For those of you who have been with me a long time, you will know that the flip side of me being an ultra 'feeling' intuitive person is that I suffer from Anxiety. It's something I've experienced bouts of my whole Life ... a deep sense of foreboding in my stomach, racing thoughts, panic attacks and difficulties trusting Life during these times. There are hours, days, weeks and months where it can feel all-consuming. A few years ago after becoming a Mama, it all got too much to manage and I experienced a nervous breakdown. It was hands-down THE hardest experience of my Life. Yet, since then, all the lessons I learned during my continued recovery have helped me to carve out a deep sense of self-care and love for myself. I matter, too.
So this week once again I find myself experiencing another intense bout of the illness; taking the week off work and daily schedules to nurture my symptoms and nourish my strength. A lifetime of Anxiety has helped me learn to recognise the symptoms and triggers earlier than I used to and as a result, take care of my needs sooner. I used to live solely in despair during these times but in recent years, I have introduced many self-care routines that I can draw upon to support and nurture myself during these difficult times. Now that I've learned so many skills to manage anxiety, I wanted to compile some of them here, to help anyone else having this experience too.
Here are my current 10 favourite tools ... Going Within during challenging times of Anxiety.
Often when I'm feeling anxious my breathing becomes shallow and fast, as I find myself in 'fight or flight' mode. Taking ten deep, slow breaths in the three breath-sections of my body - nose/throat, chest and tummy - helps me slow everything down again. It's even possible to do this when we're busy - in fact, even more important to do so. If I'm at work, I take a toilet break and slow down my breathing there. If I'm playing with my son I share my feelings with him and we take some deep breaths together. The breath is our Life-force and it helps our whole system to refresh.
Daily meditation has become absolutely key to my sanity, healing and self-care. I used to be dubious about how to do it 'properly' but these days there are so many wonderful apps out there to guide us lovingly through the process. My favourite two meditation apps are STOP, BREATHE & THINK and a new one I discovered only this week via fellow Intuitive Artist Flora Bowley, called INSIGHT TIMER. Both have fantastic guided meditations to choose from as well as a timer when you're ready to go solo. The benefits I experience personally from meditation include distilling a sense of calm, accepting my experience, connecting with myself and understanding my needs.
I have found scent is an incredibly easy way to bring me a greater sense of ease. Essential oils are readily available now in most health food shops, chemists and local markets and these can be placed in an oil burner, vaporiser, or even a few drops in a bath or the shower floor before turning on the hot water. As the scents waft over me, I tend to breathe deeper to soak up the beautiful smell and this in turn, redirects my attention from my anxious feelings to the pleasant scents surrounding me. When it comes to selecting an essential oil scent, I use my intuition and listen to my bodily responses. When I open a tester and take a whiff, I can feel if it calms me or invigorates me. ... or turns me off completely! My current favourite scents are Springfields 'Spirit of a Woman', Perfect Potion's 'Wood' 5 element blend and my all-time favourite pure essential oil, Patchouli.
Mindfulness was a practice introduced to me during my breakdown recovery. During this time, I attended a 12 week outpatient program on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which included mindfulness training as a key component of living well.
I have to say, that Mindfulness has changed my Life.
It is the single-most definitive way for me to ease my anxiety symptoms, however it takes loads of practice and dedication, each and every day. Mindfulness is like a muscle ... with practice it strengthens. In a nutshell, mindfulness required us to experience the present moment in all its forms, by listening intently, breathing mindfully, opening up to our feelings fully. 'The Act Companion' app by Dr Russ Harris (Author of 'The Happiness Trap) was instrumental to me during my recovery and there are also some mindfulness tracks in the apps I've listed above. There are mindfulness courses popping up all over the place these days. If you're interested, I recommend googling them or checking your local yoga studios or community noticeboards for any in-person upcoming events.
YOGA + EXERCISE
I have discovered that a lack of regular exercise almost always leads me to anxiety symptoms. It's as if my body NEEDS to move and strengthen and be a part of the world, in order to maintain health. There have been times when the weather or busyness or family commitments have meant that I've let go of my exercise routine for extended times and when this happens, I inevitably feel anxiety creeping back in.
There are so many ways we can incorporate exercise into our life practices and these need to be flexible to change as we do. When my son was a newborn, I would strap him into his 'pouchy' (baby carrier) and we'd walk along the winding pathways behind my house. When he began to walk and this became a VERY SLOW experience, I would need to schedule in yoga classes at night-time when my husband was home and I was free to stretch and exercise then. My advice with exercise, is to make it enjoyable. Maybe you love tennis or rock-climbing or simply strolling along the beach. The important thing is to move the body, because then we can begin to shift the feelings and energy through our system and restore feeling of health, rather than letting them stagnate.
