I woke up this morning with an intention of what I wanted my day to look like. The first thought I had was around this picture of a beautiful lush tree early in the morning with the sun shining through that I saw the day before. I thought tree of life, then I thought about low hanging fruit. Low hanging fruit is easy to get to, therefore its an easier path to get nutrients; to stay healthy. How can I relate this to my daily problems that seem to ebb and flow like a tide through my life I thought?
Anxiety is such a tricky thing and something that impacts every single person on this planet. If you are breathing, you are going to experience anxiety of some kind. Anxiety comes in different flavors. There is that type of anxiety that resembles eating something bitter where you get an instant “yuck” face and spit it out. Then there is the anxiety that is more subtle and more normal. The kind of anxiety that helps to propel you to something in a positive way.
How we choose to cope with our emotions & anxiety is something that is at the heart of all the issues that I work with people on. I work with clients on a nutritional and health coaching basis, but anxiety is not something in a vacuum, it is indeed greatly impacted by food and environmental stressors. However, its not just food & environment though. Its more than that. Your nutrition and environmental choices will help to build the right neurotransmitters that are responsible for our happiness, but its also about our coping skills. This is where the low hanging tree of life comes into play.
I have an exercise that I would like for you to try. It involves identifying all the things that are currently bothering you. We go through our days collecting worries, troubles, annoyances or anything really that detracts from our personal happiness. How many times do you stop during the day to just sigh and reflect on how crummy you feel? You probably don’t even know what it is that you feel crummy about most likely. This is because of the accumulation of troubles that you don’t successfully purge as you go through your day. So you reach a saturation point where even the smallest thing sets you off. The goal of this exercise is to clarify these problems by writing them out. I think writing them out is a key piece because when they are written out you are able to sort them out better. If you allow your brain to try and sort it out it will try to piece together everything in a sequential manner and none of this stuff is ever in sequence. You mix problems from 8AM with new problems that pop up at 8PM or throw in something that happened to you in the lunch line at work. Write it out for more clarity.
Start off with a table. I use a table in a word document, but you could plot something in a journal where you break out four columns labeled: problem, perceived priority, perceived value & the least stressful way to deal with this. Then begin to comb through your problems, worries and anxieties & start to sort out the priority of importance. This is challenging and will require some back and forth, but just stick with it. Don’t make it overly complicated, just go with what feels right. Plot all of your examples and sort them out one by one. Next chart your perceived value of the problem. This can be whatever comes to mind whether its practical or not. Just put it down. The last piece is to think of the least stressful ways to cope with this issue. You don’t have to plot a huge list here. Just focus on how you lighten up the burden on yourself by coming with things that will help you ease through it. Here is an example of some things I put together for myself below.
I think what you will find by doing this exercise is that those things that may have had priority beforehand, are not as important as you initially thought. Or maybe you find one hot button trigger that moved up the list from where you had it in your mind. Some of the simple things you can pick off like low hanging fruit. The more you can de-clutter your problems, the more energy you can save for the bigger issues.
For me I had sixteen things on my list today. Maybe you have less. Maybe you have more than this. For me I realized that there was one issue that seemed to pull into the pole position. Last year we lost a dog that we had for over ten years and it was challenging like all of the other animals we had lost over the years. But a few months after, we did what we have done in the past and rescued another animal from the animal shelter. We wanted a little younger animal so we opted for a little cutie pie that just had a lot of spunk. This quickly became quite challenging daily and was like having a toddler in the house where we couldn’t get much done. We truly love this little pup and totally working with her to help her through her own transition into our house, but its been taxing for all of us. I didn’t fully realize that this had so much bearing on my overload stress load until I did this exercise. Once I highlighted this as my #1, I started to find ways to deal with this in less stressful way. I embraced the idea that she is still in the puppy stages and that this is temporary. I also realized that we are seeing many positive changes with her in a very short period of time. I wasn’t giving this enough weight! There are also immediate things we can do like increasing the things that can keep her entertained. Like a little kid, we gave her a coloring book that kept her occupied for a bit. Well it wasn’t really crayons that we gave her :) new bones, toys and boxes that we had not had enough of. We also found a trainer that helped us with various behavioral things that we weren’t aware of as well as doing some research on how to make things better.
The point is, is that you can sort these things out and come up with ways to cope that you can review until they come become automatic for you. So essentially your response to these things changes and that thing that once created stress because of how you were perceiving it is now diffused. Give this a try and see how it makes you feel more empowered over those things that made you feel powerless before. This really works!
Ian Sandage is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who speaks from the personal experience of someone with autoimmune disease and the highs and lows of a health journey