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Settling My Jangly Nervous System

I am not prone to anxiety and when it has shown up, I have usually been able to transmute it into anticipation, excitement, and determination. As a career therapist with 40 years of experience working with clients of all ages and stages of life, I consider myself adept at guiding people through uncertainty and confusion about the trajectory of their path.

Like many people, regardless of political affiliation, my emotional state has fluctuated since Election Day of 2016. I am a left of center, tree-hugging, crunchy granola hippie. That is one aspect of the woman typing these words. Another is that I am a grounded- in -facts- journalist who uses her wordsmithing to forward peace and social justice matters. Although I pull no punches, I don’t name call or vilify those with whom I disagree, including the current occupant of the Oval Office and those with whom he surrounds himself. I can’t wrap my mind around the idea that those who have the most to lose, support him. POC, members of the LGBTQIA community, women, those with children and grandchildren for whom they want a future, among them.

With this as background, I have noticed that each morning, I have awoken with a sense of dread, wondering what fresh hell has broken loose overnight, what has been tweeted about, who has died, what additional Earth changes have taken place. At 61 years old, I have lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK, the Civil Rights Movement and the Viet Nam War. Granted, I was a young person then and was not cognizant of the impact of those events. As a seasoned woman with distinct opinions and the venues on which to share them, I am grateful that I can give voice to my values. I am also thankful that most of the people in my life (at least in my immediate and inner circle) are in alignment with my social values and put legs under their beliefs as well. I don’t feel like I am battling people whose biases keep them blinded to reality.

Despite all of that, I have taken note that my heart beats erratically at times. As a cardiac patient (heart attack and stent insertion in 2014), I am mindful of how that organ is functioning. I feel a sense of ‘jangly energy’ that comes on without overt provocation. I have discovered that I am not alone in my experience. As an empath, I do tend to take on the emotions of those around me. These days, I feel bombarded. I have long known that I practice ‘savior behavior,’ as I have donned my Wonder Woman cape, swooping in to rescue, fix, save, heal and cure. Am I too much of a sponge, as I soak in the pain and fear of the planet itself?

How can I squeeze out that energy and not let it weigh me down?

I have noticed that when I wake up buzzy and out of sorts, it takes a few minutes of breathing, focusing on what I need to do that day, envisioning before me the interactions I have planned and the people with whom I will interact in the next 12 or so hours. I listen to music, I sweat it out at the gym. I take walks in nature. I do the FREE HUGS thing. I count my blessings, I say a BIG prayer that I continue to be a greater force for good in the world, that I feed the collective soup pot in ways that enhances the flavor, and that I have the stamina to do all that I called to do.

I launch out of bed and do something physical, like laundry or a workout at the gym. Moving my body moves the otherwise entrenched energy. I notice a distinct reduction in fear and angst. Throughout the day, if it kicks back in, I put my hand on my heart to soothe it, reach out with my thoughts to a Source both inner and outer to calm the waves that sometimes threaten to swamp me.

I do have hope for a healthier future and better days.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.”-Emily Dickinson

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