Coping with Anxiety in Uncertain Times

As I’m writing this, I can’t help but reflect on the past few months and shake my head. From what we thought might be WW3 (oh yeah, you forgot about that, didn’t you?), to COVID-19, to riots and protests pleading for justice and equality for BIPOC, I can’t believe that it’s only the beginning of summer. If you’re sitting there nervously waiting what in the world does the rest of the year have in store, you’re not alone. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the positive implications of such affairs: the exposition of the leader of a political system fraught with bullies (not that we needed more evidence that Trump is a bully, but there you go), a much-needed break for the environment to recover along with a heightened awareness of proper health precautions in public spaces, and finally some long overdue change in systemic racism with large companies and agencies being held accountable to take real action. The events of the first half of 2020 are just symptoms of a tipping point of the wrong-doings of humanity in the past.

With tensions running high and anxiety a part of my daily life, I found myself looking for tools to help me re-center so that I could be in the right headspace to listen, learn, and determine what action I can take to improve the situation. In every conversation I had, friends and family were looking for the same thing: a way to step out of the downward spiral of negativity so that they can step back into their lives as better humans.

I put out a survey asking how people have been feeling and what their predominant thoughts have been during this time, and I was overwhelmed with the number of friends who were willing to be vulnerable and share. I promised to keep their responses anonymous, and so I’ve grouped most of them into the following buckets:

  • Worry and anxiety
  • Fear 
  • Impatience and frustration
  • Anger
  • Hopelessness and sadness
  • Gratitude for what they do have

As you can imagine, most of these feelings are quite low on the vibrational scale of emotions. In this space, how can anyone expect themselves –or others– to be effective in making positive change and informed decisions? This is exactly why I want to share what I’ve learned and implemented in the last few months to overcome the fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, and frustration in order to move towards the higher vibrational emotion of love, from which we can all stand to benefit.

Step 1: Acknowledge

Burying the emotions won’t get you far. You’ll develop “coping” mechanisms such as overeating, drinking, etc. to continue to suppress them. Just like a drug, over time your body will get used to these tactics and need more to keep the feelings at bay, resulting in a downwards spiral of sorts. Sound bleak? It is. 

Just like an angry toddler, your emotions need to be acknowledged and heard. In this method developed by Jim Dethmer, you’ll be able to better cope with, and dissipate, feelings of a low vibration.

  1. Define the emotion. Get as specific as you can. Are you tempted to say, “depressed?” Try to dig a little deeper beyond the surface and you’ll discover that the underlying feeling is helplessness. Okay, now we’re on to something.
  2. Locate the physical source of the emotion. Where do you feel this? In your gut? In your heart? Somewhere in between? Again, get specific.
  3. Breathe. Feel the sensation. Sit with it for a few minutes or even just a few breaths.
  4. Accept the sensation. We’re all human, and it’s in our biology to feel. Don’t attach guilt or shame to the negative emotion you’re already feeling, that’ll just pull you down further. Instead, pretend that it’s that little toddler that just needs a hug.
  5. Pinpoint what the physical sensation is doing. Is it pulsating? Moving in any way? Focus on the physical sensation.
  6. “Get the wisdom of the emotion.” I couldn’t paraphrase in any better way. Every emotion is there to tell you something. Every emotion has wisdom that it is trying to deliver to you, and that’s why it can be so overwhelming. Fear is here to help us be alert and to look for blindspots. Anger tells us that our values are not in alignment with reality and we need to take action. Sorrow indicates that we need to let go, even if it’s just of an expectation. Gratitude and joy tell us that we need to celebrate something or someone. Understanding the message helps us detach from judging emotions as “good” or “bad” and helps us shift to a deeper intuition and wisdom.

Use these steps either in a meditation or journaling practice. It may seem daunting at first, but just like any muscle you develop, this skill will get stronger and this exercise will get easier the more you do it. And you can apply this to your everyday life, including work and family situations.

(Note: Dethmer has this amazing handout that makes these steps clear and easy to follow. Check it out.)

Step 2: Choose Again

This is a simple yet powerful tool from Gabby Bernstein that I find myself using several times a day.

Once you’ve noticed the emotion or recurring thought in the previous exercise, you forgive the thought. This may have been completed in step 4 of Dethmer’s technique, but if not, repeat or write down these words:

“Thank you for revealing to me what I don’t want so that I can clarify what I do want.”

Now, here’s the kicker: you get to choose again. You choose what you do want to be feeling. Yes, it’s that easy. Think of how you’d like to feel –empowered, calm, hopeful, optimistic, even joyful! Close your eyes and start to shift to that feeling.

“But what if I’m angry and I can’t shake it?” Have you acknowledged and forgiven the anger itself? Have you forgiven yourself for feeling this way? It takes some time and concentration at first, and you really need to put your ego aside for this to work. But once it becomes a habit, just like re-focusing in a meditation, letting go of the chatter that comes up and crowds your mind, this, too, will become more and more effortless.


Using these two powerful techniques, I’ve managed to stay relatively sane. Sure, bouts of the aforementioned feelings take over, but I manage to find my center and get grounded. I hope you find that they help, and as always I’d me more than happy to hear your thoughts and experiences. Did you try these out? What did you think? Do you have any other tools you find effective? Please leave a comment below.

Namaste,
Sonia
@whitelotusdharma

Thank you to everyone who contributed by sharing their emotions and thoughts. I appreciate and hold sacred your vulnerability and willingness to help me help others. Sending you all love and gratitude.

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