“Most people struggle to some degree through the major milestones in life — kindergarten, adolescence, graduating from high school and going away to college, graduating from college, starting a career, getting married, having a baby, buying a house.
Those who are more sensitive, because they’re acutely aware of the fleeting and ephemeral nature of life punctuated by the fact that loss and death exist, feel the daily death-and-rebirth transitions more acutely than the average person.
This means that transitions both small and large — dawn and dusk, anniversaries, the change of season, birthdays — need to be honored and acknowledged in order for well-being to exist.
While in the midst of change, even if the change is toward something joyous and positive, like a wedding or moving into your dream house, it is normal and healthy to feel: sad, confused, angry, disoriented, scared, terrified, numb, lonely or vulnerable.
Most people lack basic information about transitions that can help them contextualize these emotions, make sense of them, and move through them effectively.
Culturally, we focus on the externals of a transition — planning a wedding, buying the car seat, packing the boxes — to the exclusion of the inner realm.
While the externals are important, when we bypass working consciously with the emotions activated during transitions, we decrease our chances of adjusting to the new life as gracefully as possible. This can have long-term, negative consequences not only during the transition at hand, but for our lives in general, and can lead to a buildup of anxiety.” ~ The Wisdom of Anxiety, Sheryl Paul
I am a continual work in progress. I am not a finalized version of managing stress or anxiety. I do not believe anxiety can be managed, but rather integrated into a now moment.
What impresses me most about this reflection, what I have learned from this experience, and what I continue to learn, is that in our moments of deep, dark fear, we are unable to see and feel the light…. but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist… if we can make it through the discomfort and pain of what feels like an unbearable moment(s)….if we can allow the present to be what it is rather trying to change it… if we can love ourselves immensely during these time of doubt, struggle and powerlessness…. we can learn the power of overcoming…. we can remember who we are and the God that has never left.
“If we knew who walked with us on this path that we have chosen, fear would not be possible” – ACIM
We are shedding layers and layers of past programming, generational trauma and patterns of behavior…. it’s normal, natural and necessary to feel pain, discomfort, sorrow, helplessness, powerlessness…. we are giving ourselves, our children and our future grandchildren, the gift of being present and living in our truth. That means honoring whatever it is that comes up for us and allowing it to be…. and loving ourselves deeply through it.
It is not always an easy path, but one most definitely worth taking….
*Disclaimer: Any claims made here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. I am sharing my personal experience and what has worked for me.
Importantly, I never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep or a good nap. When I am feeling anxious, I always start with whether or not I slept well the night before, and whether I can fit in a nap/rest. I question if I’m hungry, thirsty or stressed about something surface level.
At times, the message of anxiety is calling me to go deeper.
The following is a testimony to how anxiety can snowball and manifest over a period of time, and my personal experience of how I addressed and processed it.
A season of firsts
Niko’s first birthday was fast approaching, as it was late spring of 2018. Niko, my fourth child, was diagnosed in utero with a rare genetic condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI).
During these months, I had been planning the following: our very first Wishbone Day (a day of OI awareness), our very first trip across the country to Children’s Hospital of Omaha for Niko’s clinic appointments with OI specialists, our very first national OI conference, Niko’s first birthday, and our first trip to the beach as a family of 6.
Wow… This was all very exciting…. but also full of nervous energy and stress.
10 months into post partum, raising four children, immersion in OI medicine, care, early intervention, awareness and education…. throw a move in there, which we did shortly after Niko was born…
….. and the waves of emotion came crashing over me…. through me, actually….
Until now, perhaps I had been running on adrenaline, or nervous energy… the kind of energy you run on when you are nursing an infant, caring for a sick child, the energy that athletes speak of or those who are working a deadline to maximum capacity.
Whatever it was…. the whispers of anxiety became louder, and the roars could not be mistaken any longer.
Not that I am a tightrope walker, but imagine it may be used to reference this experience…. when you’re doing something hard, best to keep going and don’t look down. Best not over analyze what you’re doing, where you’re going or what you’re actually going through…. best to just keep going…
When I would stop to think about what was happening to us…. I would feel faint… I would feel dizzy… intrusive thoughts…. disconnect from reality….
When I would stop to feel…. I felt uncomfortable…. I felt nervous, anxious, disoriented and like I was floating out of my body.
I had been so busy getting through this time, that I failed to pay attention to my own feelings and sensations…. and need for process.
