If you’ve spent more than a minute with me, you know I’m the kind of person who feels things deeply. I also tend to absorb the emotions and energy of others. On my best day, I can stem the tide of rushing, even conflicting emotions, process what is and isn’t helpful, and move forward in strength.
There are days this feels impossible. Days I feel everything that everyone around me feels so acutely that I can’t even figure out how *I* feel. Days that what I *do* feel seems impossible to carry.
Sometimes it manifests as anxiety. Some days as depression. Some days as just pure old stress and anger.
There have been times where medicine was called for, and I’ve heeded the call. But even during those times, and *especially* during seasons where medication hasn’t been the right answer for me personally, I’ve built my own toolbox to manage my emotions, instead of allowing them to control me. Sometimes my tools work better than others, but thankfully there are many of them, and usually one of them will at least temper, if not slay, the dragon.
This week, however, I admit I let the dragon roar loudly, so loudly, before I pulled out the ol’ toolbox. As I watched the world around me go batshit crazy, it felt impossible to hold back the fear and panic that I had been pushing down so long. But once again, I’ve opened my trusty box of tools and I’m doing the work to bring the Truth into focus.
None of my “tools” are that original, and none of them may fit your need, but seeing as how many people who don’t normally battle anxiety may feel it creeping in, I wanted to share what I’ve found most helpful.
This one is currently going to be extremely hard for most of us, seeing as how our schools, churches, neighborhoods and groups are all shuttering for safety. We’re going to have to get creative. If you have a supportive spouse or roommate, let them know you may need some extra hugs or kind words. Missing coffee with your bestie? Consider “sharing” a cup over FaceTime.
2.) Outside time.
The winter months are the hardest for most of us. Or the rainy ones. For me, I know much of that has to do with not getting outside. This winter, I’ve tried to be better about that and force myself outside for walks instead of doing all indoor exercise. It’s been really good for me. While my family will be avoiding parks for a few weeks, bike rides and walks outside will still be a good option, and something we’re going to be intentional about.
I’ve recently resumed the practice of a gratitude journal, and it’s been extremely good for my heart and head. There are a lot of ways to do this, but I recently began following this suggested daily practice: writing down three things you’re grateful for, and expound on at least one of them (dig deeper into why you’re grateful). This one in particular I believe will be very helpful for all of us who may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of navigating work and kids’ schooling at home, not to mention, not being able to get out and about. Reminding ourselves that there are a million things to be grateful for, even on our hardest day, has been scientifically proven to change not just our perspective, but our health!
Getting outside of my head is much easier when I’m getting outside of mySELF. Looking for others who need encouragement, need reassures, need anything, reminds me that I’m not alone in needing others, and gives me an amazing sense of purpose when I might feel pretty useless. You don’t have to have a lot of money to practice this one either—simply sending texts or emails (or snail mail!) to people who might need a little lift can make you both feel better. I personally believe a well-chosen GIF is about the most generous gift you can give a friend.
This is a buzzword, I know, but I don’t mean go on a shopping spree (and certainly not at the moment!). This is another case where creativity is the name of the game while we’re all homebound. I personally am obsessed with baths. I can literally feel stress melt away during a long epsom salt bath. Also important for me is listening to music. I am working on compiling a dragon-slaying playlist on Spotify, so if you have any suggestions, please share. I start all my mornings with 32 ounces of water, but then it’s coffee and a candle while I read my Bible and pray. And yes, even a little Netflix and Disney+ (dig up some of your childhood favorites!) can take your mind off of things you can’t control.
Call it exercise, call it moving your body, call it whatever you want, just do it! Several years ago, I began a practice of exercising 5-6 days a week, and I’ve never looked back. It started out for my physical health, and yes, that’s still part of why I do it. But it’s certainly not the only reason, and lately, it’s not even the biggest reason. Getting my heart rate up because of a vigorous walk or lifting heavy weights feels GOOD, unlike when my heart rate is up because of stress. It doesn’t have to be intense to be effective. In fact, low-impact exercise like yoga can be incredibly beneficial to both your body and your mind. Just move, somehow, some way.
This will not be true for everyone, but for me, this is the most crucial of all. Remembering that I am deeply loved by God, unconditionally, and beautifully made in His image brings me back to center. During this season of Lent, I’ve been doing a devotional that has me start each morning by writing out one attribute of God and worshipping Him for it. Beginning each day remembering His strength, His love, His peace. . . it is precisely what I need to put things in perspective.
This is in no way an exhaustive list, and of course, it is highly personal to me, but if you’re feeling anxious and uncertain of what to do about it, I hope my toolbox might inspire you to make your own. No matter how you slay your own dragon, I hope you know, you’re worth fighting for. Your peace. . . your power. . . your soul. . . YOU, are worth fighting for.