Have you ever had the experience of getting off a carousel or amusement park ride and feeling like you’re still spinning? The natural inclination is to hold onto something or sit down. Your body is trying to ground itself. When you are anxious or when your world is out of control, your body wants to ground itself by stopping the carousel of treatment or whatever situation you are in that is causing your world to spin.
Unfortunately, you often can’t stop the carousel. You may be undergoing treatment and feel worried about something that hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps you feel the process of choosing a donor or starting down the path of family building is daunting. If you already have children, the vast ocean of parenting options and negotiating with your loved ones around the holidays may leave you feeling rudderless. Unfortunately, anxiety and overwhelm are not helpful states of mind to have when you want to think through your options and feel better.
Your body wants to fix the state you are in, and so you may spend hours on the internet, lay awake in bed at night ruminating, or talk to friends incessantly about your stress. While these strategies may feel satisfying in the moment, they will only give you the impression that you are in control over your circumstances or relieve tension for the short term.
The holidays can create many opportunities to feel out of control. This time of year, I often hear people talk about disagreements they are having with relatives or concerns they are having about the possibility of issues with friends. Add family building to the mix and it’s enough to make the room spin.
Here are two steps you can take to ground yourself this holiday season.
Your beliefs guide your feelings and your feelings guide your behaviors. If you believe you can stabilize yourself and get on a good path, it’s likely you will. You may need to try several strategies before you become as adept at stabilizing yourself as you would like to be, but you can get there.
Taking action to get out of yourself and connect with the world around you can change your emotional state. When you feel dizzy, the room isn’t really spinning, but grabbing onto something can prevent you from falling to the floor. As soon as you notice the rumination, the intense worry, or obsessive behavior, ground yourself with something outside of yourself to recalibrate your emotional state. Here are some tips to help you anchor yourself.
- Count backwards from 100. If you are lying in bed awake at night, this is a quiet way to refocus your mind without waking the person next to you. During the day, you can couple it with walking, or even pacing if you live in a small apartment. It won’t take more than a few minutes to count your steps and center yourself. This exercise can help you get out of your head while also reconnecting you to your body.
- Use your senses. Try this little game. Find five objects you can experience with each of your senses. Can you find five different colors or shapes in the room you’re in? What about textures? Can you touch a cold tile, a soft blanket, a fuzzy towel or a warm radiator? For taste, head to the fridge or the bathroom. This is not about snacking; it’s just about noticing the tingling feeling of a bit of toothpaste on your tongue, or the sour experience of lemon juice in your mouth. Do this with each of your senses.
- Imagine your steadiness and affirm it. Can you think of yourself as an old oak tree? Strong and steady, but flexible enough to move with the wind? If so, the next time a relative makes an intrusive remark or you feel yourself go down the rabbit hole of jealousy, remember that you must stabilize yourself. Think about the imaginary roots coming out of your feet and going through the floor.
You can also use the image of a stone in a stream. The water rushes around it, over it and under it, but it cannot penetrate the stone.
Use any other metaphor that helps you feel confident, still and calm. Remind yourself that you are like a stone or tree. The winds or water will touch you, but not move you from your steady center. These images can also be helpful to bring into your meditation practice.
None of us have control over what happens in the world, but we do have some control over how we react to our experiences.
The more we catch ourselves when we feel out of control and steady ourselves, the better we will get at it. The better we get at it, the fewer moments of feeling out of control we will have. Eventually, we will know that the upcoming blood test, conversation with a relative or upcoming holiday may be difficult, but can be weathered like the oak tree or stone in the river.
I can’t think of a better holiday gift to give to others than taking care of yourself. Steady yourself and not only will you feel better, you will have the strength to be a better friend to others.
Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year, and please reach out to us for more suggestions or support.
We are here to make your life easier.