By Lucy Higgins ICF accredited Life & Mindset Coach
Some are on super-yachts. Some have just the one oar”.
As an empath, this quote resonates with me. A reminder to be kind and sensitive to what others are going through. We have all experienced unique challenges over the past year and I’ve noticed that the same wave that rocks one person’s boat can capsize another’s.
Based on her experience in Auschwitz, psychologist Dr Edith Eger believes that even in times of extreme adversity we have the power to choose how we react. She says ”The prison is in your mind. The key is in your pocket”.
One psychological therapy commonly used to treat anxiety - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – suggests the same - that we can control our thoughts if we choose to. And if we change our thoughts we can influence our behaviour, feelings and physical sensations.
But is it really this simple?
I have suffered from anxiety since I was a child. In January 2020 I believed I was “managing it” pretty well with various evidence-based coping strategies that were working for me.
But little did I know what was around the corner. Four personal life events happened one after the other, which in any other year would have challenged the most resilient of people, but as we now know, 2020 wasn’t just any other year.
Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle says: “Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future and not enough presence”.
I agree but what if the fear consumes you to such a degree that you can’t calm down enough to SPELL the word “present” let alone BE it?
I could write about wellbeing theories all day long but the truth is, when anxiety had me in a headlock, reading about what I “should” be doing made me feel even more stuck. Instead I took it “one day at a time” and listened to my intuition.
These are my 5 tips for coping with anxiety based on my personal lived experience:
1. I set up a WhatsApp support group
My anxious mind was telling me that I needed to prepare for more change or loss – I was in “fight or flight”. Rather than ignore this, I accepted it and took action. I chose a small group of friends and family who gave me a psychologically safe space to share my thoughts. Their validation allowed me to be less emotionally attached to the fear underlying the thoughts. It was a space where I could be vulnerable and honest about how I was feeling - I felt connected and “held”.
2. We are what we consume
Social media, television, books, podcasts*…unsurprisingly our use of technology has soared in the past year. I noticed how certain content made me feel and I took action to ensure everything I consumed was affecting me positively. I found podcasts and books featuring real life stories of people who had survived adversity really helped me and gave me hope that one day I would find meaning in the emotional pain I was experiencing.
3. The Serenity Prayer
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”. This was a good reminder to identify and write down what I could control and what I couldn’t. It made it easier to let go of the thoughts that fuelled my anxiety, freeing up space in my mind to focus and take positive action.
4. Accept the fear
Tony Robbins says “Dance with the fear”. By accepting that I was feeling anxious, my shoulders dropped and the fear lost its hold over me. Despite the fear FEELING very real, I found accepting it much easier than the genuinely real consequences of the change and loss I’d experienced.
5. Get to know the new you
I could sense the events I was experiencing were changing me, so I got curious. I noticed how some of my core beliefs were no longer true and explored how my thoughts and feelings were changing and why. I named my emotions and used them as sign posts – what were they telling me? I also noticed what and who grounded me. For me, walking in the open countryside and the woods with my dog grounds me. As does the ritual of lighting an Aromatherapy Candle, lying on my bed, closing my eyes and focusing on my breathing. What grounds you?
You can follow Lucy on Instagram @bigtalkformums. Click on the link in the bio to book a free 60 minute session, download free workbooks and sign up to The Big Talk for Mums Community.
FREE help is available 24/7. Go to www.mind.org.uk or www.anxietyuk.org.uk for evidence-based ways to cope with anxiety. Or call the Samaritans on 116 123, text SHOUT to 85258 or Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774. You can find a trained therapist at www.bacp.co.uk
* My Top 3 Podcasts
How to Fail with Elizabeth Day
Happy Place – Fearne Cotton
Under the Skin – Russell Brand
My Top 3 Books
This Too Shall Pass: Stories of Change, Crisis and Hopeful Beginnings – Dr Julia Samuel
Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor E. Frankl
Who Moved my Cheese? - Dr Spencer Johnson
My Top 3 Netflix documentaries
The Secret (Rhonda Byrne)
The Call to Courage (Brene Brown)
The Shift (Dr Wayne Dyer)
My Top 3 Instagram accounts (and their books)
@mattzhaig (The Midnight Library)
@suzyreading (Self-care for Tough Times: How to Heal in Times of Anxiety, Loss and Change))
@the.holistic.psychologist (How to do the Work – Dr Nicole LePera)