So you wake up today, and you know you are “out of sorts.” There’s anxiety gnawing away at your stomach, and it doesn’t go away, and there’s a heaviness, something that seems like sadness, weighing down your the left side of your chest. You get up and get dressed for work, get the kids off to school, or whatever is your morning routine, and there it still is, in fact it’s still there at lunchtime. It’s darned uncomfortable, and you want it to go away. You worry it could get worse. It’s hard to concentrate on your work, maybe you make an error, maybe more. Maybe you think about going home early. Maybe you have an accident and hurt yourself. Your social skills are off, and people get annoyed with you and you don’t know why. Maybe you react badly. You might even look in the mirror and find your face is slightly crooked. (really)
“Feelings, nothing more than feelings
Trying to forget my feelings….” MORRIS ALBERT , 50’s pop song
You know very well nothing has changed from a day or two ago when you were feeling fine, but there they are. Feelings. The kind that make your skin sensitive and weigh your limbs down and make your joints ache. The kind that slow everything down and make the day just crawlllll by.
...spend time wondering what is wrong? Do you examine every area of your life to see if something isn’t right at home, at work, at the club? Has someone been ignoring you? Is your partner being understanding enough? Could your child have lied to you about the ______(fill in the blank?) Did you forget to pay a bill? Do you worry it until you have FOUND the something that is bothering you? And then worry about what to do next? By the end of the day you have made up stories about all the things that are wrong and are determined to confront the situation(s) that “made you feel bad.” You get energy from knowing “the answer, but you use it to reinforce your story and confuse your story with reality. Ever been there? Sadly, I have.
…assume your body chemistry is off for whatever reason, maybe the weather, maybe a trigger on TV you missed noticing, maybe you just “got up on the wrong side of the bed.” It happens. It doesn’t matter why, but you “can’t stand” this feeling. Now you self-medicate with your habit-of-choice to make it easier to get through the day. Temporarily you feel better, but now you broke a promise to yourself and maybe to someone else, you hope against hope that you can get to sleep tonight and that tomorrow will be a better day. The next morning isn’t any better and now you have triggered urges to indulge in your habit too. Rinse. Repeat. Pass the chocolate please. Have you ever been there? I have.
…calm your body, breathe deeply, taking in extra oxygen and relaxing your muscles as many times as necessary during the day, know that YOU are not your FEELINGS? You let the “I” of you just notice them, accept them, knowing life contains both dark and light, knowing in this moment, your feelings just chemicals passing through your system, and they are lying to you; there is nothing wrong and there is nothing to do and nowhere to be but in THIS NOW moment, and right NOW you are fine. And right NOW. And right NOW. One moment at a time, you are safe (assuming, objectively, you ARE), and you have everything you need for this moment. I wish I remembered to do that more often. It really helps me. If you are indeed objectively not safe, of course you must first go somewhere that you are. That is not ungrounded anxiety, that is taking care of your precious self.
I am not talking about your deep depression or debilitating anxiety attacks, where your body just won’t function. The techniques work there too, but it’s harder to remember and especially to motivate yourself, and it takes much longer to accomplish anything resembling inner peace. I am talking about the earlier uncomfortable feelings that set off alarms, and warn you, “Let’s try not to go back there.”
Today is that kind of a day for me, and lots of oxygen is helping to dissipate the toxic chemicals of the feelings. And I am writing to you.
I am interested to know how each of you handle days like this, and how each strategy works for you. I hope some of you will be willing to really be open in the comments. I hope that even if you find this posts weeks or months from now, you will do likewise; I will get a notification that you answered.
Meanwhile, I wish you sunshine, warm fresh breezes, and bright spring flowers.