ANXIETY: BRINGING IT IN CLOSER

I’m sure that sounds absolutely crazy; why would you want to bring anxiety closer? That is probably the last thing on your mind when you think about anxiety. You probably want to push it as far away as you can, you probably tense against it, and pray that it will pass quickly.

Is that approach working for you? Is fighting against anxiety making is smaller, less intense or less frequent? If the answer is no, read on and see if a new approach might be helpful. Our normal reaction is to become tense and to prepare for battle when we experience something uncomfortable or distressing. In my experience and the experience of many people I have worked with, this only serves to make the scary thing even scarier.

Next time you feel the wave of anxiety start to grip you, take a deep breath. Start to label all of the sensations happening in your body. Perhaps it starts with a tingling in your chest, or maybe a heavy feeling just under your collarbone. Maybe your stomach starts to feel tight, or maybe you start to feel nauseous. Do you feel lightheaded? Do you feel pain anywhere? Describe the pain – is it sharp, dull, hot, cold? How big of an area does the pain take up? Does it move or stay in one place? Keep labeling everything you notice. Try not to go any farther than labeling. Don’t add on any kind of judgments to the labeling – like “oh my gosh this is going to take over my whole body”, or “I think I am going to pass out or have a heart attack.” Just keep labeling without any story attached.

As you label the sensations, keep breathing. Every once in a while stop labeling and just focus on your breath. Feel the air coming in your nostrils and filling up your lungs. Feel the air leaving your lungs and going back out your nostrils. Do this for a count of 3 cycles. Each cycle consists of an in breath and an out breath. After 3 cycles, go back and notice what sensations are happening in your body. Bring them in close enough to really get descriptive with what they feel like. Rather than getting tense, try to imagine softening and letting those sensations in. Soften with the sensations rather than tensing against them.

If you get to a place when you feel like you just can’t take it anymore and the anxiety is going to take over, commit to just 1 more minute of this practice. Just 1 minute. You can do it. The anxiety has not killed your before, and it is not likely to in the next minute, so stick with the labeling and breathing for just 1 more minute.

The idea is that we tend to push away (or at least we think we are pushing away) that which is painful. It really isn’t going away, it just appears bigger and darker and scarier when we can’t see it clearly. When we bring it in closer and we can see it more clearly, the power of whatever is causing us pain tends to get smaller. It is important to stay focused on your experience directly in the moment, and not get caught in the story that we usually make up to go along with the pain. This is not easy. We have had years of practice in making up and following stories to go along with absolutely everything we experience in our lives, good or bad. We usually don’t have nearly as much experience in just staying in direct contact with what is going on. For example, imaging being outside when it is really cold. Do you ever just experience all of the sensations of being cold, or do you say to yourself “I hate being cold, I have got to get inside and warm up or my hands are going to fall off! I have got to move to somewhere warmer, I can’t stand being so cold all the time!” That’s the story I’m talking about.

Practice labeling what you are experiencing when you are not in the middle of an anxiety attack. Do it when it’s easy, when there is not much intensity. Practice when it’s easy, and it will be easier to practice when it’s tough.

Fun Ways to Connect with Your Partner

It’s easy to get caught up in the routine of everyday life of work, bills, housework, running errands, not to mention kids. It’s easy to let the weeks go by, which turn into months, which turn into years. What’s not so easy is to make time to connect with your partner. I don’t mean connecting while you clean up the kitchen together after dinner, or connecting while you go to the market or connecting while you bathe the baby. I mean intentional time together, time to have fun and enjoy each other. In case you have forgotten what that looks like, here are some ideas:

  1. Play a video game together. Now before you just skip over this to the next item, at least hear me out. There are some fun interactive games that could really get you laughing together. Try something like Kinect Sports on the XBOX, or a Mario Bros racing game.
  2. Play a board game. A little friendly competition is a great way to share some bonding time. Some of the old classics are still the best.
  3. Rent a tandem bike and go for a ride. Take a ride along the river or wherever the road takes you.
  4. Pack up a picnic and have lunch or dinner in the park. If packing a lunch is too much, then grab some chicken or sandwiches on the way. No need to make it a lot of work.
  5. Take line dancing or salsa lessons. Don’t take yourselves too seriously, have a good time laughing at yourselves. Take it up a notch and dress the part!
  6. Find a new restaurant to check out. Try a whole new type of food, not just a new restaurant. If you’ve been everywhere in your area, go to a neighboring community and see what you can find.
  7. Make some popcorn, grab all the pillows and blankets you can find and watch a cheesy movie at home.
  8. Go roller-skating. Even if neither one of you knows how, go anyway.
  9. Play mini golf. Enjoy the fresh air together. If it’s a place that has laser tag or bumper cars try that as well!
  10. Go to the drive-in. It’s a great way to rekindle some romance. Make sure to bring a blanket to cuddle under.

Spending time with your partner doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. It does take a little planning and effort. Be creative, be silly. The point is doing something together to stay connected, and to create new memories together. Don’t worry if things don’t go as planned. Sometimes when things go way off track the best memories are made.

Don’t forget to plan a longer getaway when possible. It’s important to spend time together frequently in smaller ways, but it’s also important to have extended time together, a long weekend at least, a full vacation when possible. This is hard to do when you have little ones, and an overnight together might have to suffice for a while. Whatever length of time you can take, take it. It might be hard to leave a crying little one, but in the long run it will be worth it. Better to work on your relationship and have an upset child for a few minutes, than to let your relationship fall apart and have an upset child every weekend when he has to switch houses.

Your relationship is worth it. Nurture it and it will grow into something beautiful.