Anxiety can build or often come out of nowhere. It is not a fun experience and for some people it is a chronic condition. One thing I have noticed that works for me to help manage some of the feelings that come up while experiencing anxiety is to harness the power of the four elements: Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. The four elements are believed to be essential to life. I believe they are also essential to getting us back to our center.
AIR: Remind yourself to breathe. How is your breath? Is it jagged or smooth? Shallow or deep? If it’s helpful, exhale all the tightness in your body and then place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Try to breathe into your stomach as this gives a signal to your body that you are not facing any real danger and it can turn off it’s fight or flight fire alarm. We all know that our thoughts can affect our body’s posture, heart rate, and energy, but our body can also have an influence into our mind and our thoughts. My theory: regulate our body and convince it is not in a state of panic and hopefully our brains will get the hint.
EARTH: Get grounded. No, I don’t mean do something that can get you in trouble. But derealization (feelings of not being in reality) and depersonalization (feeling away from your body) are often symptoms of a panic attack. When we are not grounded, it’s difficult to feel safe, secure, or relaxed. So, take a moment and feel your feet. Feel your feet on the ground and move them, feel the balls of your feet, the heels, the sides, how does it feel? What feels good? If nothing feels good, what feels the least bad? Imagine your feet have roots like a tree and notice the strength in your legs. You can also use your 5 senses to ground and orient yourself to the space that you are in. What are 5 things you can see right now? 4 things that you can feel? 3 Things you can hear? Two things you can smell? What is 1 thing you can taste right now?
WATER: Reflect on your thoughts, but don’t drown in them. If you feel comfortable, try treating your worried thoughts like you would looking at cars on the freeway. Notice one, but don’t linger on it, let it pass on by. Try to bring yourself back your felt sense. If you find yourself getting sucked into negative thoughts, try to bring yourself back to your body by stating, “how do I know I am alive right now?” (give me the facts, can you feel your heart beat, your lungs expanding, etc).
FIRE: Find your fire center and get energized. Life is often chaotic! When we know where our fire center is, we are better able to flow with the rhythm of life and learn how to not be afraid of change or growth. Go ahead and grab an object. Take all of your worries, fears, pain, problems, and imagine storing them in this object. Now move the object away from you and take a moment and connect with your breath. You are not defined by your problems or anxiety, take a moment to enjoy the separation and momentary peace. When we can engage our bodies in ways that reduce our stress and anxiety we can actually connect with people and use our support system to help us feel better.
There is also a fun breathing exercise called Breath of Fire. To do this, inhale softly and exhale with steady force, pushing your belly in. Focus on breathing in calmness, lightness, happiness, and strength. Exhaling pain, anger, sadness, and lack of energy. Notice how your body feels.
As much as anxiety sucks, I tend to look at it as my spidey sense telling me that something is off and I need to readjust, whether it is more self care, sleeping more, setting healthy boundaries, or engaging with my support system more often. Maybe take a minute and see where you might need a little extra care.
Feel free to give me some feedback on how YOU cope with your anxiety.