- by Natalie Alexander
A Christmas Wish for Peace Within
If you close your eyes and consider a word that gets right under your skin, what do you think of?
Is it the sound of the word, as it rolls off your tongue that leaves you ill at ease? My hubby often uses the word “discombobulated". The jumble of consonants and vowels thrown together in this strange word often jars me in my tracks. Another word… “Halitosis” always makes me giggle. I can’t help but blow my (sweet smelling) breath out when I over-exaggerate and pronounce the word (big breath out): HHHAAALLitosis”
For me, my least favourite word is 'anxiety'.
This 7 letter word certainly packs a nasty punch. It conjures up images of dread, nerves worry and troubles. Anxiety reminds me of an ugly octopus that wraps its tentacles around your brain, heart and solar plexus; squeezing so tight until you cannot breathe or make sense of your world.
If you are not familiar with anxiety, then count yourself lucky. If you don’t understand anxiety, remember how you felt before a very important event (exam, singing solo, interview, operation)? Now imagine having that nervous feeling continue after the event, over and over again. Then one day you wake up anxious and you don’t know why. There is no trigger. And the anxiety grows.
Anxiety makes no sense. It is insidious. Anxiety lacks meaning and ties you up in one exhausting knot.
Recently, anxiety show-cased itself in a number of conversations I have had with friends and family-
A dear friend of mine is feeling anxious about Christmas Day. It’s a familiar tale- strained family relations coming together to pretend they get along, in a vain effort to uphold a Christmas tradition. While preparations and obligations are causing my friend stress, it’s that nasty generalized feeling of anxiety that she’s not coping with. A feeling of dread and unease is robbing her joy this Christmas.
My easy going mate desperately wants to surf. He’s in his 40s and has been itching to learn for years. Recently he purchased a board but found it harder than he anticipated. Then out of no-where, he started to worry about cutting in on waves shared by more experienced surfers. He began to focus on this worry until it magnified. It’s got to the point he avoids surfing because he does not want to hassle other surfers as he learns. This nagging anxiety is clutching at him tighter than the surfboard leg rope. Logical brain tells my mate the worry is not rational but herein lies the problem- anxiety is irrational. This is “bad boy anxiety” at it’s best, spoiling fun!
My dad survived a serious cancer scare last year. This has brought my family incredible gratitude and relief. We are so thankful!! And yet, anxiety has wormed its way into a close family member’s day-to-day thinking. My loved one is now on high alert when faced with any minor health ailment. Anxiety causes her brain to catastrophise. She worries unnecessarily that a simple cold is a sign of cancer. Anxiety taunts: “Is the cancer back?” Anxiety keeps her tossing and turning in her bed. Anxiety keeps her scanning her own body for signs of cancer. Once again, logic tells her to relish the good news that my dad is well but anxiety’s game plan is to destroy her peace. Anxiety is a master robber of peace.
My uni friend’s struggle with anxiety has led her to start psychology sessions…a close loved one just text me to state her anxiety is out of control… a relative has started antidepressants to deal with anxiety… and even my neighbour’s puppy is suffering from anxiety when my neighbor leaves for work!!
Where is the PEACE?
As we lead up to Christmas, it is my wish that the message of “Peace on Earth” be manifested as “peace within”. As much as I hate anxiety because of the pain it has caused in my own life, ironically it has taught me the most about peace.
The following list highlights some of the ways I have found peace. It has not been easy but with practice it has been possible. I never thought I’d say it, but I can thank anxiety for teaching me to:
Trust anxiety eventually fades
Tolerate anxiety rather than try and control it
Notice anxiety with curiosity instead of dread
Humour anxiety: “Oh it’s only you!” “So you’re back again?”
Draw attention to my breath and slow down
Exercise to release adrenaline and generate endorphins
Learn about mindfulness and being in the moment
Take courage over and over again
Reach out for help
Honestly tell loved ones “Hey I’m not myself today, I’ve got some anxiety”
Relish relaxing activities- massages and bubble baths!
Strive for balance in my life
Nurture rest and sleep
Distract myself from anxious sensations
Observe my thoughts instead of believing them
Bring my thoughts back to the hear and now
Find healing and safety in love
As you face the Christmas season, may Peace on Earth be found within.
Natalie is passionate about human rights issues, matters of the mind and interfaith insights. When not in deep thought, Natalie loves to travel, drink good coffee and keep fit where she resides on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. See all previous articles by Natalie Alexander