But How: Dealing with Anxiety & Family During the Holidays
We are thrilled to welcome our new weekly columnist Lenéa Sims and her “But How” series. In Sojourner Truth’s words, “It is the mind that makes the body” and Lenéa will be helping you explore precisely that energetic connexion.
There are a plethora of quotes or directions or spirituality online—“vibrate higher,” they say, let go of your doubts. But how?! This series will provide you with baby steps towards achieving inner peace through working with your inner child and its inherent boundless joy.
If your holiday season looks more like anxiety and dread than it does joy and cheer, you’re not alone. For many of us, this time of year presents itself with lingering trauma from childhood; conflict about our self-identity; and programming instilled in us by our parents. Time that ‘should’ be spent joyfully embracing family, could instead be spent feeling isolated, frustrated, and even fearful for some.
Facing these emotions, and more specifically anxiety, begins with understanding of how they present themselves in our energy fields. It requires more than a mantra or “positive thinking.Rather, an actual shift in energy so that you can begin releasing the stronghold of trauma and show up fully – and confidently – as yourself at the dinner table. And doing so knowing that if not this year, that you are working on it for the future.
Emotionally, anxiety operates primarily on a level of fear. In the scenario of returning home for the holidays, this could be fear about how you are seen by your family or the shift back into a role of child or sibling.
Anxiety is also about the conflict between our true selves and our programmed selves; it’s the tension that exists between what we truly want and what we think we should want. Since the majority of our programming was instilled in childhood by our primary caregivers, this energy comes to the fore when we return home, if we can or do, especially if it is the place where we grew up.
Lastly, the fear could be stemming from actual trauma you’ve faced, with or concerning your family. If this is the case, just thinking about spending time with them will leave you riddled with anxiety as you worry about being triggered.
Energetically, anxiety of this kind is housed in our second and third chakras, which are the sacral and the solar plexus chakra, respectively). Your sacral chakra is home to all things creativity as well as childlike wonder—the go-with-the-flow, liberated energy. In many ways, it governs your heart and therefore your true intuitive nature. Right above it lies your solar plexus, home to things like your self-identity, ego, and sense of personal power. The energy here is domineering, logical, distrusting, preoccupied with responsibility and “should.”s The solar plexus is also where parental programming and societal expectations are stored in the body. And herein lies the conflict.
As Donna Eden says in her pioneering book Energy Medicine, “If the second chakra holds the natural child, the third chakra holds the controlling parent.” So, when the two have a difficult relationship with one another, tension builds and energies collapse. If the child (sacral chakra and you at home this holiday) is insisting upon being who they are innately, but the overbearing parent (the solar plexus and your family) is insisting that the child fulfill their ideals of who they should be, there will be mad tension! If you have experienced trauma concerning your family, this tension will be even more immense and, perhaps totally unbearable.
Quite literally, the conflicts we face with our families (at this time of year and otherwise) directly affect and are affected by the relationship between the second and third chakras. The two butt up against each other in the body just as they do in our relationship dynamics, causing friction between who we innately are and who our families expect us to be.
So, the key to elevating these energies and therefore elevating your relationships this holiday lies in finding balance between the second and third chakras. From the second, we must take the energy of operating as our true selves and, from the third, we must come from a sense of power about who we are.
Let’s get started. Below, you’ll find physical exercises to do that will help you align the second and third chakras so that you can operate powerfully from a place of your innate self this holiday season. Remember, no energy work is ever complete if you do not physically act upon the metaphysical ideas being put forth. This initiates the enacting process of facing and dealing with trauma.
1. The Belt Flow Exercise
In Energy Medicine, Donna Eden explains that there is an energy system that exists between these two chakras that, if left unattended, can become a wall between them. This cuts off the second chakra’s ability to influence the third and so this exercise, created by Eden, is critical to opening up this flow. Do it before bed and/or upon waking.
Place your left hand over the center of your rib cage and then place your right hand on top of it.
Inhale deeply and, holding the breath in, push your hands towards your ribs and your ribs towards your hands firmly.
Release the breath and your hands simultaneously. Repeat three times.
Take your left hand, fingers spread, to the right side of your rib cage and inhale. Release the breath as you drag your fingers firmly towards your navel. Repeat 5-10 times.
Repeat step 3 with your left hand on your right side.
2. Give both chakras attention
A simple version of the above exercise is to just place a hand on both the sacral and solar plexus chakras simultaneously. The sacral (second) is located just below your naval where your reproductive organs sit. The solar plexus (third) is located between the naval and the rib cage. To do this exercise, simply hold a hand on both while laying down for about three minutes. Feel into their energies and imagine them growing closer together. This is a great go-to for when you are feeling as if you just need some tenderness to get you through a tough time with the fam.
3. Begin diffusing trauma
For some of us, family time during the Holidays goes beyond anxiety and is actually triggering due to traumas we may have faced or continue to do so. This exercise will help to begin integrating memories of trauma so that you do not feel as triggered by them and, eventually, could bring up memories without feeling as triggered. Do this one before bed or upon waking consistently each day in a safe space. You may also ask someone you trust to help you so that you can fully relax.
Think of a memory that is triggering for you or provokes a serious emotional reaction.
Lightly place your fingertips on the protrusions of your forehead, between your eyebrows and hairline. Your thumbs should be on your temples.
Breathe deeply while holding the memory in your thoughts for three minutes.
This will bring the blood back into your forebrain so that your body learns to get out of a flight-or-fight response, AKA the default response of anxiety. Revisit the same memory repeatedly until it loses its emotional response and then move onto a new memory.
4. Make an inner child collage
Creativity is a wonderful way to unite with the energies of joy when faced with darkness. To give yourself some love and tenderness, make a collage using a baby picture of you surrounding by images of other things you loved as a child or love now. Shower yourself with the love and acceptance you may not be getting from your family. Take your time and cherish this object, keeping it with you during your trip. Feel free to bring it out privately whenever you need some solace.