Have you ever had to do something so unpleasant that the thought alone would send your anxiety through the roof?
The very idea of doing it has the power to set your skin on fire, deprive you of sleep, and highjack your thoughts. Your heart jumps frantically as if it wants to break out of your body and hide somewhere safe.
An alarm system in your brain takes over, causing you to feel numb and disconnected from the rest of the world. It raises a barrier of smoked glass, invisible to others but so real for you.
Yep, I know.
When the anxiety hits, all you want is for it to be over.
Are there ways to minimize anxiety and dissociation symptoms?
You bet there are.
Let me show you.
Glowing Flashes of the Past
In a few days, I’m going to my mother’s home – for the first time since she passed away.
Never easy, would you say?
The aftermath of the sick, ambivalent relationship can be heartbreaking, making it harder to let go.
It’s also about Mom not being there … not being anywhere, anymore.
But most of all, it’s about me taking the last step toward my freedom.
The challenge is high, like the Ural Mountains. No wonder my depersonalization thrives like the moss on the shadowy parts of our lawn.
Which is … normal. My brain does what it did to help me to survive when I was little: it numbs the unbearable feelings. Or so it thinks.
By shielding me from the pain of loss and revisiting the past, it inflicts further pain – the pain of not being truly alive.
But guess what?
I believe I can bear these feelings without sinking into a lake of despair and depression. I can keep my DPDR symptoms under control.
If I prepare myself for the challenge.
Want to know how?
9 Ways to Prepare Yourself for a Challenge
People can walk on glowing coals and not get burned. We can go through times of emotional pain, with our hearts touched but not tormented.BE A CREATOR OF YOUR REALITYClick To Tweet
#1 Make it your project.
Do it not because you should, but because you will. Gain a sense of control over the situation.
“Using the word ’should’ is often associated with guilt, shame and an ’absence of decision.’” – Erin Falconer.
It took me ten months to make a decision and another month to prepare myself.
#2 Pick a pleasant task as your goal.
Choose something you would love to spend time on – writing a story, planning your kid’s birthday, or learning how to do face yoga.
Trick your mind into believing this is your primary goal (not the sh** you have to do), and the future will present itself with a brighter side.
#3 Focus on positive memories.
We all have good memories, although they might be repressed, hidden in the farthest corners of your mind. Look at your favorite photographs, make drawings, or talk to a family member to refresh your memory.
#4 Make a plan for your visit.
Keep a balance between your duties and pleasant pastimes. Visualize the things that you feel most excited about.
#5 Have a safety line.
Have an emotional backup at home. Stay in contact with your partner and friends for emotional support.
#6 Calm your amygdala.
Say to it, “I know you are scared and you worry about me. Thank you for that. But I’m stronger now, and I can handle it. I’m safe.” Learn more about your brain here.
Art of Walking on Burning Coals
Dealing with painful situations can wake strong emotions that need to be regulated.
When the challenge begins:
#7 Maintain your usual daily routine.
It will help you to feel safe. (Keep an eye on my new course with practices that help me and my clients to feel happier and more alive.)
#8 Remember to exercise.
You need all the endorphins you can get to feel good. Regular exercise provides a distraction from troubling thoughts and helps to manage anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
#9 Take breaks to avoid overwhelm.
Every half an hour make yourself a cup of tea, call someone or do a square dance.
Feel free to “call it for today” at the very first sign of overwhelm. Turn the switch to “joy” and leave.
When the Coals Catch Fire
Sometimes we do everything we can but dark clouds still manage to engulf us, paralyzing our minds, numbing our feelings and distorting our sense of reality.
Need to calm and ground yourself right away?
Here are my favorite Emergency Tools:
- Stop and breathe – find a video with a breathing exercise here.
- Tap gently on your breast right under the collarbones till you feel calmer.
- Sing your favorite song.
- Go for a walk or open a window wide and do 20 jumping-jacks (link).
- Talk to someone.
- Look around and name five objects you see.
- Open your eyes wide, holding your index finger and thumbs around them like you’re looking through binoculars. (Image)
- Whatever you do, say it out loud to help yourself stay focused on your actions.
- Eat something with intense flavor like mint, cinnamon, or ginger. Cook yourself a spicy meal.
- Splash your hands and face with cold water.
P.S. I like to hold an ice cube in my hand and, from time to time, touch the top of my head with it.
Find more tips here.
Try these and find what helps you to regain focus, feel in the moment, and reconnect with the present.
I Will Do It My Way
So I won’t count the days until I return home, suffering along the way.
Instead, I will smile at the illustrations in my old books, pick a few things with good memories to bring home with me, and get rid of any ballast. I’ll try new Russian cheeses, and go hunting for Feijoa (or guava that, in Germany, costs 1 Euro for one—if you can find it!).
I will live fully, adding bright colors to the picture of my life—going to the theatre, concerts, and exhibitions. I’ll explore the beautiful, pulsating city that Moscow is today, together with my friends.
I will have fun and share it with you. Promise!
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Images by Irina and Pixabay