5 Ways to Feel Like Smiling Buddha Even When the Anxiety Storm is Raging Around You

A walk in the woods has always brought me back to myself. It’s a place where I can catch my breath, get perspective, and breathe deeply. So why did I find myself, one summer’s day, 2 years ago, having a panic attack in a beautiful forest? I wasn’t able to catch my breath. The sunlight streaming in, and the gentle rustle of the leaves were freaking me out. And it scared the sh*t out of me – if my ‘place of peace’ couldn’t do it, then was I doomed to spend the rest of my days shut up in my hole, trembling with anxiety?  

Fortunately, no. I spent many months working with my anxiety and panic, and I discovered a few techniques, which help to manage everything from overwhelm to extreme panic (the ‘oh-crap-I-can’t-breathe-or-move-help-me’ type). I had to go deep to unbury the roots, so I share them with you here, in the hopes that you can catch yourself before it gets that rough. And if it’s already that rough, then hopefully it’ll help you catch your breath.


1)   Intuition

This one comes first because I believe it was at the core of what actually led to my anxiety. I’d been having strong inclinations for years of a path I needed to go in my life. It had even gotten to the point where I was having repetitive dreams about a trip I needed to take. I brushed it off, rationalized it away, and pushed it into the future, until I’d created a sense of misalignment with my own inner knowing.


I didn’t consciously realize it at the time, but as I began to follow these intuitive cues, the anxiety began to fade. Funnily enough, my family took a trip to Tuscany (yes, the one from my dream), and several people remarked ‘Oh I admire that you can follow your intuition to do something like this!’ My response? ‘I have no choice! My intuition is now in charge.”


Lesson? Pay attention to what your intuition is tell you. If ignored, it can lead to misalignement with your deepest self. This is sure to cause turmoil in your life!


2)   Triggers

There are certain environmental factors, which will act as triggers for each of us. If we can catch ourselves before they escalate, we can help prevent the anxiety before it gets out of hand. Your triggers will be unique to you, so it’s worth making of list of those things which cause you to notice you’re holding your breath, or getting wound up.


For me, it’s large groups of people, busy cities, being rushed or pushed, and trying to do more than I am capable of in a short period of time. Even yesterday, more than 2 years after my last extreme anxiety episode, I found myself in a busy city, with 2 children crying and demanding more time and food, and I was at the til in a store with 3 people waiting behind me. I couldn’t find my wallet. Oh, and I was hungry. And tired.


Not a good recipe.


Instead of going into panic mode, I took a few deep breaths, paid and took my things and my children off to the side of the store and sat down with them. I gave them some food, had a little cry, took some more deep breaths, and walked out of that store to the nearest park. Lesson? Trigger management is key.


3)   Support

I was never good at asking for help until I became a mother. Ok, I’m still no expert at it, but now I can’t do without it, so I’m getting better. Getting the support you need is essential for everyone. In fact, if I’d set myself up in a pattern and system where I had backup early on, then when my life became overwhelming, it would have been a cinch to call on those who could help.


What I found instead was that I had waited so long that figuring out who to call became one more thing I had to do, and in my time of need felt like a huge obstacle. Figure out what support you need in your life, even if it may seem irrational or excessive. And just invite it in. Having someone come in to fold my laundry for an hour, once a week, has been a game changer. Seriously.


Lesson? Get help before you’re desperate. A strong foundation of support can calm, or even ward off, anxiety.


4)   Space

What does space mean for you? It’s different for each of us. For me, it’s space and time to myself, space for self care, as well as physical space around me. I need access to wide open spaces on a regular basis. This freaks some people out. I know people who need ‘social space’ – that is, they need to have frequent, close contact with groups of people. It feeds them. Too much of this freaks me out. Neither is right or wrong. It’s just our unique needs.


If we don’t have enough space in our lives, physically & energetically, then it’s natural that the reaction would be a feeling of being ‘closed in’ or claustrophobic. Even though most anxiety in the world is not due to actual claustrophobia, the symptoms are very similar for a reason.


Lesson? Without space we often can’t breathe. Figure out what sort of space you need in your life, and, well..make space for it!


5)   Creative Expression

Humans are born with a natural need for creative expression. If we don’t find ways to let it out, the energy of what would be expressed builds up in us until we feel like we’ll burst.


I’m not saying we’re all ‘artists’ in the traditional sense, but that we are creative beings, who need to find our individual signatures. For some, it’s more traditional art – painting, sculpture, music, poetry. For others it’s math or mountain climbing. For some it’s having children, pets or plants, and nurturing them with love so they grow and bloom. Some of us have hobbies or businesses, where much of our creative focus goes.


A good rule of thumb is to notice if you feel ‘full up’ or stifled, and have a need to ‘empty’ yourself. If this would bring a feeling of relief, then you’re probably not pouring enough of your creative self out into the world.


Lesson? Get in touch with your unique creative expression – ‘emptying’ your message into the world will actually help you feel calmer and more fulfilled.


It’s the combination of these 5 techniques, which have helped me to manage my anxiety over the last couple years. If you use them in the way that feels most relevant to you, you’ll be able to recognize the signs and symptoms well before they get to the point of extreme.   Simply notice when you’re feeling overwhelmed, like you can’t catch your breath, and use this as a flag to indicate it’s time to check your 5 areas. They’ll help you feel like a smiling Buddha in the eye of a hurricane. They’ll help you get back to yourself.


Stacie Whitney is a wife, mother, author, mentor and creative muse. She helps smart, confused women bridge their inner wisdom with their outer lives, based from her home in the north of Scotland by the forest, dunes and sea. You can find out more about her intuitive readings, mentoring, and join her wisdom revolution on her mailing list at www.staciewhitney.com