Of Course I am Anxious (part 2) + Wound-Licking Time Out

So, where were we? 

In part 1, we talked about how to get ourselves off the hook and begin to stop feeling guilty for being anxious. And about disarming anxiety rather than fighting it.  And how this is scary, and very empowering.
It was sort of a what’s-in-it-for-you kind of post. This one here is more of a how-to post. 

Part 2 of this post is dedicated to last night’s PPD SpeakEasy callers. 9 mothers participated in this phone support chat, and anxiety was a recurring theme. Well, of course it was, right?
I mentioned some of the techniques in this post; they seemed to resonate. So I wanted to make sure these ideas are available for everybody who couldn’t join us last night. And for those who did, WOW! Mamas, you were amazing! The potent mix of  trust, vulnerability, honesty, and compassion was staggering. I got off the phone practically drunk with love.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Disarming anxiety by interacting with it:

Sure that sounds nice, but how on earth do you do that?
Start by asking it some questions. It’s like having a conversation or an interview.
You might want to do this in writing, but you can also do this in your head while your hands are washing the dishes or folding the laundry. Whatever works for you is the right way to do it.

Hello Anxiety
What are you trying to tell me?
What are you trying to protect me from?
Is there anything I can do to help you?
I really don’t like how you make me feel, but I know your intentions are good, you are trying to protect me, right?
Well, the way you are making my body feel isn’t helping. It just scares me and makes me feel weak. Can we possibly find a way to communicate more gently?

(You don’t have to ask all of these questions. You could, of course, but it’s enough to pick the ones that call for you.
Now listen: listen in your mind. Listen in your heart. Listen in your body. If you find an area of your body which is feeling tight or shaky, try placing a hand on it. Gentle pressure or gentle tapping work well too. Now ask your body for information: what are you really afraid of? And guidance: How can I take care of you?
Our bodies hold a lot of information and insights, but we need to remember to look and listen. So go for it.)

Hello to the Me who is Feeling Anxious right now

I’m so sorry you are feeling this way.
There must be some valid reasons for us to feel unsafe right now.
What can these reasons be?
What can we do to address them?

Take inventory
Are you exhausted?
Is there a stressful event, visitor, or task coming up?
Are you overwhelmed?
Is it that time of the month?
All of the above?

Each of these situations (and plenty of others) can explain why you are feeling unsafe. Each of these conditions can function as your justification for the anxiety. Your permission slip. Now see if you can take yourself off the hook for being anxious, so you can focus your energy on attending to the tasks at hand and taking care of you.

Seek nourishment
When you are not feeling safe, instead of feeding your PPDemons by fighting the anxiety, see if you can feed your bodymind, your soul. Try to take a few moments to self-care. You could start by licking your wounds.

Licking your wounds?
Instead of pretending you’ve got no wounds, giving them permission to exist and providing them with much-needed compassion allow your wounds to begin to heal. This can make all the difference in the world.

A Wound-Licking Time-Out 

There are many ways to take a time out to lick your wounds. Everybody is different, there is no one right way. This is what works for me:
I take myself away from the others. I curl up in bed or on the couch. If I can take the time, I go in the shower. Sometimes I sit in my parked car.
I close my eyes. If I need to, I cry (crying in the shower anyone?).
If I really need to, I scream (the car works best).

In my bad days I used to cry in the shower a lot, and sometimes scream in the car too. When Amber Lena (@amberlenab on Twitter) and I talked about coping mechanisms in the #ppdchat support group on Facebook, I remembered how I used to feel so guilty for “being reduced” to crying in the shower or screaming in the car. I used to think that these displays of desperate emotions were proof that I was weak+broken+damaged=my family deserves a better mom=I should just die already. This kind of thinking led to the medication overdose that landed me in the psych-ward. This part of my story is here. 
Well, I have grown, thankfully. Now I see these actions as valid venting options, coping mechanisms. Sometimes they are just what the doctor should have ordered, yet they only bring relief if they are free of shame. And again, the more I allow myself to choose these actions freely, the less often I need to actually use them. I cannot remember the last time I had to scream in the car. Probably close to two years.

And crying in the shower? Yes, I still do that sometimes. I find it comforting. But now I do it with intention rather than shame.

