She asked, “what do you do when you have a knot in your stomach that won’t go away?”
Quickly the topic of our little discussion group became ANXIETY, that much dreaded extremely normal inexplicable human emotion we all wish we’d never felt. There are varying degrees of course, from a case of nervous energy to sweaty palms and a rapid heart beat. In some cases it’s debilitating. That’s the “barely functioning” kind and man is that one a awful.
Personally I’ve experienced all three and then my own weird versions of it. In the moment, it seems unbearable, as if I’m going to suffocate from own emotions, but I don’t. I actually never have. Turns out, dying from a panic attack is extremely rare, in fact, I’m not sure that it’s ever happened. None the less, if you find yourself having such an experience, you might feel like you’re dying, regardless of what the truth is.
So, what in the world do we do? How do we overcome? Well, there’s a list of options: therapy, medicines, meditation, prayer, group support, strategic brain exercises, add infinitum. Some of these things actually help. However, I have found one strategy to be more affective than anything else, ACCEPTANCE.
It has come to my attention, after 18 years of facing and not facing anxiety, that it is my resistance, which causes me the most harm. In my work, with The Song Workshop, I have experienced the same thing with clients. The first question they ask, when struggling with anxiety is
WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
Guess what, NOTHING is wrong with you! Panic is just a huge jumble of feelings that we try to process all at once. Here’s the problem, at least for me, I tend to believe the feelings and s write a story, that I then continue to let dominate my life. From that most unstable place, I find evidence to build a case that proves the panic is true, thereby creating these little roads in my brain, which continually lead me back to the panic, until one day I no longer experience anxiety, but anxiety becomes my way of life. I’m STUCK and left with the question, “now what”?
Today, just for today, I’m doing something different. I am not resisting! And I’m taking this whole journey one step further, I’m having compassion for myself. There’s nothing worse than spiraling down the rabbit hole and beating yourself up for being there. So I stop and say to myself, while breathing slowly, something like this:
“Oh, it looks like I’m going down the rabbit hole. Well, that’s ok. I have compassion for myself. Even though I’m spinning, I am safe. Even though I’m scared, I am safe. Even though my body is flushing adrenaline, I am safe. Nothing has to get done right now. I’ll just sit with myself. Even though I am going down the rabbit hole, I am safe.”
And then, I breathe. I observe. I pause. I DON’T judge. I listen. I wait. I DON’T find a solution. I let it come and therefore I let it go. Before long, the compassion I give myself, becomes my way of life. I have a new truth. But I also take it a step further, because it’s PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. If I find myself in the downward spiral, and I beat myself up and the panic gets worse and I run around looking for some kind of solution, I let myself do that too. Because, I’m human and this whole thing is a journey. So the next time, I try again. And I’ll keep trying.
I’m getting much better with trusting the process. I’m not believing the “stories of anxiety” nearly as much as I used to. So, that’s the long answer to the short question
“what do you do when you have a knot in your stomach that won’t go away?”
sending you love wherever you are in the world