How to Calm Anxiety
Life is hard! That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years.
No one has it easy. No matter how beautiful, put together, or relaxed someone appears on Instagram, guaranteed, they have difficult times in their life. We all struggle with fear of the unknown, fear of change, getting stuck in a rut with our spouses, etc. The list goes on! A Buddhist saying goes ‘we all have 75 problems going at one time’. It never changes; once one problem gets solved another one jumps in its place.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I recently finished writing my latest book Grow a Salad in Your City Apartment. It’s been exhilarating, but also at times, stressful. My goal was to write a book that helps people grow their own food in a small city environment and also have a way of relieving stress and anxiety in their lives. Being in nature is very therapeutic. Even in winter, I have bundled up my kids and taken them for a walk to pick up interesting stones and their happiness is radiant. They are filled with energy and vitality. It’s no different for adults. I think a lot of the reason gardening helps is about having that quiet, secret place to “hide” and take time for yourself.
My favorite way to experience this: Sitting in the sun and closing my eyes to feel the rays of sun on my face. Basking in the sun like a cat. No phone to distract. Then I write in my journal any thoughts that come to me.
Take all of this as simply my experience and not as if I am a guru or expert. I am a very busy Mama, wife, and business owner who struggles with stress and anxiety just as much as you do.
Tips for an Immediate Feeling of Calm
Try to lift your eyes from the day-to-day “managing”, and clearly be present in the moment. Grab that moment that your child or partner offers and hold their gaze for 10 solid minutes while they talk to you. Really listen to them. Don’t have a running dialog going on in your mind while they’re talking. Give them the gift of pure listening.
If you’re feeling too anxious to be in a space with someone else, focus on yourself and getting back to equilibrium. Try to let the emotions wash over you and let them go. Don’t hold on to them. In Michael A. Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul, he talks about clinging. We cling to negative emotions and we cling to bad memories and play them over and over in our head. Stop clinging. Let them fly free. You will have more space for happiness, excitement, creativity and fun. Sometimes I need to exercise to feel better. I do Interval Yoga, which involves short bursts of intense poses, followed by short rests. It really gives you a fabulous high of happiness at the end.
According to Dr. Joe Dispenza (in his book), our energy field goes out 8-10 feet from our body, so our emotions really affect others. Sometimes, I have to force myself to write down three things I’m grateful for that day. I am still working on looking at the big picture in those moments and enjoying the simple things that really matter. My life is beautiful! I have three gorgeous kids and a loving husband! The sun is out! I’m healthy and strong! Tomorrow will be better.
I want to say a few words about acceptance. Once I accepted that this is my path in life, these are my experiences and memories that I need to accept and even be grateful for, I was finally at peace. What I mean about being grateful is recognizing that we live on a planet spinning in space and we have all the perfect ingredients for a healthy, happy life. I have found in my own spiritual journey that the more I resist a situation that is happening to me, the more it pushes back and the whole experience is miserable.
Buddhism teaches this.
What makes a happy person? Someone who gracefully accepts the circumstances that are “happening” to them, and turns those into powerful learning experiences rather than hard times.
I don’t mean to diminish anything that has happened to you in your life personally.
I realize that some of you may have lost a child or been abused, and those are truly horrific and devastating situations. I am simply sharing lessons I have learned that have made me a better person and mother. And you know what? It can be very hard to take my own advice! In those moments of struggle, my husband says that I dig my heels in. He’s right.
Books That Have Aided My Spiritual Journey
There are a few books that have helped me to find perspective and clarity in my life.
Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor
A layman’s guide book to Buddhism, very short and easy to understand.
Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza
This book changed a lot of my notions about the mind and how much control I have over my life. Very powerful book!
The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
I use this book daily, no joke. It helps me get through the toughest problems.
