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How I Manage My Anxiety

manage anxietyThis post was originally published on Bouquet of Ballpoints where you can find Maggie blogging regularly. 

Anxiety is no fun. Anyone who lives with it knows that. Especially in this day and age. Because – well – to state the obvious, it’s a scary time for a lot of people.

I won’t pretend to have new insight or valuable commentary on the political climate that is fueling many of our fears, because I’m not nearly smart enough to do that. But I do know a few things about fear, seeing as how I’m a scaredy-cat from way back.

Just for fun (yours, not mine) let’s just list a few of the fears that haunt my mind on a regular basis. I think it will give me some credibility on the topic.

A short list of things that freak me the hell out:

    1. botulism

    2. port-o-potties

    3. heights

    4. head lice

    5. speaking in public

    6. losing my teeth

    7. water moccasins 

    8. sleeping with anything sharp near my bed

    9. marionettes

Conspicuously absent is any mention of harm coming to my husband or children because I am too afraid to even put it on the list. (Dang. See how it weaseled its way in here? Crafty little bugger.) But, to make it an even 10, I’ll add this:

    10. writing about things that really scare me and, as a result, making those things happen 

Ok, so we’ve established I’m scared of a lot of weird shit, in addition to the stuff that  scares most normal people. Which brings me to The One Thing I do that helps me when I’m, say, watching my sons try on all the costume pieces at the renaissance fair— including those hats that everyone and their preschooler has put on. (WTF???)

I do this:

I stop my anxious fiddling and just get quiet for a second. Then I put my right hand (it can be either hand, but using my right hand tends to relax me while using my left feels like I’m checking for a heartbeat) gently onto the middle of my chest. I name what I am feeling, in this case, Fear. I just say that silently to myself, and allow it to be there. The result is that the fear that had felt like part of me is now just a thing with a name. I’m not chasing it away, or trying to outrun it. I’m not justifying it or minimizing it.

It’s such a relief.

So, there you go. One thing.

It may seem overly simple, but it has saved me on many a bumpy take-off and landing (which would be #11 and #12). I do this when I’m a little scared, like when I have to ride a glass elevator, and when I’m fucking terrified, like when I read the Sunday Times.

It helps with both.

Oh, and by the way, I didn’t make it up. At least I don’t think I did. I probably heard about it, or a version of it, from Dr. Dan Siegel, or possibly from Tara Brach, both of whom have lots of helpful tricks for living in a world where people are always blowing up.

And let’s be very kind to ourselves. This isn’t easy.

Maggie MacMillan

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Carol Graham

Tuesday 5th of April 2016

I can't imagine what it would be like to live with this much anxiety but I know people do. I am glad you found some way to overcome it.

Andee Zomerman

Tuesday 5th of April 2016

My therapist loves Tara Brach and has me do the hand over my heart thing all the time! I need to get better at doing it on my own. For some reason in the heat of anxiety, I forget. Thanks for the reminder!

Kay dutton

Monday 4th of April 2016

Interesting

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