Seven Strategies I Use To Reregulate As Anxiety Symptoms Surface

I am heading to Denver, Colorado in the next few weeks to visit my oldest son. Three days in downtown Denver and three days in Estes Park, which we are being told is simply breath-taking. I am super excited to hug on my boy! Yes, he’s twenty-five, but always my baby boy. Yet, there is this little pest named Anxiety that keeps popping its head up to remind me how terrified I am of heights, that there is a possibility of altitude sickness, and I am not a fan of being far from home and my “safe space” along with a whole checklist of long-ago created avoidance behaviors.

However, I am bound and determined to enjoy every waking moment soaking up all the positive Colorado has to offer. I live in Ohio. The heart of the Midwest. I have never traveled further west than Illinois. For those of you who may be geographically-challenged, that is two states west of Ohio. Not even to the Mississippi River. When we have traveled south into Tennessee, I have closed my eyes as we drove over the Great Smoky Mountains. Yeah. Jelico, Tennessee on I-75 has been known to trigger a full blown panic attack.

Flying results in similar panic-induced responses – sweaty palms, flipping stomach, racing thoughts, and other overwhelming body sensations.

So, how do I bring myself back into a state of calm once the anticipatory anxiety has been triggered? Here is my personal go-to list. Please keep in mind I created this plan on a trial and error basis. I have loaded my coping skills toolbox with exercises, fidgets, courses, books, therapy suggestions, and techniques discovered through personal research. Following are my top seven strategies, however, please note that I have a much larger bag-o-tricks I pull from if needed.

  • Calming Stones

Whenever I travel, I pack a backpack and fill it with my favorite calming aids. These two stones are always included in that collection of soothing strategies.

There is something settling about the weight of the stones in my hand and the silky smooth surface as I move my thumb and fingers over them. A transition happens, as well, as they move from icy cold to radiating heat as my energy transfers into them.

I purchased mine through a local store which carries various crystals and stones. However, you can find them online, as well.

  • Calming Coloring Books

Another one of my favorites, especially when flying, is to lose myself in the intricate designs of my coloring books. As with my calming stones, I find soothing comfort in the process of creating bursts of color on the white pages. This is very much a mindfulness practice as it brings me into the now, into this present moment. I forget whatever past trauma may be attempting to surface and I lose all worry of future what-ifs. I merely focus on staying in the lines as my gel pens glide along, enjoying the right-here-right-now moment.

I have purchased these at craft stores, my local grocery store, put them on my birthday wish list, and even won one as part of a writing contest prize. These, too, can be purchased online. My favorite is The Mindfulness Coloring Book which is smaller in size and easy to transport.

  • Gel Pens
A small sampling of my gel pen collection
My collection of pens and coloring books

Coinciding with my coloring book calming strategy is my use of gel pens as I color and practice mindfulness. Again, there is something peaceful about converting the page from white with black squiggly lines into a vibrant work of art.

I have tried using colored pencils, Sharpies, and markers from my daughter’s school supply collection, but my preference is most assuredly gel pens. Particularly the pack of 120 pens I have found at Target. There are glitter, neon, swirl, pastel and more in the pack. A bundle of fun! Of course, they are available online, as well.

  • Nature

all photos copyright Teri Wellbrock

As you can tell by my collection of photos, I am drawn to the beauty that can be found in “the now”. From breathtaking sunbeams to dew-soaked spiderwebs, insects scurrying about their days, a seal basking in a meditative moment in the sunlight, from muddy hikes to rain-soaked blossoms, there is wonder all around us.

I use my Samsung phone to capture these moments, although if I remember to grab my Nikon D3300 camera before heading out the door, I will snap higher quality pics on that. But, most moments I simply stop, take in a slow deep breath and savor.

We live near a nature preserve (four minutes from our driveway to be exact!) and I find myself and lose myself all at once on those trails. The sounds of water rushing through the creeks as they sing along with the symphony of birds. The scents, oh how I wish I could record the scents for playback at a later time, sometimes stop me in my tracks. Again, I pause to close my eyes and breath in renewal into my soul.

However, I can find nature in my office as a lady bug appears on my desk as if she just stopped by to check in and chat or during a dinner date downtown Cincinnati as I smile at the muddy Ohio River carrying the paddle boats upstream or even as I step into the parking lot of my local grocery store only to be greeted by God, waving to me via sunbeams peeking from dark clouds.

What a gift I have found in being cognizant of the beauty in the now.

  • Angels, Faith, and Prayer

Growing up Catholic . . . my dad was a Jesuit brother for eight years from age sixteen to twenty-four and my mom wanted to be a nun but they wouldn’t allow her in due to her partying tendencies, a.k.a. alcoholism . . . was both restrictive and comforting. It wasn’t until I was in my forties and started my healing journey that I found my faith truly blossoming beyond the dogma of the Catholic Church. I started to embrace other faiths and found myself experiencing a higher power, God, universe, whatever label you would like to apply, outside of the walls of a church.

