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Compassion for Anxiety

Anxiety can be consistently hanging out in the background or all encompassing.  You may find yourself trying to get away from it by tightening around it or engaging is some momentary pleasurable distraction like snacking or watching TV.   Or you might fall into a sort of trance in which you repeat to yourself, "I'm so anxious, I'm so anxious".  A couple of simple things can help keep you out of these two traps, becoming a compassionate witness and check in with thoughts and needs.

To become a compassionate witness of your experience, begin by naming your experience. Just notice the anxiety in the same way you might notice a breeze on your face.  You can do this by asking yourself reflection questions, like:

Where do I feel the anxiety in my body?

Does it move, stay still, feel heavy, have a color, depth, or shape?

Is it affecting my heart rate, temperature, digestion, etc?

As you ask these questions, you dis-identify with the anxiety and thus break the "I'm so anxious" trance state.

Then bring warmth and compassion through a reassuring tone and words.  Maybe something like:

It's okay to be anxious.

This anxiety is uncomfortable and I am okay.

I don't have to try to get away from this.  I am safe.

It's okay to feel this anxiety.

With your compassionate witness, you can check out what thoughts might be escalating the anxiety.  (Warning:  without the first two steps above and just working with thoughts you can create more suffering by trying to talk yourself out of your feelings).  So with lots of gentleness you can ask yourself:

Is there anything important coming up for me that I might be anxious about?

If so, what am I telling myself about that?  

Are there particular needs that I perceive to be threatened?  If yes, do I see any way that these needs are met or could be met?

If I am having self-critical thoughts, can I give those self-critical thoughts empathy?

Moment by moment you can decide how to relate to your own experience.  The compassion you bring to yourself, becomes the compassion you can bring to others.

Practice
For the next week, do these three practices once a day.  Take time sit quietly and journal or just sit in stillness noticing your experience and build a compassionate relationship with whatever is present using the three steps suggested above.

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3 Responses

  1. Mar 01, 2009
    Deborah Gerson

    Dear LaShelle,
    I have been reading your website, and heard wonderful things about you from my friend Annie Popkin.
    But I live in San Francisco.
    Anyone you could recommend in the Bay area NVC community that does similar work to you.
    Or do you ever come here?
    Any help would be appreciated.
    Deborah

  2. Feb 05, 2016
    Yael

    Beautiful advice and I am going to practice. Thanks LaShelle

  3. Feb 05, 2016

    Your welcome! Good to hear from you Yael.

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