What is your instinctive response when anxiety or grieving get big?
The Meditative Moment
When big experiences threaten to overwhelm, our first instinct is often to avoid. “I have too many things to do right now and can’t cry. I’m in public and can’t let my real feelings out. I’m at work and so the anxiety has to get pushed down and away. I just need to keep it together.” Sometimes this avoidance works, and it’s necessary. Because there are times when letting loose isn’t appropriate. And yet—you knew there was an “and yet,” didn’t you?—and yet, the avoidance doesn’t work forever. Eventually, you will get knocked flat: the tears come, the panic attack strikes, the anger surfaces, the depression blankets, the fear takes over. My panic attacks often come at night, and because of this, I’ve learned to sit still in them. When anxiety strikes during the day, my instinct is to go outside, drink water, turn on the television, take a nap, do something. But when it arrives in the middle of the night, I don’t want to bother the dogs or my husband, so I just lay there. Sometimes I’ll put in my headphones and listen to a book or play a game. As I gain more experience with anxiety, though, more often I simply watch my breath, tell myself I’m safe, and feel the sensations of panic come and go, ebb and flow. If avoidance is your go-to, consider trying to sit still in the muck on occasion. Sometimes we can’t, and that’s okay. But sometimes, when we’re tired of fighting the overwhelm, there can be great freedom in surrendering into it with stillness.
Originally sent September 24, 2023, to paid Substack subscribers. If you want to receive current Thin Space reflections, you can start a paid subscription here: https://laurenlmurphy.substack.com. You can choose to pay $75/year or $8/month.