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October 18, 2021

Hey Christina, How do I deal with my constant state of anxiety? The thought of things possibly shutting down again, home schooling, limited social interactions, trying to manage life and not worry about getting sick… it all causes me to swirl in anxiety. What can I do with all this worry? How can I make it stop?

–Anxious

Dear Anxious,

Thank you for your question. The topic of anxiety, especially currently due to the our Covid-19 realities, has many of us sitting in worry. The unknown can do this. It can creep in and cause us to spin down a rabbit hole of “what if’s”. So, thank you for this opportunity to share some tools that I find helpful in providing some resilience support.

Here are six tools to add to your toolbox:

1. Breathe
This may sound simplistic, but breath is the most powerful tool that we always have access to. Four-part breathing, or “box breathing” is an effective way to self-regulate and calm the nervous system down. A few of these breaths will literally calm the heart rate. Here’s how it works: breath in while counting to four; hold your breath for four seconds; exhale while counting to four; hold your breath for four seconds. This can be done routinely, for instance at stop lights or in the shower. It can also be done in any moment when you feel your heart and head traveling towards the worry hole.

2. Move your body

This could be a quick power walk, a few push-ups and squats on the spot, swinging your arms back and forth as you walk down the office corridor, or it could of course be a full-fledged work out. Moving our body changes our brain chemistry, so when we are spinning, some movement can support the quest to suffocate the worry.

3. Laughter

I get it, it’s pretty hard to laugh when we don’t have something funny in front of us. We can, however, call a friend that we know we easily laugh with. We can turn on a movie or comedy that will get us laughing. We can also force ourselves to laugh out loud. While this may feel silly at first, when we make ourselves laugh, the warmth of laughter will radiate from the inside out. It has the ability to shift us out of the muck. The brain needs this direct guidance. Anxious thoughts are habitual and we need to show the brain the preferred path.

4. Happy memories

We all have happy memories that we can call on. When anxiety is triggered, our brain already knows where to go (it’s habitual). So, when we consciously think about a moment in time when we were filled with happiness, how can we still be sitting in worry? The brain is busy recalling the moment, the view, the people, the smells, the sounds. Having a repository of joy-filled memories that we can call on is likely already in place. Attaching a smell to a happy memory is also extremely powerful, and we can create this scent memory if we don’t have one to call on. We can do something that fills us up and attach a smell to it. If working out fills you up, take a bottle of delicious smelling essential oil and smell it as you feel great during the workout. If watching a favourite movie, having dinner with a friend, or going for a walk fills you up, try to attach a smell to it. Then, when you find yourself slipping into worry, you can pull the essential oil out and call on that heartwarming memory.

6. Bedtime download

I have learned that bedtime can often be a worry-swirling time of day. I suggest keeping a notebook and pen beside the bed. When the brain fills up with all of the to-do’s and worries that have a tendency to keep us up at night, we can write them down. That way, the brain can set the to-do’s free because we will handle the list in the morning. If the worry is not tangible, write it down too. At the end of the day, everything is “figuroutable” and the act of downloading the thought onto paper can alleviate the head space. Writing it down and telling our brain that we will take care of it tomorrow makes the worry an action as opposed to a worry-filled thought.

The good news is that we can learn how to regulate our emotions and calm ourselves down. We can change how we respond to certain situations and overwhelming thoughts. Our brain is a powerful, resilient organ that can alter and adopt new beliefs and habits. With consistency and intentional effort, we can take down the anxiety beast and maybe even see all the goodness in life. We have our breath. We have our health. We have a person or two who cares about us. Last but not least, we now have some tools to help manage our fear-based thoughts.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank anyone and everyone who has uttered the words,

“So I asked myself… what would Christina do?”

** This platform has been inspired by you! **

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Dear Christina, I have been married for ten years. We have two kids. I want to stay together. I love my wife. We have been in counselling for a couple years now and I am at a point where resentment is all I see. When she says anything, I am automatically defensive and often throw the “divorce” word around. All I hear is criticism, yet all I want is time with her and a connection. How do I even start to break down her wall and prove to her that she is my everything?

September 27, 2021|Hey Christina|

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