Nothing Wrong With a Little Help
Meditation has really done wonders for my stress and anxiety. I find that It immediately calms and relaxes every muscle in my body. I think meditating has also improved my parenting skills. Dr. Joe Dispenza has some meditations on his website that are very cheap to download. I sometimes meditate when I am nursing my twins. I pop on my earphones, close my eyes, listen to my meditation CD, and they nurse. It is a great way to teach your children about meditating from a young age, and then they can practice it when they are adults and run into stressful life experiences. Meditation has been shown to reduce inflammatory responses in the body, reduce depression, anxiety, and change your brain’s response to stressful situations. The changes in your brain are completely a result of your nervous system altering itself and not the situation changing. This occurs after multiple sessions of meditation, so make it a habit. Take 20 minutes every day for yourself.
Make sure that your stress level, anxiety, or frustration isn’t chronically affecting your daily life. If you are constantly feeling very sad and lethargic you may need to speak with a psychologist about possible depression. There is nothing wrong with going to a counselor or a psychologist. Treat yourself, instead of buying that new phone or planning an elaborate vacation, take that money and invest it in your health and well-being. You are not a bad person for doing so, or for admitting that you need help. It is absolutely the best thing you can do for you and your family. You don’t have to share it with anyone. Or if it makes you feel free, tell everyone. Do what works for you and stop doing what doesn’t work in your life. Do not worry about what family members will think, what your spouse will think, or anyone else. You don’t need judgment and criticism in your life. You need support and love.
When you’re deep in the experience of suffering, it is really hard to stay strong. Lean on the people you love. Be vulnerable with the people who know you best and support every decision you make.
You are an amazing person. You are loved. You can do this, I promise.
Just by thinking about these things, you are taking action to solve the problem. And a year from now, you will look back and be happy you did everything you could because it will be so much better. And remember, everything that you do makes a difference in your life and your family’s life. You are your own personal world-changing project, right in your own home.
If you are a parent, let me say this: we all make mistakes, and when we do it’s hard to look at the big picture versus feeling guilty. For me, I have to remember that my kids get so much love, attention, and sweetness in their life. They are protected from everything and kept innocent. They are strong. Stronger than I realize at times. They have a beautiful relationship with nature, animals, and are so compassionate it makes me cry sometimes. The reality is that Tom and I are raising them right. No matter what those little sneaky self-doubts tell me when I’m feeling guilty, they are loved, cherished and they know it. And yes, all parents make lots of mistakes. We can be graceful and forgive ourselves. All I have to do is get back on track. Be the loving patient kind Mama that I am 99% of the time. That’s the real me.
If my advice doesn’t help you, please talk to someone about it. So many people struggle privately with their worries, fears, and toxic relationships. Don’t do this on your own! Join a support group or commit to take a personal development course, like those offered at Landmark Education. I have done many of their courses and felt a lot more freedom and peace from doing them. There are also lots of Facebook groups about different challenges in life.
Disclaimer: Meditation, yoga, and garden therapy are not replacements for traditional medical treatment. I am not a psychologist or medical doctor. Please consult your physician and discuss treatment options for your depression or anxiety.
Rosemary Hansen is an author and devoted Mama. After “homesteading” in the city for more than 10 years, she and her family moved to a 15-acre plot of land in rural British Columbia, Canada, where they learned the true meaning of being a homesteader without running water. With her twin baby girls, her 6-year-old future heavy-equipment mechanic, and her supportive woodworker husband, they plan to raise rabbits, ducks, and geese in their wet coastal climate. Rosemary’s published books include: Grow a Salad in Your City Apartment, Rosemary’s All-Natural Cosmetic Guide, and 10 Steps to Flawless Skin. Visit her website to connect with her: www.RosemaryPureLiving.com
Fight Depression and Anxiety With a Therapy Garden by Ginevra Holtkamp
Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joseph Dispenza pgs: 125-140
Petal Power: Why is Gardening So Good for Our Mental Health? By Sarah Rayner (Psychology Today)
Meditation: A Simple, Fast Way to Reduce Stress by Mayo Clinic Staff