Anxiety has run rampant these past several months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This morning, after feeling an anxious pit in my stomach, I discovered a fantastic remedy.
This solution builds off something I’ve written about before in this area of dealing with anxiety.
Here’s a quick recap of those concepts. Most people push away their anxiety. They resist it. And they aren’t even conscious that they’re doing it. Why?
Because it makes sense to push away a bad feeling. It presents in your head as, “I hate this feeling and I just want it to go away.” Normal, right? The problem is that doing this only leads to the anxiety flaring deeper roots into your gut.
Be present with anxiety
So what I’ve counseled in previous pieces is, instead of resisting it, to actually go inside and be present with the anxiety. To most that sounds counterintuitive. “Getting closer to my pain will help relieve that pain? Huh?” Yes, it will.
Why? Because in doing so what you’re really doing is being present with that pain. And being present, with anything, is always the healthiest course. Volumes have been written about why this is true so I’ll leave it at that.
My anxious pit this morning
What I did this morning was to take this one step further. I was meditating and, not surprisingly, foremost in my field of awareness was this anxious pit in my stomach I referenced at the beginning. So, as I recommended above, I went toward this anxiety and not away from it.
But just before meditating I had listened to an interview with the prominent Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron. She was commenting on how to deal with the anxiety so many of us have faced in recent months and offered a breathing exercise she does.
Part of Pema’s breathing technique deals with approaching the uncomfortable feelings inside with compassion. She didn’t hit hard on this, but it occurred to me while meditating that, in addition to being present with and noticing my anxiety, I would try being compassionate with it.
Be compassionate with anxiety
What does it mean to be compassionate with your anxiety? The very same thing it would mean if it were your parent, sibling or close friend experiencing that anxiety.
You show empathy, concern, love.
And how did that work for me?
Like a charm. My anxiety melted away.
Separation of the selves
Why? Honestly, I’m not sure. But I think it has to do with the notion that implicit in all this is the separation of the real, conscious self from the unconscious self that is experiencing the anxiety. This is critical. Why?
Because when most people experience anxiety there is only the anxiety. It envelops their entire being. There is no you and the anxiety. There’s just the anxiety. When that’s the case, relief is hard to come by.
Simply noticing the anxiety and not resisting it effectuates this separation of the selves. But when you add on top of that being compassionate with the anxiety it takes this separation to a higher, healthier level.
How to do it
To sum up, here’s how to actually do this. It’s simple.
Sit somewhere quiet and close your eyes. Take three deep breaths. Then place your attention where you feel the anxiety. For me, it is always in my stomach. Then start breathing into that area.
As you do so, simply send feelings of compassion toward that anxiety, again, just as you would if it were a person you were close to. Be sure not to slip into trying to eliminate the anxiety as this will backfire. By just showing it compassion it will slowly diminish of its own accord.
Anxiety plagues all of us at some point, myself included. This technique worked in calming mine into submission. Do yourself a favor and see if it works for you.