How do you stay connected with the world while dealing with anxiety?

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    Buddhist Wife

    Hello Everyone,

    I was wondering if any of you have some words of wisdom about an issue I face.

    I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which is an anxiety disorder. For a while I was on medication which reduced my anxiety and in many ways made me emotionally numb.

    Because the long term implications of my medication are not understood, it was only ever a short term option and so I was recently put in the position of having to stop the medication.

    I have had a lot of support through this and I’m am now handling my condition a variety of ways, using techniques I learnt in therapy, sticking to a relatively healthy diet and other methods.

    One thing I have been doing is avoiding stressful stimuli. This is difficult as I am a highly sensitive person as well as having my OCD to deal with. This helps me to deal with the knot of anxiety I feel in my chest and with the nightmares.

    However I wonder how and if it is possible to achieve a balance? For example, the news and the things reported there are stressful and upsetting, so I try to avoid them to an extent, such as at late at night. I also tend to avoid reading news stories and just glance at the headlines.

    This is helpful but at the same time, I don’t want to become ignorant of what is going on in the world. I think it is important to be well informed and I also think that an awareness of problems across the world is important if we wish to remain compassionate to others and aware of just how privileged we are.

    Does anyone have any suggestions of how to achieve a balance and how to engage with the problems of the world without damaging ourselves?


    Buddhist Wife,

    I honestly don’t have any real suggestions just my experience. I started dealing with anxiety attacks just last year and have had severe nightmares for most of my life. I became anxious when a doctor diagnosed me with allergic asthma. Being worried that I couldn’t breath caused anxiety. It was scary when I couldn’t distinguish an asthma attack from an anxiety attack. When I dug deeper, the core of my anxiety was in realizing that there were things despite of my efforts that were beyond my control such as having asthma. Although I haven’t had an asthma attack in a while, having my inhaler with me along with a leopard skin jasper stone (Shaman’s stone) brings me comfort and calms me. Maybe you should find something to carry with you that brings a sense of security. I bet your lack of medicine has robbed some of that security from you.

    For me, I kinda feel like the anxiety is really pent up energy in my body. So vigorous activity really helps me both physically and mentally. It is strange how there are some activities that can soothe my anxiety but then they become anxiety provoking activities. This happens when I tend to worry about all the what ifs. I took up rock climbing which I really enjoyed for a while. However, a new person belayed me and he almost dropped me when I slipped. Since then I have been feeling anxious about climbing. I do it still on occasion but really have to focus on my breath and calming my fear. I volunteered at a therapeutic horse riding park. My task was to walk alongside the horse while holding on to a mounted disabled child. I really enjoyed this but became anxious about all the what ifs. What if I drop the child or what if the horse acts up and I can’t gain control of the horse. So I haven’t gone back to that. The pattern that I have noticed is I feel anxious when I allow my mind to race and I don’t focus on the activity at hand. I also get anxious at night especially if I have been sitting all day. The remedy for me is to:

    1. Release energy via vigorous exercise

    2. Release mental energy by engaging in brain games or puzzles or reading ( I have a lumosity account)

    3. Release creative energy by writing, making things, cooking, etc

    4. Learn to recognize my threshold, not put too much on my plate

    5. Slowly learning to be okay with not being in control and with uncertainty ( The main reason I feel I need to be in control is because I want certainty and stability. My household was unpredictable, uncontrollable and unstable so in order to feel safe I needed to create order.)

    6. Handling uncertainty by preparing myself. I acquired the confidence that comes with preparation in order to handle the unknown.. I don’t prepare by building a bomb shelter : )…but I am working on doing internal preparation…gathering the internal strength I need to deal with situations, if sh*t were to hit the fan

    7. Learning not to worry about being worried…learning not to feel anxious about being anxious because this usually brings on an anxiety attack

    8. Sometimes you just can’t fight it. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and say I am feeling anxious. Accept it. Also I was getting to the point where even routine things was causing me anxiety like playing board games with friends (friends I have known for 5-7 years). I almost didn’t want to leave the house. Instead of continuing to avoid events, which was causing me more anxiety, I just started being honest with them. I then discovered that two fellow friends suffered from anxiety. Now I feel supported and like its no big deal if I have an attack in front of them.