Thankfully, I hadn’t ignored myself entirely all of these months…. I spent a significant amount of time consciously transitioning from pregnancy to post partum… however…. the fear was still very strong….
The fear I held in my body during my pregnancy, carried over to the fear I held in my body in those first months of Niko’s life…. I bounced between fear that he would stop breathing to joy and gratitude for this time we all had together.
The physical sensations reached a point where I felt paralyzed by the stress…. the buzzing in my body felt scary and debilitating. The intrusive thoughts and physical feelings were on the spin cycle, running over and over, making the other one worse.
I remembered a teacher who introduced me to the mind/body connection and decided to buy one of his meditations, committing to a daily practice of creating a new mind… becoming a new body… breaking the habit of fear and anxiety.
Within a few days I started to feel much better…. like a new person, but like connecting with an old friend…. I started to remember who I was…. and why I was here.
I started to remember that the scariest place I could be was where I could not hear the voice of God…. and when I was in the midst of paralyzing fear and anxiety, I could not hear or feel God and those were the most terrifying moments of my life.
As I committed to calming my nervous system, I started to regain confidence in my body and my mind.
Once Niko’s birthday passed and I was free to both celebrate and mourn the loss of the pregnancy and birth, and even idea of a child that I had once had…. I felt the freedom in my body.
Crying was a big part of my healing.
Time after time, I would sit to do the meditations, and I would sob…. sometimes I would start sobbing at different parts of it, but nonetheless, I would full body sob….
… I would cry in grief… in despair…. in powerlessness…. in sorrow.
… I would cry in gratitude…
… I would cry in that moment that I remembered who I was….
… and that my life and my purpose was far greater than fear…. that fear couldn’t exist in the vast totality of possibility that is the greatness of my light…
… I would cry because I had forgotten…. I would weep for that girl who forgot.
… and then cry in celebration because she regained her strength, her knowing and reclaimed her place at the throne of truth, of life, of power and divinity.
During this process of remembering… of healing…. of routinely calming my nervous system through meditation, breathing, Reiki, stretching, mindfulness and prayer….
…. and sobbing…. lots and lots of sobbing….
…. I started to feel better…. and the fear doesn’t grip my heart as tightly as it once did…. and when it does…. I dedicate my life to remembering that it doesn’t have to stay…. that it’s ok…. and when it’s not ok…. it’ll be ok soon.
My introduction to transitions and grief
Last summer, I read The Wisdom of Anxiety: How Worry and Intrusive Thoughts Are Gifts to Help You Heal by Sheryl Paul.
I learned that anxiety can be caused by grief…. but not just in the loud grief we have grown up knowing about, like when someone we love dies…
We can feel grief anytime we experience loss…. from the big moments to the micro-moments, as Sheryl describes.
“Everyone seems to be happy about this upcoming holiday weekend, but I feel dread and sadness, so I guess there’s something wrong with me.” or “I get a pit in my stomach every Sunday night, but I’ve never heard anyone talk about it, so I guess there’s something wrong with me.” When the statement “There’s something wrong with me” enters your inner dialogue, you’re just a few steps away from anxiety ensuing.
As a culture, we desperately need more language about both the obvious and subtle breaking-and-renewing points in our lives. You need to know there will be times, like at the day’s end when you peer off the cliff of the afternoon into the vast blue sea of twilight, when a great emptiness may arise. The tendency is to run from it — to find something or someone to take it away — but when you know that the emptiness is normal, and you have even a vague sense of why the sadness is there, you can more easily remember to sit and breathe through it until it passes through, and a great fullness is revealed. When we don’t know what to expect, we fall into our default modes, which are shame and anxiety.”
Sheryl then goes onto to speak about the loss of the light…. the end of the day…. the end of a child’s year…. the end of a pregnancy… the end of a birth… the end of an experience… the end of a perspective or shift in mindset…
Once I realized that my anxiety could be stemming from grief, the way I met my anxiety changed.
Once I felt a sensation of anxiety come, I would ask myself, “What is the grief here?” Almost every time, the answer would lie in loss…. the loss of another day… the loss of time… the passage of time… the inability to hold my children always, but the knowing they would continue to grow as they are meant to do…. the loss of control… the loss of knowing….
So often I would brush the whispers of anxiety aside…. the emotions of grief would swirl around me as I went about my day, pushing through all that needed to be done.
