Maybe you found this post because your heart and mind, like mine, sometimes land on the spectrum of fear related emotions. Or maybe not–better for you. Or maybe you have loved ones (small or big) who you would like to walk through life less burdened by the unwelcome presence of anxiety, nervousness, worry, or stress.
These are feelings that we all experience to some degree at some points in our daily lives. Here I will use a broad brush, intentionally addressing many feelings in one group, all of which could be categorized as unpleasant, though I realize they are all quite different in their sources, sensations and solutions. Here are some ways that have helped me over the years. I would love to hear your ideas here too!
A first step is to identify the unpleasant feelings in our day and to verbalize how we feel to ourselves or someone else, recognizing and acknowledging what is happening internally. This is essential.
Then, off to a good start of saying, “I’m feeling…”, we can employ the popular strategy of avoiding the trigger. For example, if you stayed up late last night for one more episode of your favorite series and this morning needed an extra cup of coffee, perhaps the extra nervousness about your upcoming report has to do with tiredness, too. Or every day at lunch your sister calls and tells you all the family “news” and you can’t seem to concentrate well the rest of the afternoon. For me, it’s sitting too long. When I’ve been looking at a screen so long that I can’t make rational decisions anymore, I grab my surfboard. Look for the common factors in the anxious or stressed moments and try to avoid the triggers.
If, however, the trigger is toxic, such as an abusive relationship, it may feel “impossible” to avoid the person at home, work or elsewhere. But remember, even in that case, like Smokey the Bear says, “Only you” can report abuse…if you’re the only one who knows it’s happening. And you ARE STRONG–find someone you can trust to help you through the process of reporting and protecting yourself.
Once the triggers for negative feelings have been identified, brainstorm ways to approach that situation differently. Be specific, brainstorm out loud or with a friend, and create a simple plan of action.
Meditation is all the rage. And it has amazing effects in calming and regulating heavy emotions. Start small, even a few seconds a day, making a space for a mental breath. But meditate on what, you ask? I’ve found that the words of Jesus speak to many parts of life. I often read his stories aloud and visualise them. Here is one of my favourites that addresses identity and self worth and how Jesus perceives us when we make mistakes:
Live a Relationally Engaged Life, connecting with others around us and knowing our worth, especially in a social media-driven world.
Finally, I try to overwhelm myself with positive life-giving words so that the fear or anxiety is at first diluted by the good words and eventually (often while I’m engaging in other activities) evaporates and gives way to good feelings. This can be reading encouraging messages, making a sticky note of a positive statement, or even speaking helpful words out loud to myself.
Remember, stress can be used for good, especially if we turn unpleasant feelings and their triggers into frequent reminders to practice the way we want to live internally and how we respond externally. As Captain Planet says to the Planteteers: The power is yours!