How to Deal with Anxiety

Accepting the barren lands of our existence will more often create a new life.

I don’t imagine that there are too many people who have not struggled with stress and anxiety at some point in their life. Have you? I know I have. It is something I breathe through quite often some days.

Let’s be clear about the difference between stress and anxiety though. Everyone has stress. Good and not so good. Stress is more about the daily frustrations of life. Anxiety is much different. Involved with anxiety is apprehension, intense worrying, fear, and feelings of uneasiness. I liken it to having a war with myself.

It can present its unwanted   head especially during times when change arrives in my life. Uncertainty is not something I am comfortable with and change often brings that, doesn’t it!?

One of the biggest hurts was the questions I asked myself. What is wrong with me? What must people think? I berated myself. Scolded myself. Told myself to get over it. What’s the big deal? Calm down!!! I can’t handle this at my age? Really? Come on now!! I fell into a spiral of self-doubt that was excruciatingly painful. There was no joy in my life.

In what way did it show up for me? Dizziness. Tremours. Vulnerability. There were days where it felt I was spinning out of control and along with that came nausea. Fear showed up when my heart pounded in my chest. There were days when I all I could do was stay in the moment by breathing through that moment in order to get to the next one.

My daughter Genevieve, creative soul that she is, got me a box of crayons and some paper and it was like magic for me. It allowed me another way to  ‘stay in the moment’ and just notice what was coming up in my thoughts and let them float away as I sat there colouring. It was like being a child again and I experienced what it was like back those many years ago to just relax and have joy in my life. Imagine that! A simple thing like colouring!

Sometimes, a simple hug from my sweet son Cole would bring me such comfort. It’s going to be okay mom he would say. Relax mom, I love you.

There was a time when I would have run away from it, avoid it at all possibilities and in a myriad of ways. Oh yes, I found some very creative ways to avoid that heart pounding, palm clenching, teeth gnashing and sleep robbing experience.

How To Deal With Anxiety

Quite accidentally, (perhaps synchronicity was visiting), while I was reading about Mindfulness I came upon something called ACT.  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. When I first read about it I thought to myself. Are they kidding me? They want me to embrace this experience?? Accept? Stop avoiding? Well that’s just nuts!

What  I was currently doing did work, but only for a short time,  and ACT promised that if I learned to accept and not think of  my anxiety as a barrier and instead live my life and bring anxiety along with me that I could have a life. I could have a life that wasn’t spent solely on thinking about ways to get rid of my anxiety. Well, okay, I could give it a shot!

ACT invited me to pay attention to myself, focus on me and what I was feeling, honour my struggles. How? I got to know myself a bit better. Pay attention. Move towards my anxiety. Not away.

So I started to become more mindful of what I was thinking, of my emotions and of the actions I was taking and to learn that  I could not control them and indeed, coming to realize that by trying to do so was actually creating more suffering in my life. ACT often uses metaphors to explain the idea of just allowing the feelings and thoughts to come. I would think about my life as one of those metaphors and it made more sense. It helped my understanding.

I continue to use ways to relax. Nothing wrong with that! Being in nature is way for me to connect with the divine and that brings me such peace. Walking, swimming, reading, having a soak in my tub, a massage, all work together.

Yes anxiety is a pain for me but I have lost the need to fight it! Well, most of the time!

I still experience anxiety, and all the unwanted and uncomfortable feelings that go along with it, but I my relationship with anxiety has changed. I no longer panic, thinking oh it’s never going to end, never going to go away.

 Now… In the stillness, I accept. And create a new life.

Colleen Ginter

About Colleen Ginter

Colleen is a Registered Clinical Social Worker with a Master’s Degree in Social Work, practicing since 1994. Being a social worker is a calling, not a job and helping others is something that she deeply loves. Her greatest joy is spending time with her children, family and friends. In her spare time she enjoys reading and meditating at the lake where she resides. View Full Bio