February 09th, 2018
A Simple Way to Soothe Anxiety
A beloved therapist I worked with in my twenties would often say a phrase to me that was a balm for me to hear: “Take your time..,” he would say, “take your time.” As you read these words, I invite you to try reading a little slower than usual. I invite you to take your time.
You might be reading this because you’re looking for some relief from some form of anxiety. I want to suggest that one of the simplest and easiest ways to start to soothe many forms of anxiety is to slow down, to take your time.
Try it. Why not start right now, right here? Reading is one of our many modern-day activities where there’s a tendency to rush ahead at a speed that leaves our bodies scrambling trying to catch up. As you read these words, you might notice if there’s any sense of rushing in the way you’re here, and play with reading more slowly. What’s it like to read at a pace where these words and ideas have time to be felt in your body, instead of just skimming across your mind? What’s it like to take your time as you read?
I believe that when many people report feeling anxious, that they are expressing symptoms of what I call speed-sickness. We live in a world that worships speed. Our society moves at the speed of information and digital technology, the speed of thinking, the speed of engines and economics and efficiency and productivity and growth and self-improvement. Modern life runs on technologies and values that rush us through time at a frenzied pace that forces us to disconnect from the rhythms of our bodies and our heart. We can’t continue living at this speed without eventually becoming exhausted and sick. And sometimes, anxiety is an early wake-up call to slow down.
While there can be many causes for feeling anxious, consider the possibility that a portion of what you identify as anxiety in your life is simply a calling from your body to slow down—a message, an invitation, from your deeper being to inhabit your moments in a way that allows you to see, touch, taste, feel, and savor life rather than always rushing ahead to a future goal. From our everyday mind’s perspective, attuning to this realm of experience can feel slow, and even threatening. From the body’s perspective this way of being is essential, ancient, and the ground of well-being.
So again, even right now as you’re reading, I invite you to consider taking time to let your mind settle down into the body like a flock of birds returning to a tree.
You might return some attention to the feel of your body sitting wherever you’re sitting. Notice how the ebb and flow of breathing feels as it changes the shape of your body with each breath.
Even as these words and ideas flicker across your mind, give some of your attention to the physical sensations of sitting and breathing and simply being on this vast, solid earth in this moment.
I have met many people who feel like life is moving too fast, and worry that something is wrong with them for not being able to keep up. Let me be a voice that says with conviction that nothing is wrong with you for feeling the need to slow down. It is the pace of mainstream, modern life that is insane, not you. The pull to slow down, and the courage to listen to it, is a radical act of sanity and caring. Here are some ideas to play with as you explore listening to this call more.
The good news is, no matter how often you’re sucked into living speedily, and no matter how estranged you may feel from your body and heart, every moment is here waiting as an invitation to pause, to slow down, and to take your time.
If you're looking for a supportive place to practice slowing down, that's an integral part of what I offer clients in my therapy practice! I hope you'll be in touch and we can talk more.