I understand there are times when anxiety bouts can mean not even wanting to leave the bedroom. However after a day or a week or a month, when we feel ready to step into the sunshine again, this is a great time to start small, and work up to a regular exercise routine.
ORACLE CARDS + AFFIRMATION CARDS
For almost 20 years now, Oracle Cards have graced my Intuitive Connection with a sense of healing and divinity. In fact, one of the reasons I've created my own decks of Oracle Cards was to create some upliftment and self-care permission for when the going gets tough.
The truth is, anxiety can mean that at times we can feel totally lost and consumed in grief ... and we just need a little pick-me-up. Oracle cards have played this role for many years for me and often, just pulling a couple of cards in the morning can help me feel like The Universe is on my side.
When choosing Oracle Cards, it's important to use your intuition. There are many, many decks out there and they all have a different 'feeling' about them. For me, it was important to create my oracle decks using wholly positive and nurturing content - as a person experiencing anxiety, pulling a card with negative connotations could actually increase my sense of foreboding!
My favourite Oracle Decks and Affirmation Cards include Gabrielle Bernstein's 'Miracles Now' deck, Angela Hartfield's 'Nature's Whispers' Oracle Cards and humbly, my own 'Intuitive Wisdom' and 'Mama Nurture' Oracle Decks. The thing all these decks have in common are beautiful imagery, uplifting content and 100% positive messages. These can feel like a gentle breeze of hope when things feel intense within.
There's really something to be said for the beauty of our senses. As someone with anxiety, sensations can often feel overwhelming in the body but it's important to remember that the body is a also a source of great pleasure. For me, the pleasure of enjoying a herbal tea can be a nice way to take time-out and simply sit with warmth and calming flavours.
Herbal teas have become a really lovely self-care ritual for me. I have between 2- 5 cups a day and I treat myself with all sorts of delicious flavours and concoctions. Herbal teas are now readily available in supermarkets, heal care stores, local markets and online.
My favourite teas are 'Granny's Apple Pie tea' and 'Japanese Morning Dew', which I recently discovered at my local markets. T2 have some incredible teas; my favourites include 'Red green Vanilla' and 'Gorgeous Geisha'. I also love treating myself to a chai at my local coffee shop, or a peppermint tea to help ease my tummy. This is by no means reducing anxiety recovery to a quick fix cuppa, but it can be a moment of lightness to be experienced, within.
Art-making for me has been a God-send my entire Life. It's both a way to express myself freely, to process and heal my feelings and to focus my energies on something positive and enjoyable.
So many people tell me 'I'm just not creative' but to this, I say that every single person is creative in some way. Whether it's cooking, painting, skiing, writing or making sand-castles, we all have something we can get completely lost in during the creation process. Being creative enables us to move the feeling energies through our body in a constructive way.
For me, the process of painting is soothing. I can match the colours and strokes of my brushes to how I'm feeling within, which both connects me and releases tension. If you're wanting to try out some feeling-based Art-making, I've just contributed a 'Colour with Feeling' e-course as part of 21 SECRETS HERE.
ASKING FOR HELP
This, for me, has been one of the most challenging lessons to learn - that I need extra support during my more tender-times. Asking for help can mean simply sharing with loved ones that I'm feeling unwell and I would love assistance with a simple everyday task, such as doing the groceries or even taking a night off cooking dinner to take a nice bath.
The challenge is that for many of us, prolonged anxiety sensations can often be associated with feelings of unworthiness, and asking for help is not something that comes naturally. Yet ask we must, because we are all worthy of nurturing as much as we do for others!
Asking for help can also mean seeking out a professional for help, especially during times when we feel 'over the brink'. There are times when chats with our friends or family or online community is just not enough. This is when a great psychologist, psychiatrist and/or caring GP can be instrumental in helping lead us forward on our healing journey.
GETTING 'REAL' WITH OURSELVES
Finally, taking moments to regularly go within - whether through exercise, meditation, or seeking a professional; are all simply acts we can engage in to help nurture ourselves, both during times of dis-ease and wellness. In fact, in my experience, the more we can engage in nurturing our sense of wellness, in whatever ways feel right for us, the more tools we have under our belt when anxiety comes knocking again.
The key with Anxiety, I have learned, is to let go of getting-rid-of-it-forever and instead, focus on ways to make life more meaningful and fulfilling, today. I spent years focusing my energy on trying to eradicate anxiety entirely, when in recent years, I've discovered I can focus my energies instead on practicing self-care and wellbeing. One feels fear-based, the other, love-based.
For those of you experiencing or know someone who suffers from anxiety, I hope you have found some gems in this post. I reach out with my heart and say, "You Are Loved".
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All my Love,