Have you ever suffered with anxious thoughts and feelings? I have. Anxious thoughts and feelings tear away at our effectiveness. Not helpful.
A few years ago anxiety was making me feel crazy at work and with my family. Can you relate?
What it looked like for me….
I was running faster than I could go and working way too hard. There was a constant internal dialogue telling me that it was “never enough”. I had a more than little obsession with getting things as perfect as possible and I made myself responsible for other people’s choices. I never rested unless I was sleeping. Not good.
Today I look and feel different. I am responsible for even more than I was three years ago, but internally I have a different conversation. It’s a much more compassionate conversation. Better.
Five things I choose to implement in my life have drastically shifted my perspective.
Name It to Tame It
Often we are so busy that we look for our self worth in what we are doing we don’t allow ourselves time or permission to be and to feel. Since I started tackling anxiety I’ve learned that when I feel an emotion, it is better to allow myself to feel it instead of numbing with BUSY or any other convenient way of numbing. That’s been possible by becoming familiar with more emotions than the top three that most of us default to… happy, sad, pissed off. If I’m going to do this I have to slow down long enough to NOTICE and to learn a broader EMOTIONAL VOCABULARY.
Go ahead… ask yourself how many emotions you can name.
The effect of unfelt emotions can make us act crazy. I didn’t realize that by being busy I was numbing something deeper.
“There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed.” Brené Brown
The amazing thing is that if I can’t take time to experience an emotion in the moment because of what is around me, emotions can be processed later. Left unfelt, emotions become like a snake under a carpet…. and it’s not a friendly snake.
Giving ourselves permission to feel emotions at first may feel like a pendulum is swinging the opposite direction and that it’s out of control. The more you practice emotional awareness, the more your emotions will feel like a friend rather than an enemy. You’ll be able to step into connection, rather than having emotion feel like a run away train that is causing disconnection.
Ask for Help
Feeling emotion is not permission or a license to act out your very worst emotions on others. Rather, it is is a call to something braver…. asking others for what you need, instead of making them pay for your hurt.
During this transitional period of my life, I was living with a lot of pain due to the effects of a compound fracture that I had suffered a few years before. The daily pain I experienced created massive losses for my mobility. I had to grieve these losses and being an external processor meant sharing my pain with my trusted friends. I am so grateful for my tribe!
Being able to put words and time to accompany the losses was far more productive…. and less damaging for those around me. It takes a lot more courage than numbing the pain. It felt like the most courageous thing I could do. Growth and capacity was the by-product of my choice to feel the emotion. Who knew?
I am Responsible for Me
I have lived with blame and anger on the tip of my tongue… and worse. The more I read, the more I discover that blame is not useful for anyone. Placing responsibility where it is due, is a completely different conversation. If I am responsible for me, there are a lot of courageous choices I get to make each day in parenting, relationships, business and life. Blaming yourself or others is a sure way that pain is lurking under the surface of your choices. We’re wired for connection… blame creates disconnection.
Anger is also a tell-tale sign that there are other emotions that have been set aside or bottled up. If you are finding that anger is your default asking for help is a great way forward.
Even in the bleakest moments, there can be joy. The more we step into our capacity for joy, the more joy we can feel. Gratitude is a sure-fire way of awakening joy. There is always something to be grateful for. Always.
Watch out for the Joy Thief…. the story we tell ourselves about how we don’t deserve or can’t stay in the space of increasing joy. Joy isn’t meant to be a mask to cover other emotions. Joy is found in being able to acknowledge harder emotions and move through them.
Counter-intuitive? I think so too.