Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling that many of us feel from time to time, however Christmas is, for many people, a time of year when anxiety and stress are at their worst, with so much pressure from so many angles. And that’s without mentioning the unprecedented levels of anxiety people are experiencing due to the events of 2020 along with the uncertainty of what the future holds.
But anxiety is not the enemy, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. If we change our perception about it and begin to think of it, not as bad, but as an inevitable, informative part of life at times, we can change the grip it has on our lives, which can lessen ‘the anxiety of the anxiety’ and allow us to find a space to enjoy whatever this most unusual of Christmasses has to offer.
My experience of anxiety
As I changed my perception of my own anxiety, I started to see that as a state, it was informing me that something was out of sync in my life. I began to see it as a ‘call to action’; to take responsibility for myself and my process in some way. That might be my thoughts and feelings.
Allowing the emotion to be as it is
This responsibility might be, as in the picture below, staying present to the emotion of fear or terror. Seeing the sheer drop beyond the doorway, when I had a huge fear and experienced vertigo with heights, was anxiety-provoking. For many, Christmas has the same effect.
That was one of the first times that I learnt to just keep breathing, staying present to the emotion and allowing it. The key to the open doorway and moving through it is allowing the emotion to be as it is. ‘This too shall pass” acknowledges that everything is transient and no emotion stays the same forever. Breathing into the sensation of anxiety, feeling the feet, on the ground can calm us.
After a period of allowing and accepting yourself as you are, anxiety can dissipate. This is called the silent witness or detached (de-ached) observer state. It is where you step back from the emotion or anxiety and see it is as it is, rather than allowing it to control you, overtake you, overwhelm you or run the show.
If there was no handrail the other side of that doorway with narrow steps and sheer drops below, my anxiety would have been valid. Sometimes it’s a very necessary feeling in order to keep us safe – especially if physical balance isn’t always great!
Out-run the flight to fight it!
The anxiety may also be old re-runs of unspent anxiety from the past that are still trapped in the body. This is especially true for those who have had difficult experiences of Christmas in the past. With fight or flight, if the energy created during a stressful trigger is not dissipated (by running away from the tiger or fighting the caveman) it has nowhere to go and stays in the body. This is one theory behind the creation of dis-ease, something as a Holistic Therapist, and in my personal experience, I believe to be true. So, to turn that around, I started to run-out the anxiety, expend that energy by exercise so that I could outrun the excess. The resulting endorphins from learning to run also soothed me and helped towards weight management. Bonus.
I saw that anxiety could also be viewed as an increase in energy. It was an internal sensation which mobilised me to do something different in my life. Not a bad thing, but something that could be used for my good, to make my life even better. It was (and still can be) a heads up that things weren’t in mental or emotional balance – but what?
It could be my mental processing of external events. I realised that things I couldn’t control conflicted with my ego, i.e. the need to be right. It conflicted with what I thought I wanted or ‘what I should have’, rather than accepting ‘what is’. We can’t control everything. And when we wish for things to be different than they actually are, in the here and now, we can create anxiety. We feel conflicted and anxious. And powerless. Because sometimes we are powerless. And that’s humbling.
We can only change things in the present. If we whizz our way to how we want things to be in the future, we are denying the present. We are then living in the future. Not in reality, and not in the here and now, where the seeds of change are sown.
Acceptance eases anxiety
The process starts with accepting ourselves and our circumstances right now. They are as they are. It’s not to minimise our circumstances; they can be tough, hard or painful. And we may need to grieve those losses in the present moment. Life is not as we may want it to be – this Christmas certainly isn’t (at least, for most of us), but it is what we are experiencing in every moment of being alive. When we can accept that, and also have compassion and gentleness for ourselves, the anxiety can decrease.
This article was originally published here at emmasims.co.uk