By Betsy Hicks
The shoreline path on Bellingham Bay was filled with post-holiday walkers, as we all tried to grab a dose of rare winter sunshine. On one side a hilly forest; on the other, a calm bay that bumped up against the scattering of islands. Walking north, I saw the jagged snow-covered mountains in Canada. My loved one is next to me, my son with a reliable sitter. All is well.
Deep Breath in…and out. I am so happy.
Breath…I love living here.
Breath…I chose the perfect place to live.
Breath…I’m glad I’m not in San Francisco.
Breath…that damn landlord really screwed us.
Breath…I was counting on that money.
Breath…he’s a horrible person.
Breath…I’m broke and there is no hope for my future.
Sound familiar? We all do it. We take in a beautiful moment, then immediately find something negative to cut the line from happiness. It’s as if we need to convince ourselves not to be happy because there are so many things to worry about and besides, we might jinx it and then the other shoe will drop.
I spent my adult years with some inconceivable disappointments. Nearly three decades of caring for my son who suffers from ailments and indescribable pain due to his autism. Going through an undeserved bankruptcy because of circumstances beyond my control, and unexpectedly watching my husband who I adored, take his last breath. Each time, my life was rich and abundantly happy just before the crash.
Settled comfortably into my new home with my fiancé Ron, and son Joey, I wake each morning with a beautiful lake view in a home I never thought was possible. While I slept, a new slate has been cleared and my freshly caffeinated morning brain surges with ideas filled with love, hopefulness, appreciation, and confidence. But throughout the day, my fearful patterns return, and by bedtime, I’m nearly trembling with racing thoughts of, “When will this be taken away?”
How can we shift patterns like this? So many of my spiritual teachers, including John, my late husband, simply would say, “Think of something else,” but those who struggle with deep anxiety are all too aware it’s nearly impossible to abruptly switch gears when the momentum of fear takes hold. My practical mind is reasonable:
We make enough money to live here.
We have many skills to generate money.
I’ve always been taken care of before.
There is no spiritual punishment and the Universe is always guiding me.
Challenges always have solutions.
I will eventually see the benefit from anything that happens.
All of my past struggles created a better me.
I am worthy.
I am worthy.
I am worthy.
When we write lists like this (and by the way we need to write them to avoid the bouncing monkey mind) the momentum of good thoughts creates more thoughts like it; that is the law of attraction. Momentum is the law of attraction. Thoughts build from whatever momentum you have stepped into, so choose good feeling thoughts because if you wobble, it can go gloomy very quickly. In theory, I know this, but in reality, it’s work in progress.
Crippling anxiety comes when you cannot get out from under negative thoughts. Albeit there are physiological reasons that are very real, making some more susceptible to chronic anxiety, there are still tools that can be used to break the pattern of negativity. Here are some that work for me:
- Sleep; the fastest way to cut off momentum. I will admit that I have resorted to sleeping pills in the middle of the night, just to make thoughts stop. Panic attacks can prompt desperate measures. It’s okay to find short solution bridges while searching for long-term strategies.
- Omega-3’s; although anti-anxiety medication for many is extremely helpful, I would encourage you to try a great quality Omega-3 oil before you medicate. There are many other supplements and herbs that have extraordinary results, so consult an integrative doctor and/or research to find the best options for you.
- Don’t try to overly appreciate your “blessings” when you are spiraling downward. It’s just too large of a leap. There are few things that will piss off an anxious person more than reminding them to “count their blessings,” because now she feels anxious and a failure at being grateful.
- When you are in a good place, give loved ones helpful prompts for what to say when you are panicking. “That’s not helpful!” I’ve screamed at Ron as he searchers and fails to find the right words to help me in a crisis. However, when I am feeling better, after I have apologized, I give him the dialogue I need to be reminded of next time.
- Retreat from news, media, or “entertainment” that leaves you feeling hopeless. Stop picking at the wound, or if you must, limit the time you spend becoming educated or partaking in activism if it takes energy from you rather than empowers you.
- Try yoga or any activity that makes you focus on the breath. I resisted yoga for years because I didn’t want to be locked in a room with my thoughts. Now, I have a daily 1/2 hour yoga practice assigned by my teacher. I light candles, play soft music, pull out my mat and do my practice for the umpteenth time. I know it by heart, which is part of the purpose. I go through the motions without interruption. I breathe, and aside from physically putting my body in a great place before bedtime, this ritual quiets my mind.
- Journal; begin releasing the fear as you stream your thoughts on paper and conclude with asking the question, “What does my higher-self wish to say to me?” You can be your own cheerleader if you welcome the words to flow onto the paper.
- Get out into nature! I don’t let the weather determine when; I simply dress accordingly and let the fresh air flow through me. Walk, run, bike, whatever feels good. I try never to glance at my phone and stay present in the moment with wide eyes and open ears.
A new decade is beginning, and it’s time for me to tell a new story:
2020 will be filled with the confidence I deserve from a lifetime of finding solutions when my situation looked hopeless.
2020 will be filled with the worthiness I deserve because I am always doing my best.
2020 will be filled with laughter because it’s an indication of my joy.
2020 will be filled with contrast that always carries growth and expansion in its solution.
2020 will be filled with love because I am love, not fear. My actions and thoughts stem from knowing this is my truth.
I will breathe out 2019, breathe in 2020…knowing everything I have learned in the past has prepared me for this powerful decade ahead.
There is no other shoe waiting to drop. The Universe only expands. Rather than white-knuckling, waiting for the next disaster to strike, I will use my tools and meet 2020 sunshine on my face, looking forward.