Managing Anxiety

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything to this site. Weekends come and I promise myself that “I will post this weekend”, and then, before I know it, the weekend is over and I haven’t posted. I claim to myself that I have nothing to write about and that is partly true. I think the real reason I haven’t posted is that I’ve been preoccupied with other thoughts which have taken priority in my life.


All my life I’ve been what I would call a “fear based” person. That has been both a gift and a burden. Whenever I undertake any kind of project be it a vacation trip, an art project, teaching a class, even writing a blog, I prepare for it. This often involves research to make sure I know what I should do, list-making to insure that I have what I need and that I don’t forget any vital steps, and rehearsals to make sure I really do know what I’m doing. That way I avoid mistakes and disaster.

I have been so good at being prepared, that I mostly experience fine outcomes. But the burden that comes with being so well prepared is that the “angst” and fear of coming up short has taken its toll on me. It has become my primary way of dealing with life. And it produces lots of anxiety and adrenaline!

When my husband recently had cancerous growth removed from his nose, I felt on the edge of disaster, like my world was coming to an end. Three or four times a day, I would feel a knot forming in my stomach. My heart rate was irregular. I couldn’t concentrate. What I was experiencing was extreme anxiety and I knew I needed to do something to alter this crazy-making response.

blogSt FrancisNormally I would turn first to my doctor. I had done that this past fall when I was having acute anxiety about turning 75 and a planned trip. He referred me to a wonderful hypnotherapist to learn self hypnosis. It was extremely helpful, and I broke the anxiety pattern for a while. I thought I had it licked and was most surprised that I had spiraled back into unmanageable panic – even with the self hypnosis.

This time I turned to my sister, a retired nurse paramedic and asked her how she worked with people who had PTSD after being in accidents. She got me started on this new journey, with a very effective 5 minute exercise that shifted the panic response with breath and visualization.

I immediately started using this approach each time the panic set in, and began to feel better. I realized I needed to learn more about anxiety. I’d like to share with you some of the very interesting books that I’ve been reading.

blogSagofernThe first book I purchased was “Fear” by Thick Nhat Hanh. It presents a Buddhist way of looking at and dealing with fear. It is easy to understand, and just reading it has brought me greater peace. Ed and I are reading it together out loud and I’ve found this experience has stimulated some great conversations where we both have come to know each other more deeply. I’ve found the practices and affirmations offered in the book to be very effective in lowering my anxiety levels.

I was talking about all of this with a friend who has spent the last year in treatment for breast cancer. She is a huge proponent of positive thinking and told me about the book “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge, M.D. It arrived from Amazon several days ago and I’ve devoured it. Through fascinating narratives about real people with challenging physical issues, Dr. Doidge explains how neuroscience is offering break-though treatments for all kinds of neurological disease. The chapter on fear described my situation to a “T”. The explanations presented the most current approaches to treating extreme anxiety and shed light on my problem. This has given me hope that I will be successful in managing my anxiety.

MothAnother friend told me of her experience with “HeartMath”, another view of dealing with emotional issues based on innovative research and the development of tools and techniques that work on anxiety, depression,hypertension, anger, stress etc.
She loaned me several publications which offer me yet another way of looking at my situation. The book “Transforming Anxiety” was particularly helpful, providing a sequential approach to developing new life-long practices.

What has been most fascinating has been the congruence in all three views with emphasis on the ways that breath and visualization can bring about long-term physical changes and a shift to normalcy.

I did make it outside a few times and took the photos included in this post at the Tucson Botanical Garden. It is a visual delight since spring has arrived and the next few months will offer visitors a botanical cacophony of color.

CupidSinkIn conclusion, I’m back and I think I’m ready to begin posting again on a regular basis. My goal – to post once a week. The desert is blooming again and, hopefully, so am I.