As I type, the snow is beginning to fall. The air is mostly still with a gentle breeze that moves the bare trees outside my window. I look up again, and the wind picks up and the power lines sway, and then they stop as the wind fades.
A storm is coming.
Another day. Another storm.
Today, I am watching the wind and clouds both wearily and with hope as this weather pattern moves into the front range. I feel dread and tension in my back, “What will happen next?” I feel hope in the relaxing of my eyes, “This should put out the fires.”
In the last 7 days, the Front Range of Colorado has experienced at least two tragedies that have abruptly taken away loved ones and uprooted tens of thousands. I had hoped to write a final blog post for 2021 that did not have to do with grief…
But here we are.
I read a book once of a man who sailed into a storm on a tiny boat. His boat capsized, and he drifted through the Atlantic for weeks on a tiny life raft. As a land locked soul, I can’t think of a scarier fate, than to be floating adrift at sea with no ground beneath me, no land on the horizon. Land, quite literally, grounds me. The mountains to the West orient me. Folx for millennia have relied on other things to orient and ground/stabilize them through the changing conditions at sea. For example, in a storm, boats sometimes use sea anchors. They are parachutes that drag off the bow of the boat to slow or nearly stop their progress in a storm. When a storm pushes a boat at a frenzied speed, sailing wisdom says to slow down, turn, and face it. By slowing the boat and putting pressure toward the stern, the boat is then able to be steered toward the oncoming waves which prevents capsizing.
In life, we need anchors like this.
When a storm hits, we can’t control the storm or the circumstances, but we can shape things along the way.
What is your sea anchor today?
What do you value?
What people in your life help you slow down and stabilize when your shelter and your stability, has been taken by the storm? It could be someone you can call or someone you are with. Or it could be someone you have read about or admire, someone by whom you feel inspired.
I invite you to your breath. Our breath can be a sea anchor, slowing us, helping us orient and point ourselves toward the waves to keep from capsizing in the gusting wind.
If the gale force winds of anxiety threaten your stability today, put out your sea anchor to slow down.
If you pray, what is a common prayer or passage of scripture that helps calm you? I invite you to breathe in and then exhale a part of that prayer. Repeat for as long as it feels right.
If you meditate, what is that mantra that you come back to that stabilizes you, slows you? Breathe in through your nose and exhale out your mantra. Repeat for as long as it feels right.
When I’m not being a therapist, I ride my bike. As my mileage has slowly increased, and I am out for longer and longer rides, I have had to learn ways to stay calm and slow down when the weather changes or the ride becomes a bit more arduous than I believe I am capable of. When my panic sets in, I am learning to slow myself and reorient myself by reminding myself of this trust, “You can do hard things. You can do this.” If you pass me on the road, you might see me talking to myself. If I’m in a demoralizing headwind or pushing up a hill, you will probably hear me repeating this over and over again, aloud, “I can do hard things. I can do this.” When that doesn’t work, I pull out another tried and true sea anchor. I count my pedal strokes. I can’t control the road. I can’t control the trail. Sometimes I can’t control my breathing, but I can count. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.” If I still feel the panic at the top of my throat, I start over: “One, two, three…” Repeat for as long as you need to.
What is your sea anchor as the waves of 2021 batter and break?
What helps you slow when anxiety and fear push you at dizzying speeds?
Repeat for as long as it feels right.
My heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones from the recent tragic killings and have lost loved ones and been displaced by the Marshall wildfire.
Here are some links for resources for those affected by the Marshall wildfire.
You are not alone. Reach out.
About the Author: Lindsay Cade, LPC [she/her/] is a licensed mental health therapist with 8 years experience providing mental health services. Read more about Lindsay here or contact her today to discuss starting therapy.