I called them dragonflies as a kid.
Butterflies are sweet, pretty things that you frolic through fields and catch. Dragon flights are thick, bulky and scary looking. They move quickly with power and the get in your face. And they have a name that tells you to be aware. They are a dragon after all.
I didn’t get butterflies in my tummy, I got dragonflies. Debilitating dragonflies that made me sick to my stomach and worried about the world.
I’ve suffered from anxiety and mild-depression for most of my life. As I’ve gotten older the tools I’ve been taught have shown me how to manage it and to treat it as an annoying houseguest. One that I can tolerate for so long before kindly (and then rudely) asking them to leave.
But just as easy as it is to remember how to ride a bike, it’s easy to get back in the cycle of feeling anxious. Worrying about tomorrow. Dread filling your mind and depression seeping into the cracks you’ve let breakthrough.
She’s back. The houseguest from hell has returned and she’s starting to wear on you. It was fine for a short time, maybe even cute. She helped you see some things that you might not have been paying attention to but now she’s making life hard and it’s time for her to go.
Anxiety has a lot to teach us. It is, after all, a mechanism to keep us safe, developed after years and years of evolution. But that doesn’t mean that it needs to stick around.
Read me my fortune and please leave.
Over the years of reading self-help books and living with a mother who is a therapist, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade to send anxiety on her way at least for a while. Tools that will help keep your sanity and create boundaries for this unwanted house-guest.
The first tool I’ve learned is to breathe.
Simple enough, I actually forget to breathe quite often. Apparently, it’s not as natural as you’d think. So I sit there and I take a deep breath in. And then I take in a little more. And I release it. I do this over and over again (shoot for 10 times) until I can feel the dragonflies diminish in numbers.
The second tool I’ve learned is tapping.
By hitting acupuncture pressure points on your face and sitting with your fears and anxieties you slowly allow them to drift off. This is especially good for people facing trauma and is used widely in cases of PTSD. Check out the video below for a demonstration of this process.
The third tool I’ve learned is journalling.
Simple and easy I take to my notebook and let it all out. Most notebooks I throw away when I’m finished because they are so horribly written and if anyone ever read them they would think I’m a total bore. So I ensure that when I become famous like Monet and they want to collect my works of art and have artifacts of my life, these journals will not be in that mix. (Sorry future historians, look at my blog instead).
The journaling process allows us to process ourselves and gets thoughts and ideas out of our minds. I find that setting a timer and writing until it is complete is the best way to make sure all the thoughts are cleared out. 30-minutes is usually a good amount of time.
The fourth tool I’ve learned is to go for a walk.
Really whatever form of movement you like is ideal. Yoga, running, elliptical, walking, it all works. I find that sometimes yoga forces me into my head t0o much and that walking away, seeing new sights and getting fresh air is really what I need to let out all that is building. It doesn’t matter how long or how hard you go. Just move your body for at least 10-minutes and see how you feel after.
Finally, the last thing I’ve learned is to be in community.
While often, this is the LAST thing you want to do, it usually is what’s needed most. Whether that’s being of service and volunteering or just getting together with your girls to laugh and chat and connect. Nothing heals the souls like being with people you love. You don’t even have to talk about what you’re feeling right now, but you can and that might help too. Just being together will start the healing.
Anxiety for me will most likely always be a part of me. When I’m at my healthiest though I can keep her at bay for long stretches of time. But as soon as life gets rocky (and it always will) she comes back and I have to remember the tools I’ve learned to make sure she doesn’t overstay her welcome. She has a place in my life because I know that she has something to teach me, but that doesn’t mean she gets to control it. These tools simply keep her in line.
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I learned about tapping therapy years ago and have recently brought it out of my toolbox to use for my anxiety/depression. This tool, while silly looking, is great for lowering intense emotions and dealing with trauma, which we all happen to be in the middle of. Take time each day to tap through your emotions saying your affirmation “Even though I feel ______ I love and accept myself” and see how you feel after 1,2,3 rounds. You can do this as often as you’d like and I’d just doing it 1x daily for a few days in a row to see how you feel.