Uncertainty is rarely a friend to those who suffer from anxiety. Living with circumstances that are well beyond our control can be maddening and fear inducing to the point of shutting down, whether we want to or not. The coronavirus is forcing all of us to live outside of our comfort zone. When I go to the store, I see shelves cleared of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and many nonperishable foods. Clearly more than just a few of us are on edge about the level of uncertainty we’re faced with presently.
Earlier this week, I found myself pulsating with anxiety. It seemed the world, at least my part of the world, had been upended so quickly and so easily due to the virus and I was left feeling fearful and unsettled. I felt a level of anxiety I hadn’t felt in months and it felt all-consuming and incredibly uncomfortable. I wanted it gone from my body at any cost, but then I remembered all of the things that I’ve learned about myself and anxiety over the past three years. I knew I had to sit with my anxiety and let it be. This is hard to do because we are taught to believe that any amount of discomfort needs to be banished from our bodies. We are given messages to shop, drink, eat and do whatever it takes to rid ourselves of discomfort. This week as I sat with my anxiety, I realized what a great teacher it can be if I only stop resisting it and listen to it. I found that my anxiety showed up in my body like a pulsating ball of fear in my gut. It made my throat tighten and my thoughts race. I sat still with the pulsating ball in my gut and noticed that it intensified when I tried to resist it or question its reason for being in my body, but when I let it be and didn’t do anything more than look at it with wonder, it began to dissipate. I didn’t try to expel it from my body, I just let it be. Once I stopped resisting it, I was able to notice that it was telling me things.
Anxiety told me that I needed to cancel an upcoming trip to Europe that I’d been looking forward to for months because it wasn’t safe to go any longer. I realized the anxiety grew the longer I put off making this decision that I knew in my heart I had to make. The same held true for all of the other adventures my family has scheduled over the next several weeks. Once I let go of the feeling of loss over these plans being cancelled, I was able to see that there are many gifts that come with the cancellations. I have the opportunity to do other things that I wouldn’t have been able to do had I gone on the trips. I’m still saddened to not go, but I'll have the chance to go in the future when it’s safer for everyone to be in community again and maybe there will be gifts given for going at a future date. I believe there will be, if I’m open to seeing them.
As it appears more likely that we are going to be living in some state of quarantine over the coming weeks, I’m finding the gifts in this state of being. I’ll have more time with my daughter. We can do things together at home that we often believe we are too busy to do. I’ll have the opportunity to do more writing and we can bring more music, art and joy into our lives with this ‘extra’ time at home.
I often think of anxiety as my nemesis, but if I stop resisting it and examine it, I realize that it can be one of my greatest teachers. It speaks to me, if I only stop and listen. It often tells me what action I need to take and it teaches me to stop resisting so much of what I feel. When I stop resisting, magic happens. I gain perspective and insight and come to more fully embrace the lessons my body teaches me if I only sit still, listen and observe.