Visceral Terror.

My heart physically aches. My brain is numb. It feels like someone gave my soul a paper cut.

Sunday morning: The phone illuminates an empty patient room. I snuck away to chart my morning assessments, only to be greeted with a harsh reality that our innocent bubble has been broken. Another massive tragedy. Another faceless gunman. Another precious day polluted by the shadow of death.

I tend to perseverate on the news. My brain loves the dopamine jolt of a juicy news story. I must keep my curiosity in check because I often fall down the news hole…only to awaken three days later, covered in chips and sweat. This Sunday was no different. I sat in my patient’s room and we quietly watched as the Orlando massacre unfolded. So many questions…who? why? how many?

Terrorism: the state of fear and submission produced by terrorization

My mind immediately reverts back into an anxious state, convinced that the world is ending and many attacks will follow. That is the weird thing about terrorism…being anxious about the next attack is proving to not be such an extreme reaction. Look at the past few years: Fort Hood, Boston Bombing, Chattanooga Shooting, San Bernardino shooting. For the first time in my life, my anxious thoughts might truly be validated. Normally, my repetitive worries represent irrational fears, which are easy to challenge and reframe. This…this fear of where our world is headed…is a realistic thought process. I never thought I would see the day.

My generation grew up with words like “terror, ISIS, Al Qaeda, terrorism, massacre” as part of the colloquialism of family gatherings. These vicious acts have almost become a numb aspect of the American psyche.

Um, 50 people were killed by one man claiming allegiance to ISIS. Terribly sad. Oh… what would you like for dinner?

I worry we have become so accustomed to the horrific news that our guard is down. The hateful acts still feel “far away” even on American soul. The bystander effect kicks in…”it would never happen to me.” Well, it could and I urge you to exercise your right to knowledge about self-protection.

The logical part of my brain is thinking that I do have statistics on my side and that a terror attack will never touch my life. The emotional side of my noggin is screaming for awareness and vigilance because another attack is right around the corner. We could have another 50 innocent victims in the coming weeks. The unpredictability of it is almost too much to bare. So, what is the solution? If I had a real one, I would be running for office.

In my book, the solution is to harness the anxious energy and convert it into logical planning. Research. Plan. Communicate. Get with your coworkers and discuss a plan for an active shooter in the workplace. Create an emergency contact. Learn basic techniques for disarming someone. Be vigilant in your personal fight against terror, thus giving us a universal strength against the enemy.

 

Love and Light (and a little bit of ammo).

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Thanks to the man who not only fought the war on terror for many years, but who teaches me so much about self-defense and awareness.

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Toolbox.

The most daunting part of anxiety is the sneak attack. Anxiety might decide to come play while you are buying bruised organic avocados at the grocery. It might miss you so much that it decides to rear its head during a coffee date with friends. She (I’ve given my anxiety a sassy female alter-ego) might decide to stop by and say hey while you’re 12 episodes deep into Orange Is The New Black. Anxiety is overwhelming simply because it pops up unannounced. These annoying sneak attacks have given me the opportunity to learn how to combat that unwanted wave of panic.

The biggest thing I have learned is to always be prepared. Build a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual toolbox that you always carry. This can be a gray area because some people use items to distract from anxiety or associate certain items with stopping panic. I don’t want you to try to stop it. I want you to ride the wave and have tools that will make you more comfortable during the journey.

Here is my 4-part toolbox:

Physical

  • Lavender essential oil
    • I carry it in my purse/in my car/etc for instant zen
  • My engagement ring
    • My fiance told me to always look at it when I feel anxious and remember I’m never alone in this journey
  • A stone that says “let it be”
    • I bought this from a Crystal shop in Laguna beach. It helps ground me and put things into perspective

Mental

  • Positive self-talk
    • Tell yourself how awesome you are!
  • Mantra
    • Choose 2-3 mantras that you can repeat to yourself if the anxious thoughts are pervasive
    • “Feel the fear and do it anyway”
    • “All is well”
    • “Just keep swimming”

Emotional

  • Feelings are feelings and thought are thoughts
    • Really, though…it is simple! Focus on what your body feels like, not the chaotic shit storm inside your head
  • Reach out to someone around you and verbalize your anxious feelings
    • Telling someone how you feel and creating that connection will make you feel less vulnerable

Spiritual

  • Lift up these feelings to a higher power, whoever you believe in
    • You have God, many gods, the Universe…the possibility to have so many people on your side
  • So much pressure can be relieved when you send up anxious thoughts to the sky

 

Plan ahead, use your toolbox, and dominate life. Over the years, I’ve learned that I can lessen the extent of my anxiety by preparing. If I’m nervous about an interview, I might type the address of the office into Google Earth to see a street view of the building. I might lay out my clothes the night before and have my tea mug laid out. I might drive to the location an hour early to prepare for traffic. I might bring an extra pair of clothes if I spill something on my interview attire. This literally happened in the past (insert long sigh). I might prepare answers to common interview questions. Another example of the benefit of preparation is going out for a weekend hike. I will meticulously plan what supplies, clothes, food I need. I will look at the weather and prepare extra gear. I will carry supplies that could last me a few days if something happens.

You have to stack the deck, make the odds in your favor. Anxiety does sneak up and you can’t always be ready. But…you can be better prepared to journey through the fear.