I pray throughout my day. But not The Lord’s Prayer and formal prayers. I throw out prayers of gratitude and pleas of compassion and requests for guidance. My faith is now weaved into my breath. It is merely a part of who I am, not how often I attend mass or donate to a charity.

I am my prayer. A living, breathing, loving prayer.

Angels surround me. Literally. In statue form and spirit form. I have had three different mediums approach me and say the exact same thing . . . I have never met anyone surrounded by as many angels as you are. Pretty cool! And makes me feel quite blessed and comforted. I have always been drawn to them. I have angel paintings, calendars, statues, and books surrounding me as I type this.

They are most definitely a go-to as a calming strategy. Prayer and conversations with my angels bring me right back here to the present moment.

  • Finding Hearts
Heart rock found in the creek at our local nature preserve

The majority of the time I am not purposefully searching for hearts. They just come across my radar. I was recently hiking with a friend when I paused to catch my breath as we trudged up a hill. I told myself to “stop and smell the flowers” and upon turning my head, right there next to me on the path, was a leaf which had an insect-eaten heart hole in it. I couldn’t help by laugh out loud. Of all of the places to pause and of all of the leaves surrounding me in that forest, I happened to find a tiny little heart eaten out of a leaf. I laughed because it happens every single day. As in every . . . single . . . day. Without fail.

As a matter of fact, I wrote an e-book about it, filling it with heart pics I have snapped along with photos friends have taken and gifted to me. I even have a page on my website dedicated to those hearts (although it is just a small sampling of my collection).

Again, I find comfort in the reminder that I am loved, surrounded by love signs, and helping me be present in the moment.

  • Sammie Doodle – Therapy Dog

Oh, this sweet, sweet dog. Sammie is our labradoodle. She is the kindest soul I have ever met. She loves everyone and everything. Except pigs. I took her to a farm once and a pig snorted at her through a fence and she ran away terrified.

Wow, does she adore kids. We are a registered therapy dog team through Pet Partners and we volunteer at schools, visiting with kiddos in order to help them with feelings of anxiety or struggles with bullying or offering comfort after traumatic events. She just knows. She is drawn to those most needing love and dog snuggles.

The perk is that she is a member of our family outside of her therapy dog gig. And due to the fact that I have a history with panic attacks and heightened anxiety, this sweet pup is always by my side. She is my snuggle buddy, hiking pal, comforter, and best friend. She listens without judgment and offers stinky-breath kisses in support.

If ever I need grounding, just putting my hand upon her fluffy being radiates calm into my soul. She is a gift to us all. Sammie even has her own website, Facebook page, and Instagram account!

I love hearing back from others about calming strategies and coping skills used to bring oneself back into the now. Please feel free to reach out and share your experiences.

I wish you tranquility and joy along your healing journey.

The Beauty of a Broken Heart

When interviewing a recent podcast guest, the subject of everyday heroes in a child’s life came up. And their powerful impact of helping build resilience in the lives of vulnerable children.

I had 4. My Grandma Kitty. My 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Corken. And my BFF’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. Tonnies.

Today I want to share a story about that teacher. I don’t remember her classroom. Or what she taught me in that classroom. But I do remember her caring about me, asking if I was okay when I would cry in school, holding my hand when we would walk the halls, and inviting me to sit on the front porch of her little white house on Wayside Avenue.

I would walk the 3 blocks, crossing a busy road (in the same crosswalk where I saw a girl get hit by a car and killed a few years later when I was 10 . . . golly, 10 was a rough year!), just to spend time with this gentle soul.

I can’t remember her face. But I remember her heart.

She gave me this ceramic Holly Hobbie heart as a gift. I can’t recall why. My birthday maybe?

It reads “Happiness is having someone to care for”.

She told me to keep my treasures in it. For years it held a hand-written note from her and a key to a small cedar box I kept other notes in. To this day I treasure hand-written notes.

My dad threw something at me in a fit of rage soon after I received my gift. I ducked and it missed me, but shattered my heart. The ceramic one. And in some ways my own.

I cried silently as I glued the pieces back together. Somehow the top piece remained intact. I think it landed on my pillow.

I pulled this out of my memory box today after being reminded of Mrs. Corken during my podcast conversation. So incredibly symbolic of my life.

Jaz told me during our interview that survivors are like Kintsugi bowls . . . their breaks are repaired with gold so the scars make them beautiful. I read upon researching Kintsugi that “your scars and imperfections are your beauty”.