A Soul-Cleansing Shower 
How to make crying in the shower work for you:
Invoke the qualities of comfort and support and trust. Any other qualities that could help support you right now are welcome. Then sprinkle a few drops of essential oil of rosemary or lavender (or any other plant that calms you*) and let the hot water and the comforting scents do their magic, and invite the tears to come and do their cleansing work. No shame. This allows the pain to wash out and away.
I like to take several deep breaths. I tell myself: “Of course you are anxious. You’re allowed to be anxious.” I ask: “Anxiety, what are you trying to protect me from? Please tell me what you need. I’ll do it if I can. I’ll mourn it if I can’t.” I listen for a response. It may not come right away, but it will.

Next, I imagine myself like an injured animal licking its wounds. Then like a cat licking itself clean.

Usually after a few minutes of this, I feel a lot better. It doesn’t take long, mostly less than 10 minutes. The most essential part is that I simply allow myself to feel what I’m feeling instead of fighting and judging myself for having normal human reactions to stress. There is so much power in this permission. It is so freeing. I hope you will experiment with this so you can see for yourself.

If a soul-cleansing shower isn’t possible, if I must have my wound-licking-time-out on dry land, it still works. Imagining this licking is very comforting to me, and of course I still have that inquiry conversation with my anxiety, where I invite my inner wise woman and my anxious self to play nice. Then I make sure to do something that makes my body happy. Like gentle stretching, or drinking a glass of water with a sprig of fresh mint in it, or make myself ginger honey lemonade, or rosemary tea (I love herbs!). I try to involve my senses. Over the years I have collected a bunch of anti-anxiety, out-of-the-head-and into-the-body actions to take as needed. Part three of this post will have a list of  these practical grounding-through-the body suggestions. Stay tuned.

The bottom line: giving myself permission to feel my anxiety and work WITH it rather than against it is a process of finding my power IN a situation I don’t have power OVER. As you can imagine, this brought about a vast improvement: My anxiety hasn’t gone bonkers in over two years.

When I get anxious these days, which I still do occasionally, it happens less often, and with a lot less drama. These days when I do get anxious, it is manageable, and sometimes even useful. More often than not, anxiety is a sign that it is time to attend to myself compassionately, and give myself much-needed self-care. Allowing and validating my emotions is the first step. Let the Permission-Based Healing continue.

– – –

*By the way, essential oils are amazingly potent natural substances which can be found at your local health food store. A small bottle with a dropper will cost somewhere between 3 and 12 bucks, and will last for a long time. In most stores you can sniff  before you buy, which is fun. Rosemary, lime and lavender are my favorites, but don’t take my word for it – many others can be delightful. Your nose will know best.

Just a note of caution. Some essential oils are not appropriate for pregnant and nursing mothers. Since I’m no doctor or herbalist, I couldn’t tell you which ones are safe for you. Therefore it’s a good idea to consult your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant before you get addicted to their loveliness.

 

Comment magic:
Do you ever scream in the car or cry in the shower?
Do you ever take a self-care time-out?
Most of the time when I imagine myself as an injured animal, I’m a big cat – a tiger, I think. If you were an injured animal, what animal would you be?

As always, buckets of love your way.
And whether you comment or not, may the joy be with you.

4 Responses to Of Course I am Anxious (part 2) + Wound-Licking Time Out
  1. Yael
    August 15, 2011 | 11:40 pm

    Cristi, I would love to have you on the Speakeasy, I’m working on adding times and dates. If you would have it your way, what would be the time you are most likely to be able to participate? Your input is very valuable.
    Hugs.

  2. Cristi Comes
    August 15, 2011 | 2:56 am

    I really wish my life as a stay at home mom afforded me more blOcks of time to do #ppdchat and your speakeasy. I really want to talk to you more Yael. I love all of your very helpful practical tips. So helpful!
    Cristi Comes recently posted..I’m Going BLUE for #SuicidePrevention

  3. Robin
    August 12, 2011 | 1:00 am

    I love all the specifics in this post. Since we talked about it, I’ve been trying more and more to acknowledge my anxiety and just let it be. It definitely works, but last week I was so anxious I could only dispel it so much. I couldn’t really figure out exactly what was causing it. Will definitely come back to these questions next time so I can look deeper.

  4. Amber Lena
    August 10, 2011 | 2:51 pm

    Love this. There is a lot of talk about overcoming anxiety, etc. but you’ve outlined actual methods and tools that we can use. Genius, Yael! You’re a rockstar.

