Here we are in The Year of Endless Unknowns, facing yet more uncertainty, anxiety and fear following the recent death of RBG and the approaching US election. Our thinking minds are forever convinced that they can think their way out of the fear or find ways to make the anxiety go away. Yet this is THE hardest way to find relief from the discomfort that accompanies this anxiety and fear.
Yesterday I completed that darn colonoscopy that’s recommended once you turn 50. And you know what? I’d been dreading it for a number of reasons. Yes, the prep is not a walk in the park, but it took me a little bit of time to realize that a different kind of anxiety was lurking just beneath the surface of my dread.
It’s been almost three years since I moved through my experience with cancer. It turns out the quiet possibility remained tucked in my mind that the docs might find more cancer.
Before I became fully cognizant of this fear, I simply tried to push it away or pretend it wasn’t there. And guess what? It didn’t work. Why? Because this is NEVER a lasting solution, as much as our thinking minds try to convince us it is.
When I finally realized I was feeling anxious about the unknown results of my upcoming procedure, I remembered something that I’ve learned over and over again and sometimes still forget! Giving ourselves permission to feel whatever we’re feeling is POWERFUL. Instead of making the uncomfortable feelings grow bigger, it actually softens them.
After spending some weeks unconsciously fighting against the part of me that held this fear, it was a relief to become aware and make room for its presence. I stopped trying to talk my mind out of the fear and instead accepted that this fearful, anxious part of me was visiting.
And you know what? The grip it had on me eased. Did the fear vanish? Nah. It accompanied me all the way through that colonoscopy and to the other side, where I learned that things looked good. But through the month leading up to the procedure, I came to feel a tenderness toward this part of me that felt afraid.
I bet that right about now, you’re wondering how my colonoscopy has anything to do with you! Well, I was struck by something today as I walked the dog. We are ALL moving through an experience similar to the one I had with my colonoscopy! How? Let me explain.
Here we are in the year of endless unknowns, right? While some people find the unknown thrilling, for many it triggers all kinds of anxiety and fear.
Since this pandemic started, there have been SO many areas in which the unknown has shown itself, whether it’s related to health, employment, housing, schooling, finances, physical contact with friends/family, parenting, racial injustices or forest fires, to name a few! And the political unknowns are now in our faces in a more acute way.
I hear so many clients, friends, family, and strangers share how triggered they are by this upcoming election, the death of RGB, and the political future of the U.S. In fact, I see the presence of this fear of the unknown in Democrats and Republicans alike, despite the marked differences in some of their political perspectives.
So here we are in The Year of Endless Unknowns, facing yet more uncertainty, anxiety and fear! We already know that our thinking minds are forever convinced that they can think their way out of the fear or find ways to make the anxiety go away. I also know that this is THE hardest way to find relief from the discomfort that accompanies anxiety and fear.
So how can you move through this current, triggering time in a way that offers some relief from the grip that anxiety and fear of the unknown can have on you? By finding ways to give your thinking mind a break from feeling solely responsible for finding relief for you.
Here are a few ways to do this:
- Invite your focus back down into your body. There’s a good chance your focus is hanging out upstairs in your mind as it tries to figure out how to get rid of the anxiety and fear or find the solutions. Instead, stop and notice where you feel the anxiety and fear in your body. Sometimes people feel it everywhere, but often there are areas of the body in which it feels particularly strong
Create moments throughout your day when you pause to notice where in your body you are experiencing the emotion(s) of that moment. Doing this regularly strengthens your thinking mind’s ability to take a breather. And this breather is exactly what offers relief from the grip that anxiety and fear of the unknown can have.😍
- Find activities that help you to be mindless for little windows of time.Some examples: walking or sitting in nature and noticing how many sights, sounds, smells, and colors you can note; exercising; doing art; gardening/weeding; listening to or reading a book that is NOT on the subject causing anxiety; meditating; praying; journaling; dancing; jumping on a trampoline (you all know I love me some trampolining!).
You will notice that these activities also give the thinking mind a breather. They remind the mind that it doesn’t have to be solely responsible for solving or getting rid of your anxiety and fear. It’s in those moments when the mind is given the chance to pause it’s work that relief slips in, even if it’s momentary. The more this is practiced, the more new neural pathways are strengthened in your brain so that they can offer more helpful ways of responding to your anxiety and fear going forward.
- Get out a pen and draw a large circle on a piece of paper. Then draw a much smaller circle located somewhere within the large circle.The large circle is the core you. The smaller circle is just one part of you that’s showing up with anxiety and fear.
When you are IN the anxiety and fear, it often feels like it’s ALL of you…that you ARE the anxiety and fear. In truth, it’s just a small part of you. When you fight against it, it makes the anxiety and fear yell louder trying to get your attention because this smaller part of you wants you to acknowledge its presence.
Just as we have an outer family, we also have an internal family made up of many parts. Fear and anxiety are just a few parts that periodically come to visit in a louder way. Remembering that you are the larger circle and that your inner family is composed of lots of different small, internal parts or family members can be a help. It allows you to shift from being IN the anxiety and fear to being WITH them instead and this, too, can offer incredible relief.
I mean, people, we are in an INTERESTING time!! The Year of Endless Unknowns just keeps on giving, doesn’t it? The good news is that there are ways you can learn to navigate the uncertainty, anxiety and fear that accompany this time so that they don’t completely own you and rule your mind every waking or insomniaced minute.
So if you’re feeling gripped by the upcoming election or any of the other unknowns swirling around you and your anxiety and fear are ruling the show, you are SO not alone! I invite you to play with the above tools and see which ones help to give your thinking mind a breather, even for a few minutes. Those minutes of mind pause begin to create a different experience with your anxiety and fear, even if your external circumstances haven’t yet changed. And THAT is worth trying, huh?
So here’s to our worldwide Year of Endless Unknowns and the new ways it’s inviting us to be creative in not only finding solutions, but relief. ❤️
P.S. If you’ve been enjoying my weekly blogs and are itching for more daily inspiration, friend me on Facebook (Emily Colwell) or follow me on Instagram (dr.emily_colwell). I post frequently and humor leaks into most of my posts!
Emily Colwell, MSSW, ND
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