5 Ways to Hug Your Anxiety Today

I recently went through the most intense bout of anxiety that I have experienced in years. It grabbed hold of my very being and altered my reality in such a way, that I could only see life through a lens of fear. I was not okay. And even though I knew what had triggered it, I couldn’t seem to make it stop or go away.

It lasted for weeks and there were days where I found myself curled up in a ball in the middle of the day trying to simply slow my heart rate and even my breathing out. In the midst of this unwelcome visitor, there are a few things that I learned during this most recent encounter with anxiety.

  1. Acknowledge It

    One day when I was sitting at a stoplight, I spoke directly to my anxiety. Saying something along the lines of, “I see you. I hear you. I know you’re not okay right now. But take one day at a time, and just breathe. Things will even out and eventually, return back to normal.” It was surprisingly comforting to acknowledge and speak directly to the very feeling that was causing me such distress. Recognizing and naming how you feel, and then speaking to it with compassion was a technique I hadn’t tried in the past, but that I found particularly comforting.

  2. Share About Your Anxiety With Someone

    Sharing how you feel with someone (as long as it’s the right someone) can help immensely at getting you outside the small bubble that your anxiety tries to force you to live inside. One day I emailed a friend and simply said, “I’m not okay right now.” It was freeing to let someone else into my fear and my pain. Letting them in can help deflate your anxiety bubble and give you some perspective into why you are feeling the way that you do, and if your fears are valid.

  3. Hug Your Anxiety with Kindness

    It may seem like common sense, but when we are anxious, simple things like drinking water, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep can go right out the window. I remember having to intentionally think and ask myself, “Have I drank enough water today?” The answer was usually “No.” Maybe you need a nap, or some greens and protein. Simple necessities like a walk or a cold glass of water can make a big difference.

  4. Meditate

    For some people, meditation helps. For others, it’s yoga or an early morning run. I even found a phone app called Calm that gives you short meditation breaks to calm your anxiety in the middle of the day. Giving yourself and your anxiety some time each day to breathe and recenter will help ground you in what is real and tangible right now.

  5. Get outside of your routine

    The key to me breaking out of my anxiety this time around was getting outside of my routine and everyday environment. I had a trip that had been long-planned and was smack dab right in the middle of this bout of anxiety. For me, a change of scenery made all the difference. If you can, get away from your everyday environment for a day or two, switch up your routine, or try a new hobby. Changing things up a bit may be exactly what your soul needs to release the fear it is holding and find a new place of calm.

Whatever it takes for you to hug your anxiety, do that thing. And remember, be kind to yourself. Don’t just extend grace to others. Extend it to your own heart as well.

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna

When You Feel Afraid…Trust

At the end of April I’m going to be having surgery on my left foot. It’s nothing life-threatening (so don’t worry too much!) but no foot surgery is pleasant, and this one will take about 6 weeks to recover from. Because I already deal with so much chronic pain, I saw several different physicians before deciding which would do the surgery with the goal of finding the best care possible.

One of the four doctors I saw informed me that this particular surgery could actually be done with just a local anesthetic. I looked at him quizzically.

“You mean that you can cut my foot open, shave down my bone, break the bone in half, realign it, secure it with screws, and sew it back up ALL while I’m awake???”

“Yes!” he confirmed with a smile.

Umm, “NO!” I responded emphatically. That’s a horrible idea! It is worse than going to the dentist and trusting that they put enough Novocain in your face to numb whatever they are about to drill on. I may have a certain degree of bravery that allows very long needles to be put into my spine on a regular basis, but I also have a great deal of foresight. Undergoing only a local anesthetic means that I could SEE my foot being cut open. It means that I could HEAR my bone being sawed and cut in half. It means that I could SMELL the heat of the bone being drilled down. And it means that I could FEEL the pressure of everything that was happening. Even if they give you one of those headsets to watch a movie while they do it to hypothetically “distract you” from what is really happening to your body, no amount of Scandal or This is Us would take my mind off of what was really going on. No, even bravery has its limits.

I’m sure it won’t surprise you then when I tell you that I chose a different surgeon. In fact, even though it means traveling several hours, I chose the one that I felt was the best and would give me the best care. This clinic is one of the top in the world for their field and therefore I trust their surgeons, their procedures, and their methods as among the best of the best with hopes of a 100% recovery. But every kind of surgery takes trust. Trust in the doctor’s knowledge, in their skills, in their steady hand, and in their judgment.

It’s the same with God. To allow God access to a piece of our heart that is hurting or broken, we first have to trust him. Trust that it is safe to be vulnerable. Trust that we will be loved and embraced. And trust that we will be given the best care in the midst of our pain.

It’s not always easy to trust. Even though I know the doctor that routinely does my prolotherapy is skilled, I still get nervous every time that needle goes into my spine. But the important thing is, I want to be well. And that desire to be healed and whole is greater than my fear. At least on most days.