Of Course I am Anxious (part 2) + Wound-Licking Time Out

So, where were we? 

In part 1, we talked about how to get ourselves off the hook and begin to stop feeling guilty for being anxious. And about disarming anxiety rather than fighting it.  And how this is scary, and very empowering.
It was sort of a what’s-in-it-for-you kind of post. This one here is more of a how-to post. 

Part 2 of this post is dedicated to last night’s PPD SpeakEasy callers. 9 mothers participated in this phone support chat, and anxiety was a recurring theme. Well, of course it was, right?
I mentioned some of the techniques in this post; they seemed to resonate. So I wanted to make sure these ideas are available for everybody who couldn’t join us last night. And for those who did, WOW! Mamas, you were amazing! The potent mix of  trust, vulnerability, honesty, and compassion was staggering. I got off the phone practically drunk with love.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Disarming anxiety by interacting with it:

Sure that sounds nice, but how on earth do you do that?
Start by asking it some questions. It’s like having a conversation or an interview.
You might want to do this in writing, but you can also do this in your head while your hands are washing the dishes or folding the laundry. Whatever works for you is the right way to do it.

Hello Anxiety
What are you trying to tell me?
What are you trying to protect me from?
Is there anything I can do to help you?
I really don’t like how you make me feel, but I know your intentions are good, you are trying to protect me, right?
Well, the way you are making my body feel isn’t helping. It just scares me and makes me feel weak. Can we possibly find a way to communicate more gently?

(You don’t have to ask all of these questions. You could, of course, but it’s enough to pick the ones that call for you.
Now listen: listen in your mind. Listen in your heart. Listen in your body. If you find an area of your body which is feeling tight or shaky, try placing a hand on it. Gentle pressure or gentle tapping work well too. Now ask your body for information: what are you really afraid of? And guidance: How can I take care of you?
Our bodies hold a lot of information and insights, but we need to remember to look and listen. So go for it.)

Hello to the Me who is Feeling Anxious right now

I’m so sorry you are feeling this way.
There must be some valid reasons for us to feel unsafe right now.
What can these reasons be?
What can we do to address them?

Take inventory
Are you exhausted?
Is there a stressful event, visitor, or task coming up?
Are you overwhelmed?
Is it that time of the month?
All of the above?

Each of these situations (and plenty of others) can explain why you are feeling unsafe. Each of these conditions can function as your justification for the anxiety. Your permission slip. Now see if you can take yourself off the hook for being anxious, so you can focus your energy on attending to the tasks at hand and taking care of you.

Seek nourishment
When you are not feeling safe, instead of feeding your PPDemons by fighting the anxiety, see if you can feed your bodymind, your soul. Try to take a few moments to self-care. You could start by licking your wounds.

Licking your wounds?
Instead of pretending you’ve got no wounds, giving them permission to exist and providing them with much-needed compassion allow your wounds to begin to heal. This can make all the difference in the world.

A Wound-Licking Time-Out 

There are many ways to take a time out to lick your wounds. Everybody is different, there is no one right way. This is what works for me:
I take myself away from the others. I curl up in bed or on the couch. If I can take the time, I go in the shower. Sometimes I sit in my parked car.
I close my eyes. If I need to, I cry (crying in the shower anyone?).
If I really need to, I scream (the car works best).

In my bad days I used to cry in the shower a lot, and sometimes scream in the car too. When Amber Lena (@amberlenab on Twitter) and I talked about coping mechanisms in the #ppdchat support group on Facebook, I remembered how I used to feel so guilty for “being reduced” to crying in the shower or screaming in the car. I used to think that these displays of desperate emotions were proof that I was weak+broken+damaged=my family deserves a better mom=I should just die already. This kind of thinking led to the medication overdose that landed me in the psych-ward. This part of my story is here. 
Well, I have grown, thankfully. Now I see these actions as valid venting options, coping mechanisms. Sometimes they are just what the doctor should have ordered, yet they only bring relief if they are free of shame. And again, the more I allow myself to choose these actions freely, the less often I need to actually use them. I cannot remember the last time I had to scream in the car. Probably close to two years.

And crying in the shower? Yes, I still do that sometimes. I find it comforting. But now I do it with intention rather than shame.

