I’m sitting on the beach, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, my toes are in the sand, my girlfriend is sitting next to me. . .
. . . and I’m feeling anxious.
My body is buzzy, my mind is racing, and I have a feeling of dread.
What the . . . ?
Does this ever happen to you? Everything seems okay, but you’re uptight. You can’t focus, you can’t relax, you can’t slow your mind down, you can’t be present, and you can’t figure out what’s wrong?
It’s called “free-floating anxiety.”
You feel anxious, but the anxiety doesn’t seem to be directly attached to some specific thing, event, or experience. No tiger is waiting to pounce, no one is mad at you, no bills are unpaid, the sun is shining, and you still feel anxious.
That’s exactly where I am right now.
So I’ve decided to take a few breaths, take in my beautiful surroundings, and ponder for a moment or two “What’s up?”
I don’t mean I’m digging around too deeply, just thinking, “Huh. I wonder what’s triggering such strong anxiety when everything seems to be okay?”
Over the next thirty minutes or so, various candidates bubble up to the surface of my consciousness:
I had two cups of coffee in the restaurant where I had breakfast. Could it have been stronger than what I’m used to?
My girlfriend arrived two days ago with her daughter. I’m really glad to see them both, but having company does disrupt my schedule, routine, and getting things done when I want (and I do have a lot to do).
My girlfriend can be kind of co-dependent with her daughter, and when she is, I can get kind of co-dependent with my girlfriend.
A big drunken party woke me up early this morning at 4:00, so I didn’t sleep well.
We are staying for a few nights in a beautiful boutique hotel near my house as the guest of the owner. I love staying there, but I’m still out of my element (and the wifi doesn’t work in our room).
I have three podcasts to get recorded before the end of the month.
I sent an email to my agent this morning, committing to have my next book manuscript to him by September.
I need to write a newsletter article about anxiety to promote Roger Nix’s Fierce Relaxation course sometime today or tomorrow.
So what am I doing to manage my anxiety?
Not a lot.
I just remember to breathe when I feel the anxiety, look around at my surroundings, and enjoy the view and the experience of the moment. I chat with my girlfriend. I talk with a few of the vendors I know on the beach. I jot down a few things in my notebook so I won’t forget them. I read a book I brought with me. I get a thirty-minute leg massage. I breathe some more.
Throughout all of this, I notice my anxiety slowly subsiding. I feel more relaxed and more in the moment.
By consciously practicing being a non-judgmental and non-resistant observer of my thoughts, feelings, and body, whatever was going on inside of me has begun to shift. I don’t really have to do anything (and I still don’t know exactly what triggered my anxiety response).
Then it hits me. I can write an article about what I’ve been experiencing on the beach. A big smile breaks out across my face as I realize that something that has been causing some degree of dis-ease for me can be the subject of the newsletter I’ve been pondering.
My anxiety has become a gift.
In Lesson One of Roger Nix’s Fierce Relaxation course, Roger presents a model to help you become a non-judgmental observer and self-soother of your anxiety. He calls it SCUBA, an acronym for:
Slow down: Stop what you are doing and take a deep breath.
Check in: Scan your body for tension. Are your fists clenched when driving, are your shoulders up around your ears, is your posture bad, or are you breathing fast?
Unpack: Scan your thoughts and feelings. Are you angry, fearful, resentful, overly aggressive, or reactive? Notice what you are carrying and let it go.
Breathe: Take a few cleansing breaths and imagine a waterfall of healing and relaxation washing over you and radiating throughout your body, head to toe.
Attend: From this relaxed and refreshed place, gently re-focus your attention on what you need to do next.
That’s what I did on the beach. I SCUBA’d.Ahhhhhh, life is good.