Help! It's a Scary World out There!

Help! It's a Scary World out There!, Johanna Utter, L.Ac., FABORM in Davis, CA

Since the election in November, I’ve noticed that people’s anxiety levels are higher than usual. I’ve been doing lots of treatments to calm the spirit, assist sleep, and address trauma.

I do not consider myself someone who suffers from anxiety, but like most people, I’ve experienced it enough to have a few thoughts on how to manage it.

  1. Take a news fast. In February, after being glued to the news on my phone and feeling my own anxiety levels increasing, I got sick. I believe that the news was literally making me sick and that the best way to come back to a place of balance was to do a news fast. I felt much better not being aware of absolutely everything happening in the world. As I began to feel stronger and healthier, I could add small amounts back in.

  2. Come to your senses. Literally. Anxiety is always an emotion about the future. Return to the present moment, focusing on your body’s contact with that which is supporting it (the earth, a chair, a bed). Feel the support that is always being provided to you, at every moment of your life. Notice how you breathe, without even thinking about it. Notice what you see (hear, smell, taste, touch) in front of you, not what’s in your head. Most likely, at this moment, even if it’s not your preference, everything is OK.

  3. Observe and question your thoughts. In my experience, thoughts just arise in my head, without me trying to make them happen. It’s important for me to realize, though, that I don’t have to believe them, just because they happen to be there. I can question them and notice whether I can know “for sure” if the thing I fear is actually going to happen. Most of the time, I can’t.

  4. Focus on solutions, rather than feeling helpless. Be a warrior, not a victim, meaning, focus on what you can realistically do. Take action when it’s appropriate and rest when it’s needed. You are not helpless. You are in this for the long haul, so pace yourself.

  5. You are not alone! The world is full of helpful, kind, loving people. Seek them out.

  6. Find humor. I grew up in a pretty serious family and ended up marrying someone who has a great sense of humor and can use it to defuse situations when I or other people get stuck. Comedy heals and relieves tension. Watch funny movies, do silly things. Most importantly, learn to laugh at yourself and the absurdity of what pops in your head.

  7. Get moving! Be physically active. When we stop moving, it’s easy to feel stuck. Get out in nature. Nature and beauty heal.

  8. Turn inward and outward. Listen to your own inner voice guiding you to appropriate action. Then find others who support you and who are inspired.

  9. Listen to the concerns of those who have differing views. You may be surprised to find that underneath it all, you share common ground and have similar hopes and fears.

  10. Hold onto hope. What we are currently experiencing is not the worst that has happened in history. Remember that everything is temporary, including our fears and anxiety.

  11. Seek another point of view. When I was in high school I had a math teacher who was about 30 year-old and a Buddhist. Unlike most teachers, he did not want us seated according to a seating chart, but rather, he wanted us to sit in different places in the room and near different people every single day, so that we would get a different point of view. It worked, and I still remember it even though I’ve forgotten a lot of other things I learned in the class!

  12. Recognize that even though it might feel like it’s ALL of you, that only a part of you feels anxious. There are other parts of you also feeling other things, such as sadness, fear, anger, happiness, all at the same time. AND, there is an even larger aspect of you that can be present to all of it. This larger part can step back and observe the drama unfolding, without being hooked in. THIS is who you are, not the parts that feels anxious, fearful, angry, etc. The more that you connect with this larger sense of presence, the more easily you will notice emotions arising and dissipating.

Chinese medicine has many treatments available to help “Calm the Spirit” and restore balance to your life, whether it’s a tune-up, regular on-going treatment, or treatment to help resolve trauma.

The group Acupuncturists Without Borders arose after Hurricane Katrina and trains practitioners to go into areas where there has been some sort of disaster and to provide treatment using ear acupuncture to address the after-effects of trauma such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, headaches, and digestive issues. There are groups that also work with veterans using these same techniques. I did this training in 2012.