Your Feelings Are Not “Wrong” – How To Deal With Anxiety In Times Of Distress
Feelings can never be “wrong” in and of themselves. They are what they are and exactly what they’re supposed to be: feelings. But that doesn’t always make them pleasant.
Anxiety, unrest, sadness, grievance, fear – most of us would probably rather do without. That’s why we tend to do the opposite of what works: we push them away.
However, in order for any emotion to be released they need to be felt first.
Feelings are messengers. And I learned the hard way that if we don’t listen, they’ll just keep knocking.
Luckily, though, I found meditation.
Are you frequently finding yourself on an emotional rollercoaster these days?
Then you may want to give it a go…
From turmoil to stillness
I vividly remember the first time I tried a guided meditation. It was about 6 years ago, amidst a lot of personal turmoil – and it radically changed my life.
At the time, I mostly referred to that turmoil as work-related stress but, of course, it wasn’t just work-related.
In fact, my excessive working habits were a symptom as much as they were the cause.
My continuous feelings of unrest came from a much deeper place of imbalance. But this place had largely remained uncharted territory for years.
Scars, wounds, limitations, imperfections…
I knew I was dealt the whole package of the human condition, just like everyone else. But most of THEM seemed just fine.
Shouldn’t I be, too?
I tried and tried – but there’s no escaping yourself
Ignoring what was going on in the depths of my being was “easy” as long as I kept myself busy. And that was something I had (unknowingly) become an expert at:
Even if I wasn’t working, my mind would be at work.
I let my constant striving for “perfection” and my inability to let things (tasks, projects, people, situations, and feelings) go, have the best of me.
In my dreams I was either already doing the work I was supposed to be doing the next day (or worse: the tasks I had forgotten about!) or I’d be nocturnally facing the people and situations I was incessantly trying to avoid during the day. All of which usually led me to wake up even more exhausted than I was the night before.
Episodes of angst and anxiety, overwhelm and exhaustion, depression and physical disease, invariably showed up for decades.
But since these episodes were always still passing – I kept going.
Mostly on the fuel of external approval and validation.
Anxiety was the result of suppressing my emotions
Since asking for help and support felt like total failure to me, I’d put a patch here and there, tried not to talk about it too much, and figured that this was just my predicament in life: a self-imposed mental and physical prison of “too many feelings,” “frequent dis-ease,” “too much to do,” and “way too little time.”
Anxiety became one of the main symptoms of my self-repression.
I concluded I was just someone who took things a little too seriously, was easily stressed out, and had to live at the whims and mercy of her emotions.
Only at times when I really, really had to seek help from professionals, I would.
Like when my body would start protesting too loudly (with rashes showing up all over my body or infections popping up here and there) or when I’d randomly start bursting into tears behind my laptop at work.
Watching me come and go for a couple of years, even the general practitioners, specialists, and psychotherapists saw that their patchwork (however brilliant, needed, and welcomed) wasn’t enough.
They began to suggest alternative forms of treatment, saying:
- “You’re too much in your head.”
- “Explore mindfulness…”
- “Try this life coach!”
- “Try that one!”
However much I felt compelled to do as they told me, I also felt a tremendous amount of resistance, thinking:
- “Why is this life thing so difficult for me?”
- “The fact that I can’t cope with everything that’s coming at me MUST mean I am a failure.”
- “Am I really so “f*cked up” that I can’t figure this stuff out by myself?”
- “Why do I have to spend my hard-earned money on all of this?”
- “Why can’t I be like “normal” people and just chill the f*ck out?”
From mind hacking to meditation
Fed up with my constant survival mode, however, and knowing there had to be different ways of being available to me, I started reading all sorts of books and magazines about mindfulness, mental health, and productivity.
I’d basically grab anything I could get my hands on, in order to hack myself together.
I was hoping I could intellectually *think* my way out of this.
Funnily, the only thing that kept me alive ( joyfully living versus enduring life) through much of this, was dancing. A practice that forced me out of my head and into my body.
But I still didn’t get the message.
Until one of my dearest colleagues at that time, suggested I’d try a guided mediation by Tara Brach.
For my experience was truly life-altering.
How my first guided meditation turned my life around
Not only did Tara Brach’s calm and soothing voice instantly induce feelings of relaxation and (the long longed for) safety, I discovered the main cause of most of all of my problems at the time in just one session.
Tara guided me through a full body relaxation.
After relaxing every muscle all the way down from the crown of my head, to my forehead, my eyebrows, my eyes, my cheeks, my mouth, my tongue, my neck, and my shoulders, I was guided to bring my attention to my heart.
