This is a guest post from the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition and Shelly Hill.
I was 23 before I ever learned what anxiety was. I had been working in a horticultural program on the Big Island of Hawaii and learning a whole new emotional language. Prior to this I had not known that’s what I had been dealing with for over 10 years. I felt that my whole world made more sense–that what I was feeling was real–not just butterflies in my stomach or something to be casually dismissed. I would say my anxiety overall is on the low end of the spectrum. However, in the moment it can bring me down, putting me into what I call a spin cycle. Once the language made sense and I could call what I was feeling by its name I was able to truly begin to face it, work through it and with it.
The journey eventually led me to one of my passions, practicing herbalism. Herbalism to me is, by nature, a grounding experience. It connects you to the plants in your environment. What I love most is by practicing herbalism it brings me out of my head and into my senses that connect me with my body.
It demands me to be outside, exploring my environment and discovering the various conditions in which the plants I seek grow. It engages all the senses; the earthy smell of the plants as you gather them and after they are dried, the touch of the leaves, bark, or berries. The visual of the landscape from which I gather, the sound of forest creatures all around and sometimes the taste of a flower, or root. And definitely taste after I create a tea!
I always feel my body shift if my schedule has not allowed me enough time in the woods or to be outside. Or when stress piles on. Life happens and we cannot always get to what soothes us. When this happens, I will literally stick my hands in potting soil around my house or shuffle my indoor plants around and/or I will begin one of my favorite grounding meditations to move the focus out of my head and into my body.
Here is how I do the grounding meditation:
- Standing or sitting, I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Allow my diaphragm to expand while breathing. I like to do this 3-5 times.
- Then I being to notice the ground beneath me, feeling its firm foundation. The way it supports my body. Again, breathing deeply through this process.
- Next, I pick out the different things I can hear, focusing on each of them for a few breaths, then trying to hear them all together.
- After that I check in with what I can smell, feel, and maybe even taste around me. All while keeping my eyes closed and breathing.
- Lastly, I return to feeling the ground’s support and take one last breath before I open my eyes. I will also sometimes say a mantra depending on what comes to mind.
More often than not, we want to run away from our anxiety or pretend that it does not exist. I want to encourage you to get to know yours, because that is what helped me. What are the triggers, the first warning signs that it may be lurking just around the corner? How can you begin to work with? With most things in life it takes practice, so how do you begin to create your practice?
By recognizing my own anxiety, through trial and error, and figuring out what works for me I have I been able to flow with it. It has been almost 10 years since I put a name to my anxiety, and I have been working with it ever since, it is not going away but it has gotten easier to navigate.
Healthy Minds is a monthly column coordinated by Ketchikan Wellness Coalition as a way to share positive stories from people living with mental illness, offer information from local mental health professionals about maintaining mental health in your life, and provide details on tangible activities or actions you can take to strengthen your mental wellness. If you would like to contribute to the column, please contact Romanda Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org