One month into practicing new anxiety management strategies, I realize the timing could not be better.
It’s been a full month since I’ve been practicing new methods in dealing with my anxiety. I’m am pleased to report that I have continued to improve and I have new insights into why.
The “I Will” statements are becoming more of a habit, and most mornings, it has been pretty effortless to start my day saying, “I Will…” instead of saying, “Oh Shit…”. However, I also realize that the past couple of weeks have been pretty laid back. Summer travel ended and I’ve been pretty much solely focused on work and self-care.
But now I’ve thrown in a surf weekend… Now surfing, in general, keeps me sane. It helps me to remember being present in my life and connects me spiritually to something that is bigger than myself. Surfing has been a life changer in the way it has influenced the way I view myself, and the world around me...
...But I realize that it also entails, missing a day of work (usually), shoving that missed day’s work into the days before I leave, a huge grocery shop, food prep, packing, logistical coordinating with my family…insert panic attack here.
Thus, I woke this morning with a seemingly endless to do list attempting to organize itself within my 6:00am, pre-coffee brain (which is now a half decaf brain anyway, due to the Doc’s orders). I mean, this happened right when the alarm went off and I was still lying in bed. I admit, I got lost in it for a minute or two.
A minute or two might not sound bad, but holy crap, let me tell you that it made my tummy feel like there were about a million butterflies crashing into each other in there, and my heart rate started increasing, along with my breathing. Just thinking about it now causes these feelings, albeit in a minor way comparatively.
“I Will get all the things done. I Will break them down into actions that I can tackle one at a time. I Will have a great weekend. Remember, I always get all the things done.”
In those few minutes, I forgot all about my “I Will” statements. Once I remembered, I said, “I Will get all the things done. I Will break them down into actions that I can tackle one at a time. I Will have a great weekend.” And then for good measure, “Remember, I always get all the things done.”
That is true, BTW. Rarely is there a time when I’m prepping for a surf weekend that I don’t get my list completed and if I don’t, it’s never that big of a fucking deal. I immediately calmed down. The butterflies disappeared and my heart rate normalized. I got up, brushed my teeth and sat down for my 20 minutes of meditation, which turned into 30 because I forgot to set the timer. I guess I just needed that extra ten minutes.
Oh…and importantly…I forgave myself for not remembering my “I Will” statements right away. After all, it’s progress I’m after, not perfection.
That brings me to the second strategy I’ve been practicing, which is saying, “Hello anxiety. How are you?” to my anxiety, and really to all of my negative emotions, as soon as they bubble up. Again, I’ve been consistently saying this out loud (if I’m alone) or just in my head, as quickly as possible after I feel the emotion. I can usually catch it pretty quickly and it’s quite frankly, astounding at how fast the feeling retreats after I do.
I’ve had another realization about why this is effective. I’ve talked before about how I try to talk to myself as if I’m my own best friend, as opposed to my negative self-bullying that has been the norm for years. The truth is, I would never say the things I say to myself, to my friends. The reason why is simple: I don’t want to be an asshole to my friends.
Apparently, I’ve been fine being an asshole to myself for as long as I can remember, and by saying hello to my negative feelings and asking how they are doing, I am changing that. Before I said that I thought these feeling maybe just needed to be recognized, but it’s more than that. By saying, “Hello. How are you?” to anxiety, fear, worry, insecurities, anger, self-loathing, frustration, overwhelm, and sadness, I’m also separating myself from them.
In a way, I am talking to them like I’m talking to another person, and because of that, I feel more compassion towards these feelings, just as I do towards my friends. I find that now, after saying, “Hello. How are you?” I say, “I’m doing just fine over here. No need to get so overwhelmed right now. Everything is fine and all the things are getting done. In fact, there is really nothing to freak out about right now at all.”
I know that my feelings are my feelings, and they come from me. At the same time, I know that not all of my feelings are the truth, and I can call them out as false if I just engage in a little conversation with them.
Amazing, yes? I know that my feelings are my feelings, and they come from me. At the same time, I know that not all of my feelings are the truth, and I can call them out as false if I just engage in a little conversation with them. Sometimes, I find things both truth and false in the feeling, but then I can decide what to do based on that distinction, rather than based on an overblown and sometimes imaginary feeling.
I’m so grateful that I have made this connection now. You see, this month is the year anniversary of being blown apart by the Kavanaugh hearings and writing my essay, I Was a Promiscuous Teen: An Open Letter to All the Men from My Past. That essay went viral, has been clicked on in every country in the world, and continues to be viewed over a thousand times a month on my website.
I continue to hear from women who express comfort in knowing they are not alone because my story is their story. It is the story of women of all ages, from all countries, and we all walked around with the same shame from our pasts, until my essay gave me and them release from those chains.
One year later, I have changed. My work has changed. The way I view sex, feminism, and gender roles, expectations and responsibilities has changed. The way I communicate has shifted and the volume at which I express myself has evolved. I am no longer in hiding from my past, and I realize that hiding was a prison that I had lived in for most of my life.
Many dots were connected for me last October. I’m going to be spending this month reflecting on this past year and what I have learned, what I thought I knew that has maybe changed, and how my art and writing have been incredible tools for processing this trauma and everything that has followed.
I continue to hear from women who express comfort in knowing they are not alone because my story is their story.
Nearly immediately after writing my letter, I created the first series of paintings that I have ever made in direct connection with what I was emotionally processing. Sure, I may have done that subconsciously in the past, but with every painting from my Reclaimed Hearts series, and then subsequently with the series, A Lovely Mess, I was able to take back my power, claim it as my own, and then begin to see the beauty in the ruins that I had to accept partial responsible in creating.
It remains a hard topic for me to share about, although, I do it openly now, knowing that silence is the real enemy to sexual evolution through cultural change.
I’d love to know if you have been feeling overly sensitive this past month, and maybe questioned why. It took me the first week of this month to connect it with what we women, and some beautiful men out there, went through during and in the aftermath of those hearings.
In the comments below, tell me one way you plan on taking care of yourself through this month.
In following the signs that were given to me four weeks ago, I feel I am prepared for this month. I’m so glad I was paying attention because now I know that, “I Will get through this month with grace and I Will come out stronger because of it all.”
Much love and light to you,
The painting at top is from my Reclaimed Heart Series. Diving Heart 6, 8"x8", Acrylic and Paper on Canvas, $160. The series will be available for sale at the beginning of November. To learn more about the Reclaimed Heart series, and to join the waitlist to receive early access to the collection and a discount code for free shipping, Click Here.
To view the Reclaimed Hearts collection in it's entirety, Click Here.
I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes. To hear from me more regularly, join me on this crazy, beautiful Artventure.