Nothing provokes more anxiety in me than when one of my fur children aren’t doing well. As I’ve chosen not to have human children my parental responsibilities reside primarily with my animal family. Four cats and a Pug. I find it hard to imagine anything worse than losing a child and yet I have chosen a life where I will out live all of mine. And it’s my responsibility to keep them safe and alive for as long as possible. I feel the weight of this duty rather heavily on my shoulders. After 4 emergency vet trips in under a year, during a pandemic, a small bump behind an ear now starts a stress cycle that can take more than a few deep breathes to accept.
I’ve learned to ask myself a few questions when this anxiety spikes, fur baby related or otherwise. It helps me separate the worry from the anxiety and allows myself the energy and space to make the best decisions possible for my furry fam.
What has gone wrong here?
Be as objective as possible. Facts only. Try to separate what’s happening in your external world vs your internal world. Facts vs thoughts & feelings. If you can, try to unidentify with the thoughts. Be the awareness that can witness the thoughts, not the thoughts themselves.
Are you story telling?
Are you pretending you know what’s going to happen? How much of what is making you anxious is actually happening right now and how much is what you fear will happen in the future? Are your thoughts full of anxiety provoking stories you are telling yourself that you cannot know will come true?
Can you stop the anxiety from rising up? Very unlikely. In fact the more you try the worse it may become. Like trying to put a cap back on a shook up bottle of Diet Coke. You can however, begin practicing the ability to stop the worrying that fuels the anxiety. The worrying that is innate to the stories is causing the suffering; the fear and denial of what is or what could be.
Can you separate the thoughts from the feeling? The more you worry, the more the feeling of anxiety increases, AND the more anxious you feel, the more you worry. The thinking feeds the feeling and the feeling feeds the thinking. It’s a cyclical trap. I can spend hours trying to think my way out of anxiety without prevail. It’s very difficult to think your way out of the feeling it feeds. It’s like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.
Practice taking yourself gently away from these thoughts by being in the present moment. Even just slowing the thoughts down can be great progress and provide relief. Practice accepting whatever you’re feeling at the moment. Where does it physically live? Your stomach? Your chest? Now realize there is nothing wrong with feeling this way. It’s just a feeling and feelings come and go, sometimes on a whim. If you can be at peace with the anxiety living inside you, the suffering fades away. It is now a harmless feeling without the fuel it needs to control you. The weight can now begin to lift.
Anxiety is neither good or bad, until you believe it so. Suffering from anxiety only happens if you decide you shouldn’t be anxious, that what is shouldn’t be. Once you allow it to be, it allows you to see that there is nothing wrong here, just a feeling. A feeling that you do not need to fuel with thoughts.
If the relief isn’t reason enough to practice being ok with the feeling of anxiety, there’s actually an even better consequence of accepting it. An enormous amount of energy can exist in this cyclical loop of worry and anxiety. By teasing it apart and releasing it, you can harness the energy for something far more useful. You have actually taken your first step towards being prepared for when things actual go really wrong, which they always eventually do. This is the human condition and the only path to spiritual growth. You begin to harvest the presence needed to make wise and effective decisions without the fear and panic clouding your path. The anxious energy can actually become useful once you see it for what it actually is. It’s just an abundance of energy stuck in a cyclical trap. You let go on the fearful thoughts by recognizing their futility. Find where the energy has built up in your body and allow it to reabsorb into other parts of you, filtered through the light of presence.
I don’t mind being anxious, it’s an opportunity to do good and take another step towards an enlightened positive energy that manifests the best possible outcomes in any situation. Progress not perfection.
Take care of yourself,