So will you trust God with me,  with your brokenness and your pain? Will you join with me in relying on the Great Physician to heal all our wounded places? Come and let’s take a step of faith together.

 

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna

Wrestling With My Adventurous Spirit

Over the Fourth of July, I vacationed with my wife and a couple friends in Glenwood Springs. It was my first time that far west on I-70 in Colorado and one of the most famous hikes in the whole state is just outside that quaint little town: Hanging Lake.

Before my back injury three and a half years ago, I was an avid hiker. My best friend, Stacy and I went out almost every weekend on an 8-10 mile hike. We loved the challenge of exploring new trails and training for our ultimate goal, which was hiking Pikes Peak. 102_1233_0040aWe planned, trained, and prepared, and we finally achieved our goal late that summer. Then we slowed down and took a bit of a break for awhile. And life, as it so often does, started to get in the way. As much as I loved escaping to the mountains, my real life with its struggles between faith and sexuality were proving to be hard enough. I got to the point where I didn’t want to work so hard at everything I did. I wanted something that I could just enjoy, without it being hard. I needed some reprieve. Stacy’s unending support led us to choosing some easier trails, and though we didn’t go out as often, when we did, it was on a trail that we enjoyed without struggle. In fact, it was on one of those very trails that Stacy and I discussed how I was going to come out to my family.

But then more life happened: Stacy moved out of state, I moved to Denver after coming out, and hiking ended up on the back burner for a time while I struggled just to survive everyday life. Not long after that, my back injury followed and hiking was ruled out almost completely.

It’s now been three and a half years since my back injury and in all honesty, I’ve managed about one good hike a year. Pathetic for an adventurous soul like me. But it’s been all my physical body and crazy schedule could manage, though my soul has desperately longed for more.

I’m a bucket list girl, an adventure girl, a throw-caution-to-the-wind-and-live-life-to-the-fullest girl. I don’t like watching from the sidelines, and I don’t like that my pain has caused me to be more cautious, more fearful, and less prone to adventure. Nor have I liked accepting the fact that certain things on my bucket list are things I may now never be able to do. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially since I’m still haven’t even yet hit 33.

So when I got to Glenwood and my friends wanted to hike Hanging Lake, my heart and mind split and divided themselves in opposite directions. My heart, which still longs for adventure and beauty said, download“Yes! This is a Bucket List moment! I definitely want to do this!” My head, which now filters everything through a lens of pain management, was, I’ll admit it…scared. Laying in bed the night before we planned to hike the trail, I thought about the trail stats that claimed to climb over 1,000 feet of elevation in just one mile. As a hiker, I knew what that meant. It meant it was hard. It meant it was nothing but up. It meant my body would hate me. I admit the more I thought about it (and about the setbacks I’ve had because of other similar choices/experiences over the last couple of years), the more I began to work myself into a tizzy. “What if I can’t make it?” “What if I hold everyone else back?” “What if I have a setback that takes days or even weeks to recover from?” Fear rose up inside me. I even started coming up with excuses of why I shouldn’t go and why everyone else should just do it without me.

But then, with everything I could muster, I began to reason myself down from a state of panic in the dark and quiet bedroom that night. If you know me, you know that not making it to the top is pretty much not an option. Once I’ve started, by golly, I’m going to make it to the top! But as I lay there, I told myself that I would take it slow. I told myself I didn’t mind if I had to send the others ahead. I told myself I would just do my best. Because the truth is, I want to continue to live a beautiful, exciting, adventurous life regardless of my chronic pain. I don’t want to just sit by and watch others live life around me. Yes, I need to be smart. And yes, there are some things (right now, still many things) that I just have to say “no” to. But I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to keep pushing myself and working at getting better. I’m going to keep facing my fears, because I want to truly live.

Upon returning from Glenwood last week, I pulled my Bucket List up on my computer to check in and see where I was at. I’d been putting it off because I’ve been discouraged at how many of things I can’t do and know I maybe never will again. But as I read down each line on the list of over 200 items, what I found instead was that I had actually checked several of them off. Yes, there are a few that I may never get to experience, but there are still so many that I can. And realizing that lit a candle of hope in my spirit where discouragement has been sitting.

Oh, and if you’re wondering? I did make it to the top of Hanging Lake. One of my friends, at the very bottom of the trailhead pulled a sturdy stick from the stream for me to use as a hiking stick, and everyone was more than gracious and patient with my pace. I spent most of the next day in bed, but with lots of TLC, I recovered quite nicely and was overall proud of how well my body did.

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We had a great time. We made it. And we got the Bucket List check! So the question for you this week is:

What fear do you need to face?maxresdefaultWhat’s on your Bucket List?

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna