Last week, I wrote about getting help for dealing with anxiety*, finding your way through difficult situations and asking yourself questions like how you want to handle this pandemic. This week, I’d like to go a little deeper by asking this question: what should you do differently?
Uncertainty. Not being in control. Not having the right resources (time, health, money), all have been a part of humanity’s story since the beginning of time. People have struggled, suffered, and been defeated by some form of calamity or another. We have had to learn to accept, innovate and reinvent especially during these times.
One game-changing tool of reinvention and innovation which has been in plain sight all along yet has been rarely discussed is the power of language.
Language shapes and gives context and texture to reality. A limited vocabulary tends to limit our options. Expanding it in times like these can get us through many of the inner problems we face.
How can we use language as a tool to help us work with anxiety or stress? Let’s take a look.
When we are in stressful situations, life becomes a series of fight or flight reactions. Stress colors life as being difficult, full of obstacles, with limited resources. We feel backed into a corner, we become hostile and judgemental. We lose connection with our inner strength, clarity and the knowledge that we can make choices.
Recognizing that we have a choice is the first step in doing things differently.
The very act of recognition is a distinction performed by language. Language separates out the maelstrom of emotions and thoughts into distinct channels. Then we again use language to create pathways that lead to desired goals. In this case, stability and stasis. Now let’s continue with the example to experience language as a tool in action.
When we view the world through a black and white lens, we say, “I’m anxious” or the opposite, “I feel safe”. We experience the extremes as being the only truth.
Instead, we can choose to do it differently. We can insert “and” into our statements. We can say “I’m anxious and I feel safe” Is it possible to feel anxious and feel safe?
We can make it even more specific by gauging how anxious we really feel. For example, “I’m about 55% anxious and about 45% of me feels safe” This way of gauging our experience helps to create clarity.
Nobody is all anxious. And nobody feels all safe. The closer we get to recognizing the multiple emotions within us the closer we come to articulating our actual inner reality. The more accurately we know ourselves the better choices we can make for ourselves.
Another way to create a shift using language is by inserting the classic “even though” to the beginning of your sentence or thought. Here are some examples:
- “Even though I’m feeling anxious right now, I can take a deeper breath to soothe my nervous system.”
- “Even though we are in lockdown I can still call my friends.”
- “Even though I’m overwhelmed by the news I’m grateful that my family is safe.”
- “Even though I’m feeling really sick I can rest and give myself time to recover.”
- “Even though this is the worst day of my life and I feel so alone. I don’t have to hold back my emotions. I can let myself cry.”
The addition of “even though” subtly changes our relationship to the experience we are in and allows for breathing room. A little shift will go a long way. Doing things differently is another way of saying check-in with yourself, get a clear picture of how you are feeling and then take action.
Hang in there. We are all in this together and together we can create breathing space for all of us.
*I am offering a free check-in with my Discovery Sessions. I’d love to sit down with you and hear what’s going on with you or if you are facing something really challenging I can help you with that too. That help is just a click away.
*Offer limited from April 6th – 16th 2020