An empath’s guide to anxiety

Any personality test I takes puts me in the strong empath category. This means that I feel other people’s emotions heavily. So, when big things are happening, I often retreat. It might give the illusion that I don’t care but it’s just the opposite. I care so much. When I’m hearing other people’s emotions, I need to be in a place where my own are under control.

Yesterday, my yoga teacher offered a special grounding class for election night. Just what I needed. I rolled out my mat by the front door, which is where I have space to flow without moving furniture or cat toys. My teacher mentioned a couple of times that we just need to feel what’s ours. Not everyone else’s stuff. I was right there with her.

She taught me a new pose to contain my emotions. Stand up straight, feet planted on the floor with both hands on the head, one on top of the other as if holding thoughts in. I incorporated that several times over the subsequent 24 hours.

Today, I had to severely restrict conversations with people who wanted to talk it out, speculate, vent their anger, etc. I just didn’t have much in the tank to spare. If I cut our conversation short, please know it’s not about you. I love you and I care deeply about your feelings. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there for you.

I am usually good at managing my anxiety. I project a calm persona. That’s not an act, but it does take work. I have a bag of tricks I dig into as needed. Here’s a peek:

  1. Remember that some things are in my control and some things are not: I have to trust that others will do their part and that the right systems are in place.
  2. Visualization: when I start imagining the worst, I have to take a deep breath and visualize the outcome I want. Like the plane landing safely or walking across the stage at graduation.
  3. Shaking meditation: I do it when I get into bed at night. I literally wiggle my body for a few seconds. Usually I start at my hips and let the ripples work their way up and down my body. If I need a little more, I’ll start by wiggling my toes, then my legs, then my hips, fingers … on up. It reminds me that I’m present, supported, and safe. I can let everything else go and just rest.
  4. I say it out loud: Every therapist I’ve ever talked to suggests naming our feelings and saying them out loud. I’ll tell Nick, my parents or my cat. But sometimes I’ll talk to my guardian (a massage therapist I saw a couple times told me my guardian was present. She described him as a strong, kind, sheriff type. I like to tell him my worries.)
  5. Seek out people and things that make me feel better. I like the podcast Armchair Expert, I like to watch easy sitcoms, and stream uplifting sermons.
  6. Make something with my own two hands. I thought I was just avoiding scrolling through my phone, but my therapist told me it actually slows the brain down and keeps it from inventing new scenarios to worry about. I like knitting blankets, but I recently did a puzzle that also felt good.

Published by Candace

I’m a journalist, nutritionist, doting auntie, one-time bobsledder, and wannabe health nut (who loves chocolate and pizza too much to fully commit). I don't want you to think my life is perfect. It's not.

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