Health And Wellness

Fend Off Winter Anxiousness & Despair With These Essential Tools

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woman staring out the window

Your feelings are your inner GPS system — they guide you towards living a life full of meaning and purpose that leads to joy and satisfaction.

If you're experiencing anxiousness or despair, it might be because you're not present in this moment, are unaware of your thoughts, or don’t realize you have the power to choose what you think.

Fortunately, you can learn how to successfully navigate these emotions, especially during what some anticipate will be one of the darkest winters in history: The winter of 2021.

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Here are 4 essential tools to fending off anxiety and despair this winter.

1. Be aware of your current thoughts.

What are the stories you're telling yourself? Are you aware of what they are and how they are affecting you?

Do you spend time alone each day? If so, do you listen to music during that time?

Or are you someone who plays your T.V. from the moment you get up in the morning, until you go to bed each night? Do you numb yourself with food, alcohol, exercise, shopping, or work?

If so, you might not be aware of what stories you're telling yourself.

How you become aware of what you're telling yourself is not as important as that you acknowledge these stories and beliefs.

You can employ meditation, journaling, empathy, or other methods to become aware of your thoughts.

It’s important to notice what you're saying to yourself, because thoughts generate your feelings. And your feelings matter, because they create the experiences you have in your life.

So, if you're feeling anxious or mired in despair, stop where you're at now. Notice what you're telling yourself.

There's a thought that creates these feelings. What is it?

If you're anxious, your thought is likely a fear about the future. If you're feeling despair or hopelessness, your thought might be about something that happened in the past.

These are clues to uncovering your unconscious thoughts. This is how you can learn to excavate negative thoughts. 

Explore and discover them for yourself. It doesn’t need to take more than a few minutes. You can set yourself free in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

2. Remember that your story creates your life.

My mother often told me that I was "too big" to be held. I understood that she said this because she was required to wear a brace while she was pregnant with my sister when I was three years old.

This brace prevented pain as her growing belly pressed down and pinched a nerve. The impinged nerve prohibited my mother from lifting more than a few pounds, including picking me up.

Despite understanding this intellectually, I experienced being "too big" throughout my life. I didn’t realize this story was operating for me until I did an exercise at an International Intensive Training in Nonviolent Communication, at the age of 49.

In the exercise, we were instructed to lean into another person with our full weight, as they leaned back toward us, to see if we could trust this stranger to support our body to prevent us from falling.

I reluctantly created a triangle by leaning in, until the man I was partnered with questioned my reluctance. I was both shocked and grateful for his honest curiosity.

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3. Choose a different story.

I consciously decided to try allowing myself to surrender to and to trust this man to support the weight of my body.

After that exercise, I made the decision that it was safe for me to join "puppy piles" — snuggle with others and allow myself to be held, something that, until then, I thought was for others but not for me because I was "too big" for those physical interactions.

I experienced being comfortable while being held, as well as mutual support that I hadn't experienced before.

Being aware of and then choosing to shift my thinking changed my experience of physical intimacy and increased my options for intimacy, both physically and emotionally.

I hope you're empowered by this sort of thinking. It certainly empowered me.

I discovered, on more than one occasion, a thought that surprised me. I’ve noticed how some thoughts have resulted in frustration, and how the frustration was a direct result of those thoughts.

Deciding to choose different thoughts by becoming aware of the story that's operating subconsciously has allowed me to have different experiences.

I’ve expanded what I’ve allowed myself to become aware of. I’ve had different experiences by choosing different thoughts, and these new thoughts have immediately changed my feelings.

Just as the fish are the last to know they are swimming in water, we can be the last to discover the thoughts that are creating our life experiences.

I didn’t see the belief that I was "too big to be held," until someone else questioned me about my reluctance.

"Unpacking" or exploring what's going on at a deeper level can reveal the thoughts that are creating our feelings, which are creating our experiences.

4. Celebrate new feelings and new experiences.

Celebrating or expressing gratitude for your new experiences actually re-wires your brain and nervous system. This re-wiring further supports new experiences.

"Neurons that fire together, wire together" is an expression that neurologists use to describe this phenomenon.

Celebrating also fuels you, especially when times are tough and you become more resilient as a result.

Feelings of gratitude and appreciation can also open your heart, which makes all sorts of other things possible that would not otherwise be possible.

You open doorways to infinite possibilities by celebrating your successes as they happen.

Using these tools, you can let go of anxiety and despair and allow yourself to become someone who is grateful, grounded, and empowered in every season.

RELATED: 12 Life Skills Only People With Anxiety Can Teach You

Terri Moon, MS, has been supporting people to transform their lives by unpacking and befriending their feelings for 15 years. Terri offers non-judgmental listening and empathy to individuals who value authentic, satisfying relationships, want to increase joy in their lives, and who long to make a difference in the world.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.