By: Lisa Philippart
Welcome to 2024! I am excited about a brand new year full of possiblities, challenges, and successes. (I am a realistic optimist.) Even if you are a spontaneous-type person, I hope you are thinking about what you want for yourself, your family, and your community this year. I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions that you will forget about by February 1. I’m talking about life goals. If you don’t have a destination, how will you know when you get there? So, here is my plan for us for this year: every two weeks, we will be exploring the ABC’s of mental health. With 26 letters in the alphabet, and 26 issues published a year, you can see how perfectly this will work. Today we will take a look at ANXIETY, but from my perspective as a holistic therapist and human being. (I will not be going in alphabetical order… that’s too predictable!)
I have always had anxious-tendencies. But for most of my life, I was able to manage my anxiety through a variety of coping skills: positive self-talk, affirmations, reframing, and grounding. I even decided to become a mental health counselor mid-life because I felt like I was an expert at managing my own stress, so why not share what has worked for me with others? About 5 years ago, I was under a lot of stress. I remember thinking my anxiety level was constantly riding around a 9-10, with 10 being unbearable. I noticed I was periodically short of breath and constantly battling fatigue. One night I came home and just felt “off.” I went to bed and woke up at about 5 in the morning with my head spinning. I felt my eyes moving back and forth as I stuggled to focus and stand up. I thought I was having a stroke. At the hospital, the doctors ran every kind of test from an MRI to CT scan to blood work. The good news, everything came back normal. The bad news, the doctors believed I had stress-induced vertigo.
I tell you this story because as a holistic healer, I believe that our bodies, minds, and spirits form interconnected circles. What affects one area affects all areas. The stress of my mental health finally spilled over in to my physical health. So after this vertigo event, I made some changes. If you suffer from anxiety that is becoming harder and harder to manage, this is what I recommend. Physically, listen to your body. Ignoring pains or body changes is not helpful. Can you make one small dietary modification…cut out diet Coke? How about walking 20 minutes a day? Maybe take a supplement? Get more sleep? Pick one thing and do it. Mentally, are you your own worst critic? Do you wake up
every day worrying about everything? See a therapist for some effective coping skills. Find work that challenges your mind. Read. Listen to self-help podcasts. Volunteer.
And finally, spiritually…what is your source of strength? Most of my clients believe in a higher power, but have forgotten that this belief allows for them to have a purpose. Your spiritual side can be nourished through gratitude, prayer, worship, and meditation. We all need a direction, guided by our morals and values and faith, which brings me back to: Where are you going this year? Write it down. And don’t allow anxiety to interfere with discovering the best you that you can be.
In conclusion, I want to share with you a book I am reading by Andrea Petersen called, On Edge A Journey Through Anxiety. My number one take-away from this book was her definition of anxiety. According to Andrea, anxiety is the anticipation of pain – emotional pain, mental pain, physical pain, and spiritual pain – which is why anxiety can affect more than one area of the self. So, as you prepare your course for the year, include specific plans for growth of the mind, body, and spirit.
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor