I’m calling 2023 my “year of calm”, because I’m going to be nuturing a deep, conscious, peaceful state of being. This is my superpower.
Since my cancer diagnosis six years ago, I’ve worked at combatting the rawness of emotion by making space, and one of the things that I’ve found is very important in doing so is the feeling of self-efficacy: the idea that I, in fact, can step back from frightening or obsessive thoughts and ruminations. Not to repress them, but to observe them without getting sucked in.
I flex my superpower of quieting my thoughts by visualizing this scenario: I imagine that I’m being chased by something scary (monsters, zombies, another cancer diagnosis…). But a split-second before something grabs me, I slow everything down, feeling into my extremities and making space all around me. I imagine this as a pearlized bubble forming around me and the calmer I am, the deeper my breaths, the more protected I become. If I believe in my ability to calm myself, no matter how close the monster is to me, they can’t touch me.
My calm demeanor allows me to float in my bubble. I see everything around me, including the things that terrify me. But from within that pearl, sounds are a bit more distant and the view is a little clouded, as if I am watching through a gentle haze. Inside I am firmly grounded and aware in my body. Confident that I’m safe in the present moment. And as long as I believe it, I am.
This might seem like an overly simplistic view of anxiety and it’s not meant to belittle what someone else might experience. I’ve been through those feelings of anxiety run amuck — at that point in my life this would not have worked. What I was experiencing was very real and intense. Having emotions constantly “in your face” chips away at the perception that you’ll ever being able to get a handle on them.
After years of practice in grounding, mindfulness and meditation, I can attest to the fact that believing in my ability to calm myself has been critical in helping combat anxiety. Acquiring that level of confidence was a process of consistent mindful meditation, on good days and bad days. But now that I’ve gotten a fingerhold on it, every time I am able to calm myself, my self-efficacy is strengthened.
Because as anxious as my thoughts can be, and as loud as they may seem, they are only inside my head. Remembering that has given me the greatest superpower in the world.