Is Anxiety the Elephant in Your Room?


Elephant in the RoomI’m working with a lot of people these days who are being influenced by worry, anxiety, or panic. Some know exactly what’s worrying them. For others, it seems like a mystery. All they know is that the feeling suddenly hits like a ton of bricks and it can be quite debilitating, let alone frightening.

What do you do that helps when you’re worried, anxious, or panicking that helps you feel better? Do ideas around mindfulness make sense to you?

“The Elephant in the Room”

This now very common expression, is used when someone is trying his or her hardest to ignore or deny something that’s as obvious or as big as an elephant would be in a room.  This issue isn’t something you can just  ignore!!!

Some people find worry can be like that elephant. No matter how hard we try to push worry away, ignore her, force her away, or pretend she’s not there, she sticks around bugling loudly. What do you think about the idea of accepting her, noticing her, acknowledging her-and focusing on the here-and-now? Would focusing on your breath when these thoughts come help?

Let me explain a little more. The idea is to take the effort, the struggle, or the energy out of anxiety or panic by choosing to focus on the present moment. Think of the willow tree. Its narrow limbs bend with the wind. It doesn’t stand stiffly fighting gusts or steady gales. It merely bends, allowing the wind to blow around it without trying to make it go away. The wind will eventually go away and the willow will bend until it does. And if it doesn’t bend-it will surely break.

Awhile ago, I wrote about an exercise that may also help when you’re distracted or consumed with worry or anxiety called 5-4-3-2-1. It can be a really helpful way to bring you back to the here and now.

Another practice that can be helpful is to meditate or practice mindfulness. I wrote about creating mindfulness through your breath last week. I also wrote about it in the blog, Mindfulness is on my to do list.

I have heard people say, “I tried it once and it was too hard,” or “I never could slow down my mind so I gave up.”

Meditation, like anything new, takes practice, patience, and discipline. It takes a daily commitment. Start small. Spend 5-8 minutes a day and do it every day-no matter what else is happening in your life. If you’re looking for some information on various kinds of meditation and are a beginner, a good book is: 8 Minute Meditation.

With practice, mindfulness/meditation can become easier and something you can look forward to each day without having to ignore the elephant but rather as a way to deal with worry by accepting, relaxing, calming down and moving on.