Have you ever noticed how much time you spend worrying? Sometimes, it can feel like a wave. The anxiety sets in slowly around a specific event. Maybe it’s a work meeting, a child’s first sleep away, a pregnancy. The worry then culminates to the point where it’s distracting. You feel restless and your body is tense. You can’t get the “what if” thoughts out of your head. Then, said event happens and there is a rush of relief. You have a period of calm. Just as you begin to enjoy it, the next wave of anxiety begins to form and crest. The topics you can worry about are endless.
As one of the women we interviewed for our book put it, “anxiety is free floating and will attach to anything”. Personally, once I realized this I made a firm decision not to live in perpetual fear. Doing so would not create the life I wanted for myself nor my family. Anxiety often comes from a feeling of lack of control. Realistically, the only thing we can ever control is our response to things. We resist this because we worry over what matters to us. We want to ensure our children are safe or our job is secure. We can reduce risk by doing proper research and taking appropriate precautions but ultimately, we control nothing but our own minds and hearts. Intellectually, I was able to separate out the things I could control from the things I couldn’t. However, internally there was still a battle going on.
You have probably heard a lot about mindfulness and meditation. There is a reason they are so trendy. They work! A regular meditation practice will help translate that intellectual knowledge of control into a deep, heartfelt experience of acceptance. There is a lot of noise about meditation and I find that people don’t really seem to know what it is. It is not a blank mind. It is a mind focused on one object. I give explicit directions on how to meditation during my appointments, in formal classes, and in my book. Like any skill, it takes time and patience to develop. You wouldn’t consider running a 5K without some training, same with meditation. Once you get in the swing of it, it becomes easier. Mindfulness comes from meditation. It is “presence”, or “being in the moment”. The point of developing mindfulness is to catch your mind when the anxiety or fear starts to attach to an object. So, when you are taking an exam, going to the dentist, or waiting for your teenager to return home, instead of having your habitual response of fear or anxiety, you can separate from it. The anxiety can become its own entity and not take over your mind. Of course, you will always experience some level of worry. That is part of being human. The goal is to reduce the worry to a level that doesn’t interfere with how you enjoy things or function. Ideally, worry will become a rare experience for you.
Sharon Praissman Fisher is currently accepting clients at her practice, Nurtured Well, LLC