…. when I stop to ask…. and listen…. I always get an answer…. and it can be devastating…. I feel the sorrow of my heart and mourn her loss…. all that she’s been through and all that she continues to go through…. I feel the sorrow of others, recognizing the pain of the world and the souls in despair…. the cries of others can be strong, and since we are all connected, it’s easy to feel the energetic pull of others’ suffering.
Happy Hour may be so popular because it’s an escape from this pain…. at a crucial time when the daylight is leaving us and our human hearts say goodbye to another day…. vulnerable… and yearning for connection.
We are energetic beings and the good news is we can allow these emotions (energy in motion) to come and go. We don’t have to hold them in our bodies, in our cells, in our hearts and minds. When expressed, emotions are free to move about the cabin and released. When not expressed, they are stored in the body and manifest as stress, anxiety and illness.
“Energy Medicine (EM) is the use of known subtle energy fields to therapeutically assess and treat energetic imbalances, bringing the body’s systems (neurological, cardiovascular, respiratory, skeletal, endocrinal, emotional/psychological, etc) back to homeostasis.
Knowledge of the existence of the Human Energy Field (HEF) is the first step to understanding integral physiology, which unites body, mind, and spirit to treat the entire human being—not just the physiology.21 The HEF has been described as a complex dynamic of EMFs that include individual oscillating electrically charged moving particles such as ions, biophotons, and molecules, which create standing waves.22
Disturbances in the coherence of energy patterns of the HEF are indications of disease and aging.23 When these energy particles are exposed to EM in the form of coherent energy patterns (eg, PEMF, vibrational medicine, Polarity Therapy, acupuncture, Healing Touch, etc), the disturbed resonant patterns return to their original, coherent, harmonic, and vibrational state (homeostasis).
If Western medicine applied the principles of modern physics, it would understand human beings are composed of information (energy) interacting with other energy (environment) to profoundly impact our physical and emotional health. The HEF has been investigated in scientific laboratories where photon emissions were detected using photometers and color filter.24–27
Human energy vibrations were recorded at 1000 times higher in frequency than the electrical signals of nerve and muscle, with continuous dynamic modulation unlike the pulsing signals of the nervous system.23
Energy in the HEF is typically referred to as subtle energy,28 which is electromagnetic in nature. It is a system of wave-particle matter, transmitting and receiving vibrational information governing the physical matter of the body.
Healing is achieved by directing coherent, harmonic energy into distortions caused by stressors and disease.” ~ Energy Medicine, Current Status and Future Perspectives
Awareness of our emotional and physical body, guides our awareness of our energetic body. We are energetic beings and when we feel the emotions and physical sensations of energy coursing through our bodies, we can learn to assess these moments. Most often we have a physical sensation and add meaning to it. Perhaps it’s a thought that doesn’t make us feel good, and perpetuates the cycle of negative thought patterns, and uncomfortable/painful sensations/physical symptoms.
For example, we feel pressure in our head and start thinking about all the things that could be wrong. We start to feel discomfort in our stomach, as well as an increase discomfort in our head…. we further affirm in our minds that something must definitely be wrong and then we start online searching these symptoms. Intrusive thoughts and health anxiety, worry and stress ensue.
Another example is when our child does something that upsets us…. we feel frustrated and angry, and start having thoughts like: They never listen to us, they don’t respect us, things are never going to change, I’m a terrible parent, etc.”
We then start to get even more angry and perhaps spiral into a rage, added with any external stressors like time and/or hunger…. the thoughts encourage the emotions, vice versa, and the cycle continues.
Being aware of our thoughts and physical sensations is the first step to allowing. Just recognizing these things, and even saying it out loud, is a great way to create a new experience and interrupt the cycle.
By making this a practice, we learn how to overcome. We get knocked down, we pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off, and get back out there. Every day…. every moment.
Life is living…. when we become stagnant in our thoughts, patterns, behaviors and beliefs, we become like a tree that has stopped growing… we must remember that we are unfinished… we are constantly changing, every day…. with the rise of the sun, we have an opportunity to be…. living, breathing, changing… we won’t feel like the same person we were the day before… because we aren’t… we are always becoming…
…. living is growing….
We withstand the winter, so we can blossom in the spring, receive healing in the summer and begin our preparation in the fall…. for a winter that makes us stronger.
We are cyclic beings and with that comes movement…. rhythm, allowing, flowing…. once we integrate the feelings that we’d rather not feel, we are free to move differently… but we are always growing. And that is the gift of living.