Many of us have anxiety levels that are higher than usual on any given day in 2020. Things aren’t where we’d want them to be. We’re being pushed to practice flexibility in ways that we would have never imagined. It’s quite easy to get overwhelmed and get sucked into the anxiety vortex. I’ve had several clients feeling disappointed with themselves when noticing their worries increasing. The reality is: anxiety is a normal and adaptive response to life stressors. Living a good life is not about not feeling these uncomfortable feelings, but instead in being aware and managing them appropriately.
There are a number of things that can help us get through a distressing moment. I want to highlight two: creating calm and incorporating music. Creating calm is a skill that takes practice. Brene Brown, a world-renowned psychologist, and mental health researcher highlights the importance of creating calm in her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection”. She explains calm as “creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity”. Notice, she doesn’t describe it as not having any emotion. She focuses on perspective and managing. For some, it can be as simple as taking a deep breath and giving ourselves a minute to slow down before responding. For others, it may require a little more effort. Here’s where your individual therapy would come in to help you figure out what you need.
When I sat down to write this blog post I couldn’t help but think of Taylor Swift’s song, “You Need to Calm Down”. I found it to be quite fitting in a way that may not seem so obvious initially. Many of us fall into the trap of going, going, going. The faster we go, the more we do, the less time we have to stop and think about the things that we’re not pleased with. It’s when we actually get to that quiet place that our inner critic (that voice we all have that tells us all the worst things about ourselves) tries to creep in. One fun and effective way that I’ve learned to challenge that voice is by hanging on to song lyrics that I enjoy like this one from Tay Tay, “You need to just stop, like can you just not step on my gown? You need to calm down”. I find this line empowering. It separates me from my anxious voice. It emphasizes I have limits. And it reminds me of what I need, calm. If this isn’t for you, no problem. Find another song that empowers you. Go for it. Blast it and make it your anthem.
Just for clarification, this is not the same as yelling at someone or even at yourself for that matter. That backfires almost every time. I also want to separate this from the common associations we have of caretakers screaming at children to calm down. We never want to use calm as a threat. Yes, I know. Taylor Swift technically uses it as a clap back. That’s not entirely how we’re using it here unless you want to think of it as clapping back at your worries. Let’s take back this phrase and sing it with purpose. “Hey anxiety, you need to calm down. You’re being too loud.”
Bringing stillness and quiet into our lives can be transformational. Here’s my challenge to you: find a way to bring calm into your life. You can walk, meditate, tell that voice to go fly a kite, your choice! What are you willing to try?
QUOTE FOR THE WEEK
“Anxiety is extremely contagious, but so is calm.” Harriet Lerner