    9. You seem to be a really caring person. Put that caring and loving energy into volunteering. I remember watching the news and getting really upset too. At times, I would wake up in the middle of the night and pray for all the suffering souls in the world. Sometimes I would even weep for them. I cut the news out entirely. You really don’t have to watch it to remain compassionate to others. This doesn’t mean I tune things out and pretend like the world is a perfect place but I just chose to be informed about what I want to be informed about. I care about certain world events and these are the things l research. Because now versus the past, we are inundated with so much information that it is crucial to filter. You have to for your own sanity.

    10. Take a break! Take a walk, a bath, watch something funny! Relax. Make sure to make time to recharge. We charge our phones daily, our computers daily, we refuel our cars often but we forget to recharge. It is important for balance.

    11. Trust

    I really hope that you find some peace of mind. I am sorry for all the struggles you have had to endure. Sending peace and tranquility your way!

    Warm Regards,



    I was reminded this morning about a cool event in my life

    I stayed up all night working really hard packing the moving truck and cleaning our rental
    I drove to the new place and was exhausted and totally focused on sleeeeeeeeeep
    My girlfriends car had a nail in the tire and was leaking air..
    no choice.. drive it now to plug hole or change the tire etc later.. sigh
    so.. off I go on the drive to the tire place
    I felt a bit like mr magoo
    I noticed a pleasant happiness all within me
    I was too tired to focus on anything but driving right and thinking right..
    I didnt have enough energy to give to anything but my priorities..

    Physically and mentally I was exhausted
    I could only focus on being kind to others and driving safely 🙂

    I get tired of reading the nonsense in the media.. I hit news.google.com for a few and then let it all go

    ^^ Apathetic and Distrusting… is how I am.. the domestication of homo-sapiens has not gone so well.
    While our citizens were upset at the approx 3-4k dead on 9/11.. now we have killed over

    our species has big problems..
    Those numbers are just Iraq…

    Pakistan drone strikes

    <<<I have much trouble staying out of media and news.. it only upsets me that we allow ourselves to stay the same.. very very little evolution of the human heart in all these years..


    Hi Buddhist Wife,

    Have you read the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron? If you haven’t heard of it or read it, it’s a pretty resourceful book for highly sensitive people and people who interact with highly sensitive people. My therapist actually showed me this book. I found it really help me as it explained pretty much everything that I’ve experienced, so I’m not the only one.

    Zenhen has definitely given you some great tools to try to work with! Just take it one day at a time. 🙂



    Buddhist Wife,
    It might be helpful and clarifying for you to ask yourself why you feel that it is important to watch the news? Is it really important? Who writes the news? Is news really news or isn’t it not filtered several times before it reaches you? Is watching the news really going to help you know what’s going on in the world? Is watching the news actually important or is it only important because of a thought that you have created out of your head and you tell yourself that it is important?

    I think that it is enough to engage with the world that is immediately around you. You may have noticed that there are times when you are able to read the news with equanimity and other times where it is very easy to be thrown of balance. Maybe try obeying what your body tells you is right to do. Trust that when you are thrown into a negative mind-state by reading the news that refraining from reading it is the best course of action for the time being.

    In one of my most beloved books: “Lovingkindess” by Sharon Salzberg – she talks about the 4 brahma-viharas. 1. Lovingkindness, 2. Compassion, 3. Empathetic joy, and 4. Equanimity. If you feel like you can be thrown out of balance quite easily perhaps try this mantra next time you meditate – it is to cultivate equanimity: “May we all accept things as they are. May we be undisturbed by the comings and goings of events.” The near enemy of equanimity is indifference but it sounds like with your level of compassion and caring this is not going to be a problem. The amazing thing about the brahma-viharas is that they all work together to balance everything out.

    A lot of what we read in the news is so off balance so it should be no surprise that reading it would throw you off. It throws me off nearly every time but I don’t turn it into a problem and I will just put it down. I would rather spend my time meditating on the good in this world – there’s enough bad in it that it’ll find it’s way to me eventually – I don’t need to go looking for it! I’m sorry that you are dealing with panicky states of mind. I went through an experience like that some years ago, especially at night and found that I had to make a lot of changes to my environment to compensate. One of them was avoiding the news completely. It was a great success. There is nothing wrong with this. Thich Nhat Hanh himself has said that he doesn’t follow the news and that if there is something big and important going on in the world he trusts that one of his monks will tell him.

    May you find solace for your racing thoughts.


    Buddhist Wife

    Thank you everyone for your advice. I have taken it all to heart and into consideration.

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