Anxiety Does Not Live in Now
Anxiety is only in the future. I live with a chronic illness, with no cure, that only gets worse with time and at any minute could blind or paralyze me. I have been forced to figure out how to deal with fear — fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, and fear of losing my life and myself. Had I not figured out how to manage that anxiety I very likely would have ended my life.
I am telling you this so that you understand that I get it. I get the terror that can come with the unknown. I also get that managing anxiety is not easy and yet, it can be done. Lots of things are not easy — losing weight, employing self care, exercising, and yet they too can happen as long as you are patient, consistent and give yourself lots of compassion as you learn.
Bottom line. Anxiety does not live in the present moment
Unless you are, in that moment, actually experiencing a threat (an earthquake, a gun to your head, a car accident, or your basic needs are not met) anxiety is a result of something that you, consciously or unconsciously made up. Again, if you are in a state of threat in that moment then anxiety is a reasonable, normal, and healthy emotional state but 99% of the time when anxiety strikes, you are safe. You are OK. You are in the land of “what if” not “what is”.
In the moment, ask yourself...
So, when you begin to feel the first feelings of anxiety ask yourself if you are in the present moment. I can almost promise the answer will be NO.
Lets be clear. The present moment is not today. It is not an hour from now. It is not 10 minutes from now. It is now. 11:57 Sunday morning.
Then ask yourself “Am I OK?”
OK does not mean perfect. It does not mean just the way you would like. It does not mean that you don’t prefer to be a different way. It just means OK. Maybe you would prefer to be warmer, not have a headache, be richer, have more friends, and get your dog to stop barking. Certainly, we all wish this pandemic would go away. Whatever. But you are OK.
Taking into consideration
For example, I am never the way I would prefer because I am always physically uncomfortable at the very least. Tingling, burning, squeezing 24/7 for 22 years. It sucks and clearly is not the way I would prefer to be.
However, I am OK. I am not in danger. I can find 5 things that, in that moment validates that I am OK. EX: My wife is typing next to me. My son is with my mom and they are safe. I can type and think and see. I can have water. I can see the birds outside. All those things remind me that I am safe.
Because, most likely, in the present moment you are OK and what has happened to create anxiety is that you have moved out of the present moment and into the future with a bunch of “WHAT IFS”. What if the virus gets me, what if my phone stops working, what if I lose my job, what if I pee my pants, what if I say something stupid, what if the shower only has cold water? WHAT IF?
It is as if you have bought a ticket to the crazy train and it is driving you, full speed, into the land of WHAT IF. Sucks. Bad. I know.
Stay in the moment
Well, the truth is that you will handle it. Shit will happen. It does and it has and most likely, you have dealt with it and you will again. But you are not there yet and that is the whole point of living in the present moment and not one second outside of it.
So, stay in the moment and when you feel anxiety pull yourself gently back into the now. Find a few things that remind of you how you are OK right now. Because most likely you are fine.
Know that when and if the stuff you are worried about happens you will figure it out. How do I know that? Because you are still here. Because you have handled it. Because I am still here and I have handled it. We are OK right now. And right now is the only place to be.
Do you ever feel like your feet and ankles are burning on the inside but cold to the touch?