that begins, “It feeds off avoidance, rigidity, stress, and all the behaviors you may be engaging in to get rid of it. Treat it gently. Good luck!”

Because you aren’t exactly sure how to go about it, you inadvertently start feeding it, and it starts growing. Over time, it becomes an irritable creature, though it does not mean you any harm. It has become demanding and has taken over your life. The more you want to control it, the hungrier it gets.

Then you find another note with additional instructions: “Let it do its thing. It may appear scary, but it won’t harm you if you don’t feed it. When it becomes demanding, acknowledge it. Say ‘I hear you.’ When it starts pounding on your heart and head and all over your body, allow it to, even though it may be unpleasant. Its tantrums may seem to last forever, but I promise they won’t! Observe it and notice what happens if you don’t feed it.”

How do you feel as you read this? What’s the Judge (your mind) saying? You may feel an aversion to the idea of holding anxiety gently, but what if doing so could help you enjoy life more? Would you consider it?

The next time anxiety starts making its way back into your life, imagine it as a small, fragile animal, like a wounded puppy. Place it in your hands and hold it gently, studying it with curiosity. Be aware of the urge to toss it away. It makes sense to want to release it in case it does anything to make you uncomfortable. However, by now, you may already have noticed that anxiety always finds its way back, just like a puppy who has lost its master. It finds you no matter what. Treat it gently instead. Acknowledge it and observe it.

You can do this!

Photo by Lydia Torrey on Unsplash

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