A Soul-Cleansing Shower 
How to make crying in the shower work for you:
Invoke the qualities of comfort and support and trust. Any other qualities that could help support you right now are welcome. Then sprinkle a few drops of essential oil of rosemary or lavender (or any other plant that calms you*) and let the hot water and the comforting scents do their magic, and invite the tears to come and do their cleansing work. No shame. This allows the pain to wash out and away.
I like to take several deep breaths. I tell myself: “Of course you are anxious. You’re allowed to be anxious.” I ask: “Anxiety, what are you trying to protect me from? Please tell me what you need. I’ll do it if I can. I’ll mourn it if I can’t.” I listen for a response. It may not come right away, but it will.

Next, I imagine myself like an injured animal licking its wounds. Then like a cat licking itself clean.

Usually after a few minutes of this, I feel a lot better. It doesn’t take long, mostly less than 10 minutes. The most essential part is that I simply allow myself to feel what I’m feeling instead of fighting and judging myself for having normal human reactions to stress. There is so much power in this permission. It is so freeing. I hope you will experiment with this so you can see for yourself.

If a soul-cleansing shower isn’t possible, if I must have my wound-licking-time-out on dry land, it still works. Imagining this licking is very comforting to me, and of course I still have that inquiry conversation with my anxiety, where I invite my inner wise woman and my anxious self to play nice. Then I make sure to do something that makes my body happy. Like gentle stretching, or drinking a glass of water with a sprig of fresh mint in it, or make myself ginger honey lemonade, or rosemary tea (I love herbs!). I try to involve my senses. Over the years I have collected a bunch of anti-anxiety, out-of-the-head-and into-the-body actions to take as needed. Part three of this post will have a list of  these practical grounding-through-the body suggestions. Stay tuned.

The bottom line: giving myself permission to feel my anxiety and work WITH it rather than against it is a process of finding my power IN a situation I don’t have power OVER. As you can imagine, this brought about a vast improvement: My anxiety hasn’t gone bonkers in over two years.

When I get anxious these days, which I still do occasionally, it happens less often, and with a lot less drama. These days when I do get anxious, it is manageable, and sometimes even useful. More often than not, anxiety is a sign that it is time to attend to myself compassionately, and give myself much-needed self-care. Allowing and validating my emotions is the first step. Let the Permission-Based Healing continue.

– – –

*By the way, essential oils are amazingly potent natural substances which can be found at your local health food store. A small bottle with a dropper will cost somewhere between 3 and 12 bucks, and will last for a long time. In most stores you can sniff  before you buy, which is fun. Rosemary, lime and lavender are my favorites, but don’t take my word for it – many others can be delightful. Your nose will know best.

Just a note of caution. Some essential oils are not appropriate for pregnant and nursing mothers. Since I’m no doctor or herbalist, I couldn’t tell you which ones are safe for you. Therefore it’s a good idea to consult your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant before you get addicted to their loveliness.

 

Comment magic:
Do you ever scream in the car or cry in the shower?
Do you ever take a self-care time-out?
Most of the time when I imagine myself as an injured animal, I’m a big cat – a tiger, I think. If you were an injured animal, what animal would you be?

As always, buckets of love your way.
And whether you comment or not, may the joy be with you.

4 Responses to Of Course I am Anxious (part 2) + Wound-Licking Time Out
  1. Yael
    August 15, 2011 | 11:40 pm

    Cristi, I would love to have you on the Speakeasy, I’m working on adding times and dates. If you would have it your way, what would be the time you are most likely to be able to participate? Your input is very valuable.
    Hugs.

  2. Cristi Comes
    August 15, 2011 | 2:56 am

    I really wish my life as a stay at home mom afforded me more blOcks of time to do #ppdchat and your speakeasy. I really want to talk to you more Yael. I love all of your very helpful practical tips. So helpful!
    Cristi Comes recently posted..I’m Going BLUE for #SuicidePrevention

  3. Robin
    August 12, 2011 | 1:00 am

    I love all the specifics in this post. Since we talked about it, I’ve been trying more and more to acknowledge my anxiety and just let it be. It definitely works, but last week I was so anxious I could only dispel it so much. I couldn’t really figure out exactly what was causing it. Will definitely come back to these questions next time so I can look deeper.

  4. Amber Lena
    August 10, 2011 | 2:51 pm

    Love this. There is a lot of talk about overcoming anxiety, etc. but you’ve outlined actual methods and tools that we can use. Genius, Yael! You’re a rockstar.