My little ceramic heart, glued back together, yet missing a piece I never found after that violent outburst, represents the beauty of my healing journey. Broken, then mended. Scarred, yet beautiful.

As are we all 💜

A gift from Mrs. Corken – 2nd grade

Angel Whispers and Neon Signs

Photo by Dalal Nizam on Unsplash

I am one of those folks who pay attention to the subtle whispers of my angels. I used to tell God, “Listen, Big Guy, I need some neon signs sent my way. Big flashing arrows pointing me in the right direction, if you don’t mind. Thanks!”

It’s taken years of practice, silencing the hum of my own insecurities and quieting my own directives, but I now notice the gentle taps on the shoulder, “Hey, T, look,” turning my head to notice the heart-shaped leaf on the ground.

Ah, thanks, God.

I’ve come to realize those sweet little nudges ARE the neon God-signs I had been asking for all along.

Lady bugs crawling on my manuscript, sunbeams radiating onto a crappy day, little kid giggles interrupting my mental chanting of shopping list items, unicorn fart coffee mug gifts from a friend “just because”, cardinal songs outside my window as my dad’s memory flutters through the room. Angel whispers filling my days.

As I sent up a little prayer this morning, feeling a bit melancholy over an old loss, I received a beautiful text: “I truly think you are an amazingly beautiful person.” Tears welled in my eyes, the timing of that message impeccable, as the sunlight beaming into the room caught my attention.

I turned to see the beams radiating through the glass sign I have perched on the window sill, the words “be brave” illuminated in a joyous reminder.

photo credit Teri Wellbrock

I’ve been looking for inspiration for this latest blog. Waiting to be prodded by some spirit-movings. I’d say this qualifies.

5 Ways to Awaken Your Awareness of Angel Whispers and God Signs

  • Look for hearts.

 I find them everywhere. Every day. I just walked downstairs to let the dogs back inside and laughed as I found a chewed remnant of a dog toy . . . in the shape of a neon orange heart on the stairs. Love is all around us. All we need to do is open our hearts (and our eyes) to notice. I will be posting a free downloadable e-book on my website some time in the next few weeks. It will be filled with heart pics I’ve snapped along with quotes and stories about love. Be sure to download it on my Teri Wellbrock website once it’s available. Until then, there is other free downloadable content available as a resource.

  • Meditate. 

I started out using a simple 2-5 minute meditation I had found on a phone app. Learning to meditate in short intervals was a much needed boost of confidence that I could actually do it.  I had always struggled with any attempts to meditate. My mind would wander repeatedly and I’d throw in the towel about thirty seconds in. Several different apps I found actually encouraged letting my mind wander, so I could practice utilizing my breath to reign it back in. I have created a few simplistic meditation videos. You can practice by listening in on my website or directly on YouTube.

I eventually worked my way up to 30-minute meditations, using apps and various YouTube guided meditation videos. I now make meditating a part of my daily routine. It has opened up my senses to everything beautiful. Including those angel messages.

Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash

  • Practice mindfulness.

This is a favorite technique that I will talk about often. Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

It is a gift to yourself. Being aware of the space you fill in this present moment and all that surrounds you in the now can be more difficult than it sounds . . . hence the need for practice. I like to hike at Cincinnati Nature Center, reminding myself to absorb the sensations of the moment (the sounds of scurrying chipmunks, the sweet scent of honeysuckle blossoms, the tickle of the sweat bee landing on my arm). Those moments, after all, are filled with angel whispers.

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

  • Welcome balance.

Another concept I struggled with throughout most of my life was that of allowing myself the gift of relaxation, “me” time, without the weight of guilt sitting heavily upon my shoulders. I would try to kick back, but my to-do list would nag at me. All of the “shoulds” poking at me. You should be writing. You should be cleaning. You should be studying. 

Once I realized the benefits of giving myself permission to relax, unwind, let go, and enjoy the moment, I quickly learned to put those to-do list bullies in their place. Now I remind myself that my angel gifts come to me in those letting-go moments. They appear within the pauses.

photo credit Teri Wellbrock

  • Be gentle with yourself.

A huge lesson learned. This was one of those Ah-ha! moments in my life. A true awaking. On so many levels. I can honestly say that learning how to accomplish this seemingly simple mindset was life-altering.

When you find yourself being self-ridiculing or slamming yourself over a mistake, stop. When you find yourself doubting your abilities, stop. When you start to question your worth, stop. When you pick on your weight or your wrinkles or your knack of crying at all things sappy, stop.

Instead . . . be gentle with yourself. Remind yourself you are trying. And you are worthy. And loved. And beautiful. Give yourself a hug. Be your own best friend. Hold your own hand. That’s when you’ll hear the angel whisper, “I believe in you.”

Photo credit Teri Wellbrock