Back at headquarters, there was an impromptu meeting of the Anxiety Girls! The situation – processing recent run-ins with the notorious villain Anxiety, also known as “Eunice the Evil”.
Eunice had been lurking around our Anxiety Girls, mostly hiding in the shadows, until recently when she attacked unexpectedly – Kapow! – leaving our superheroes to wonder – how did she penetrate their industrial grade, anxiety proof armor?
Our superheroes processed events, jotted down ideas and came up with a plan. Here are some notes from the meeting:
- Eunice may feel big and scary, but her moves are always the same. Catastrophizing thoughts + physical sensations + backing away = anxiety and panic. Once you’ve experienced a panic attack, you’ve really experienced the worst she can bring. Yes, it’s absolutely uncomfortable, but nothing new here.
- The villain Eunice can only survive if we fight back/resist – Whap! Biff! Ooof! – or run away from her/avoid. The harder we push back and the faster we run, the stronger she gets.
- To decrease her power, we have to find ways to seek her out – like every day. This is not our favorite piece of wisdom, but it’s true. Face her every day in both big and small ways. Go out for lunch with a new friend, drive a route that’s been bothering you, say yes to that trip where you’ll have to fly, volunteer to present at the company meeting.
- Sometimes Eunice hangs around for a while, just out of habit – even if we aren’t resisting and avoiding anymore. That’s ok. Just keep doing life, choosing what’s important to you and she’ll eventually get bored and lurk elsewhere.
- When Eunice shows up and we invite her to stick around – “Want to sit in the passenger seat and go for a drive, Eunice? It’s fine that you stay” – she can transform from the villain “Eunice the Evil” to just plain ol’ Eunice.
- And when it’s just plain ol’ Eunice, and we’re not resisting, we hear her warnings differently. “Oh, Eunice wants to make sure I’m safe.” We can then take her by the hand, look her in the eyes and say, “Thanks for your concern and vigilance, Eunice, but I’ve got this. Even when I’m terribly anxious, I’ve got this.”
Our superheroes left the meeting with notes in hand, hopped into the Anxiety Girl Mobile, offered Eunice a ride and sped off to their next adventure.
Stay tuned for more adventures of Anxiety Girl!
If you’ve dabbled in meditation before, you’ve probably come across one form called Loving Kindness. I was saying these beginning 4 lines, from Sharon Salzberg’s “Real Happiness”, in my head the other day and thought, “what would I add as I prepare to face anxiety in my day?”
A Loving Kindness Meditation for Facing Anxiety:
May I be safe
May I be healthy
May I be happy
May I live with ease
May I be brave
May I be clever
May I have courage
moving toward my dream
May I show up
May I be willing
May I step forward
Living bold and free
Then again, maybe that’s too sweet and soft when you’re about to take on Anxiety. Let’s add one more stanza:
May I kick ass
meeting my challenger
taking my life back
because f*** you anxiety!
That’s more like it.
I’m not saying to ditch the supportive voice. You need both the supportive voice inside your head and the one that’s ready to take your life back by kicking some serious ass. Both are important, but stepping up to do the work takes a different kind of energy.
How do you talk to yourself as you prepare to take on anxiety? What tools do you use?
**And, if Loving Kindness meditation interests you, be sure to check out these Sharon Salzberg links: Street loving kindness video series & her book Real Happiness. I meditate about 20 minutes most mornings and started out with her book & CD – something about her voice & messaging is so real & just right for me. Also, here’s a great article about the scientific benefits of Loving Kindness meditation and a video to try.
A few years ago I was hanging out with my sister in law Hilleary at a bridal shower. We’re notorious for scoping out the dessert table and behaving badly at “formal” family functions – making raunchy jokes in the back of the pack; laughing out loud at inappropriate times.
Hilleary also wrestles with anxiety and has a great sense of humor.
So, there we were nibbling anything we could get our hands on and talking about feeling claustrophobic. You know how showers can get – too many people shoe-horned into a small space, oohing and aahing over houseware products, going on for hours on end. As much as we adored the hostess, we were just over it.
Noticing a sliding glass door, we had the following conversation.
“Oh my God, I’m so ready to go home. You think we can just sneak out the back door?”
“Well, if I was a super hero, I would fly right through that glass door and get out of here!”
“Yeah, how about an anxiety super hero!”
“Able to flee social situations in a single bound!”
Over the years, I’ve had lots of fun visuals of Anxiety Girl fleeing social situations in a single bound; running away at lightening speed from speaking engagements; using her super powers to transport herself to California instead of flying in an airplane.
Of course, Anxiety Girl’s real power comes from staying in the feared situation. Her real courage is in feeling the wave of fear build up – feeling the dread that something very wrong is about to happen – and, despite her worries, diving head first into the swell and floating on the other side. Avoidance is her kryptonite and exposure breaks those chains.