And that’s when the magic happened.
The very moment my attention moved into the heart area, the tears started rolling down my face. And they wouldn’t stop coming…
While Tara was asking me to imagine a smile all through my heart (“not to cover over but to create space for whatever is there”) I was sobbing like a new born child.
The price I paid for not listening to my feelings
I had accumulated so much sadness and stress in my body over the years, that I had completely shut down most of my authentic emotions.
The weeks, months, and years prior, I had been suppressing so many thoughts and emotions that I had no idea where this massive flood of tears came from all of a sudden.
But I instantly recognized that I had not been listening to my heart for awhile.
“Shocker:” I had been trying to live up to ideas about myself and my environment that I had created completely and entirely with my mind alone.
What role did I allow my heart to play in all of this?
I thought I knew where the majority of my hardships came from at the time, but the fact that there were still so many unresolved issues pending from the past – I had absolutely no clue.
I was too stubbornly trying to be strong and independent.
I had this “I got this!” attitude going. And once you got it you can’t drop it anymore. At least, that is what I thought back then…
It had turned me into someone who was constantly focused on doing better versus being well, without even the slightest notion of what it was I truly wanted, desired or needed.
A return to heart-centered decision-making
Meditation wasn’t the only modality I turned to for my healing. However, it quickly restored enough of my inner-power and energy to start making heart-centered, conscious decisions again.
Decisions that I had long been postponing for reasons of fear were now much easier to make.
I started traveling alone, moving abroad, and ultimately becoming one of those “digital nomads” – moving and dancing around freely, meeting the most incredible human beings in various countries, and living a lifestyle that I wouldn’t even have dared to dream about before.
To practice what you preach, you have to preach what you practice
The point of me sharing all of this now, is pretty straightforward and it is this:
During this challenging, fear-filled time, I hope – with all of my heart – that people will allow themselves to feel their way into this.
Not just to intellectually think their way through it, like I so desperately tried with my challenges in the past.
Anxiety and fear are powerful emotions and they can cause a lot of damage in our lives if they’re not tended to and released with love and compassion.
As my favorite meditation teacher so beautifully described:
“The emotion of fear often works overtime. Even when there is no immediate threat, our body may remain tight and on guard, our mind narrowed to focus on what might go wrong. When this happens, fear is no longer functioning to secure our survival. We are caught in the trance of fear and our moment-to-moment experience becomes bound in reactivity. We spend our time and energy defending our life rather than living it fully.”Tara Brach
Hopefully, reading this will encourage you to turn inward too and to allow yourself to sit with and feel your emotions about everything that’s going on for you now – regardless of how the current situation is affecting you (mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually).
Even if you are just slightly anxious, worried, or emotional throughout any of this (which I think we all are in some way, super human as we are), I sincerely hope you will allow yourself a breather.
And some time to investigate whatever is coming up for you.
And if it intrigues you, I urge you to give a guided meditation a chance. It might just turn your life around.
To make this easier for you, I listed some of my favorites below.
Guides, platforms, and tools I used then and still do now:
- Guided meditations by Tara Brach
- Guided Meditation to Open your Heart Chakra and Connect to Loving Kindness – The Mindful Movement
- Meditation for Self Love – Yoga with Adriene
- Guided Heart Opening Meditation – The Kabbalah Centre
- Meditations for Life’s Challenges – Michael B. Beckwith on Commune (meditation course)
Gratitude and abundance meditation:
- Inner peace during the pandemic – Podcast by Dr Srikumar Rao
- Let me introduce your mind to your heart – Satsang by Mooji (video)
- Rewiring for happiness and freedom – part 1 – Talk by Tara Brach (video)
- The Untethered Soul – Michael A. Singer (book)
Healing takes time
True emotional healing is not a one-time event. It’s a continuous process:
It’s not done after a good cry.
It’s not over after you’ve talked about it once, twice, or, in some cases, a hundred times (and everyone around you is done with it already).
And it’s also not necessarily complete after 10 sessions or sometimes even years with a therapist.
Instead, it’s a process that takes time and involves many layers.
But if you refuse to undertake the journey, and push down whatever it is that you do not enjoy feeling, there will be no process at all.
Even though emotions can show up as unsolicited visitors, if you keep the door shut, they’ll just keep knocking.
May you find the courage inside during this time to tend to any pending, unresolved emotions – may you heal whatever it is that needs healing.
May you be healthy, may you be happy, may you be loved.
PS. If you have any meditations to add to the list, please let me know in the comments below! 💞