As I was driving through a major city this morning, I was so excited about being able to navigate it without getting lost and being able to parallel park (even if it did take me five minutes while being watched by the resident across the street who waited until I was done to tell me that the meter was broken!). Downtown Cincinnati, while not new to me, is not familiar even though I grew up not far from there. Anyway, as I was leaving the city about to cross the bridge over the Ohio River, I noticed that traffic was stopped on the bridge. Stuck. My first reaction was the natural fight-or-flight response which sent adrenaline rushing through me as I started to panic. If you know me, you know that the last place I want to be is suspended high in the air above deep water (unless there is somewhere like this where there are snakes too, and then THAT is the last place I’d want to be).
I knew that if I panicked, it would have an effect on my daughter as well. Instead, I did these three things to help release my anxiety:
- I acknowledged and accepted my feelings. I offered myself the same compassion that I would have given someone else in the same situation instead of beating myself up.
- I practiced deep breathing to help release the tension and force me to focus on something other than the situation. By helping to induce the relaxation response, breathwork is great for calming the nervous system.
- I was my own cheerleader. I knew that I could make it across that bridge alive- and obviously I did. So instead of focusing on what I thought I couldn’t do, I built myself up with a pep talk.
- Go to your happy place. Picture somewhere that you would be as relaxed as possible and imagine yourself there. For me, it’s the beach- cool breeze, gentle waves crashing, laughter, ahhhhh!
- Focus your anxious energy and release it onto paper. Write down everything you’re experiencing and then rip the paper up to symbolize breaking through those emotions.
- Exercise. It can not only help to release your negative energy but can also release endorphins to help improve your mood.