You know the feeling … like there is this weight sitting on your shoulders, on your chest, squeezing your gut. Even if you manage to distract yourself for a moment, as soon as you turn around, there he (or she) is … the anxious elephant in the passenger seat of your car waiting to greet you. Whether you are anxiety prone or not, chances are you’ve experienced anxiety (or the anxious elephant in the room as I like to call my old friend) in some shape or form. Myself, I’ve always tended to get anxious, and when I first started dealing with chronic pain related to a jaw injury a few years ago, I got really really really anxious. Would I ever be better? When would I be better? Would this stupid annoying pain ever go away? Shockingly, even as my jaw improved, the elephant refused to clear the room. Other issues cropped up, as they tend to do, and it’s amazing how easily my mind manages to jump from one anxious issue to the next! Last week alone I think my mind jumped between at least 3 different anxiety focuses. I have reached the conclusion that my mind just likes being anxious. Maybe next time I’ll decide to be anxious about say bananas. Are green bananas better than yellow bananas? How many bananas should I buy? Are the bananas feeling neglected since I haven’t eaten them in a few days? You may laugh, but if we mapped out the thought processes of our anxieties maybe they would make us laugh too ….
Joking aside, here are a few tips I’ve learned that have helped me in dealing with the “anxious elephant in the room.”
1) Just breathe. What happens when we get anxious? Our breathing becomes shallower and as we get less oxygen into our systems, we in turn get more anxious … it’s a vicious cycle! Try even just a few minutes of slow deep breathing. In for four counts, hold for four counts, out for four counts.
2) Learn to befriend (or at least accept) the anxious elephant. The goal isn’t to get rid of the elephant, it’s simply to sit with it and notice what it feels like. To be able to say “Oh, I’m feeling anxious right now; that’s okay, let me focus on my breath and give myself some compassion.”
3) Anchor yourself to the present moment. Soles of feet. Stone in pocket. Sometimes, especially when we are feeling super anxious, the last thing we are able to focus on is our breath. Connecting to a grounding anchor like the soles of the feet on the ground (bonus points for getting out in the grass with your bare feet) is an excellent option.
4) Do something different to reset. If you are in a bad anxious cycle that has been going on for a few days or weeks, you may need more than a few minutes of breathing to break the funk. How about trying a new activity? Roller blading anyone and breaking out that inner child rearing to be loose? Even just spending some time in nature and away from technology can be amazingly beneficial.
How do you deal with your anxious elephant? Share in the comments below 😊