Feeling Anxious and Wanna Shake It?

You complete your CalmUp® Journey, and your rating of peace and joy doubles from a “4” to an “8” on the 1–10 scale. Then on your way to the office, someone dangerously cuts you off in traffic, and your morning is now anything but calm. Your car is fine, and you’re fine. You just can’t shake the anxiety that seems to have taken hold of you.

What do you do? You have to get to work, and you don’t want to go in carrying the morning’s tension. No matter how much you tell yourself to stop being ridiculous, darker thoughts keep creeping in:

  • That bleep driver!
  • What if I’d have been hit?
  • So much for moving up to an “8.” Now I’m more like a “2.”
  • What if something were to happen to me, and I’m not there for my family?”
  • I’m so mad!

It’s strange how your day can change in an instant. A careless driver is just one example of the type of occurrence that has the power to shift your mood from radiant to fatalistic. Even simple events can become upsetting or disrupting, like a clothing tear or a spill, a bad hair day or a blemish, something that gets broken or destroyed. More serious events can leave you feeling anxious or heartbroken, such as the death of a loved one, learning of a terminal illness, or an unexpected disaster.

How you cope depends upon many factors. From the interpretation and meaning that you give to the event, to your support systems, your faith, and even your biology. I don’t believe there is any one right or wrong way to cope. There are numerous coping choices, and you could probably brainstorm at least 10 possibilities in five minutes. I’ll give it a go:

  1. Walk into the office, say good morning, and get to work.
  2. Sit and meditate for 5 minutes.
  3. Go grab a cup of coffee and read the paper. Your life is a gem in comparison to what you read in the news.
  4. Call a friend for support.
  5. Visualize blowing the stress of the morning into a helium balloon and then setting it free.
  6. Take the morning off.
  7. Tell your coworkers about what happened to you and trust that you’re not alone.
  8. Say a prayer for yourself and include one for the person who cut you off in traffic.
  9. Focus on feeling grateful for your safety, your family, etc.
  10. Return to the conscious choices that you made in your morning’s CalmUp® Journey (see www.DrLorieGose.com)

The choices for what to do are endless. Yet coping isn’t always about doing, it’s also about being. Can you allow for being the way you are… mad? hurt? scared? Instead of trying to cover up your feelings or push them away, can you sit safely with your fear?

You might think that opening to these uncomfortable feelings would leave you feeling anxious. You might fear that the feelings will be too intense or perhaps never end. Assuming that you’re not experiencing a traumatic stress disorder, the opposite may hold true. In other words, it may be easier for you to shake off your anxious feelings by first accepting them instead of disowning them.

IT’S ABOUT YOU:

1. The next time something shifts your mood from light to dark, just watch yourself.  Be aware of how you hang on to the pessimism. Notice how your mood is affecting your behavior.

2. How can you acknowledge a previously unrecognized state of mind? What shift, if any, could you make?

3. What will it take for you to begin to love and accept all parts of yourself?

Author: Dr. Lorie Gose

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  • http://www.facebook.com/vepsteinjohnson Valerie Epstein-Johnson, LPC, ATR

    This post definitely resonates with me. Sometimes letting go can be as simple as watching yourself and acknowledging how an external event can create a sudden and dramatic shift in mood and then behavior. There’s nothing like dealing with bureaucracy, for instance, to get the blood boiling. Ever wait in line at the DMV, for instance, for what seems like (or may actually be) hours, only to learn that you don’t have a document they need? As petty and typical as this kind of experience seems, experiences like this can send me into a maelstrom of anger, regret, guilt, etc. and make me ripe for further petty frustrations and taking it out on people close to me. When this happened recently, I so wanted to hold onto my anger at the DMV clerk for her rudeness, self-blame for not thinking about what I would need before arriving, and urgency to call my husband to blame him for not reminding me what to bring. Luckily I had forgotten my phone and I was with my daughter; I had no choice but to hold the feelings or let them go. I observed how bad it felt to continue to entertain the reaction and how futile it was in changing anything for the better and how it affected my behavior with my daughter. I knew if I had had my phone I would have made an angry call that would have only created unnecessary tension between me and someone I love and make me feel worse.. I made a choice to let go. Though it might feel inauthentic at first, the intensity soon fades and you are then able to ground yourself in the moment at hand. Thanks, Lorie, for the reminder to always make this a goal.

    • Dr. Lorie Gose

      Valerie, there were so many relevant pieces to your comment. The three that were most meaningful to me include: (1) the fact that you didn’t have your phone, I believe, was a blessing rather than a coincidence, (2) how you modeled effective behavior for your daughter during a demanding time, and (3) the moment when you made your conscious choice was on the button. Thank you for taking the time to tell us your story.