Anxiety, ‘Manifesting’ and Kindness (be warned: getting into ‘nicer world’ territory here!)

I was due to write another Simplicious monthly post this week, but I hope no one minds if I skip the September post, and instead write one next month to cover both September and October. I have still been cooking from the cookbook as per usual – but have been a little preoccupied and not had the time to properly reflect on it.

I mentioned in a recent Instagram post that my anxiety has flared up again, after some weeks of being in denial about it. I’ve written before about going off my anti-depressants back in 2014, with a follow-up post one year later in 2015. Reading back over them, I realise that a lot of the strategies I had previously been using to manage my anxiety have dropped off; and I’d returned to some quite serious fear-based thinking. This might have been triggered by a number of personal circumstances outside of my control – but was not responded to particularly well by me (and my tendency to catastrophise…).

I think I’d also gotten a bit smug about it all. About ‘getting back in control’ of my anxiety, which over time led me to stop prioritising my mental health and the strategies that help me to manage it. So I’ve started to bring those things back in, in small, achievable ways. When I recently wrote a post about ‘frantic doggy-paddling’, a very kind commenter named Mel suggested the Slow Your Home podcast, which had also been mentioned to me by a friend. I’ve been listening to it in the car, and really enjoying it. Listening to it regularly in this way is also serving as a constant reminder to be mindful, intentional and to slow down. No doubt I’ll be writing more about it in the near future – the Slow Home Experiments are really interesting, and I’ve just started the October experiment on decluttering (yes, MORE decluttering!Β  πŸ˜€ ).

When I feel anxiety or depression getting the better of me I also tend to return to some of Gabby Bernstein’s writing about love and fear, as a way to re-anchor my thinking. Gabby’s writing tends to centre around the idea of ‘manifesting’, a concept that I find problematic in some ways. I don’t want to be disrespectful about it – I do actually think it’s a powerful idea. But I’ve noticed that there can often be a sense of privilege in the way that it’s spoken about and written about, which doesn’t usually get acknowledged. This can be as simple as the idea that those who often attribute manifesting as contributing to their success, generally already have a level of structural advantage, safety and opportunity, which contributes to their capacity to have space for positive thinking and productivity. I also find it concerning when I see this concept being exploited by people to promote wealth building and material gain, such as the time I heard someone say she had ‘manifested a free yoga mat’.

But having said that, I do think the concept itself is an interesting and powerful idea. In the sense that love and fear, and the way we respond to these, can further manifest themselves in our lives, with far-reaching ramifications for ourselves and those around us. I know that when I’m feeling highly anxious, defensive, worried about the future, or experiencing low self-esteem (i.e. fear-based thinking); I find it harder to be creative, to do ‘good’ work, to give, to be patient with the kids, and to see beyond myself. I lapsed into it while writing this post (“it’s stupid, it sounds narcissistic and self-absorbed, I don’t know enough to write about this”), and nearly decided not to publish it.

A more loving mindset allows me to better experience gratitude and appreciation, to think about and give to other people, have deeper and more open relationships, and to experience the generally better outcomes that come with a healthier mindset.Β In saying this though, I’d like to acknowledge my own privilege. I don’t wish to downplay or disregard the genuinely challenging and difficult situations that others experience; nor the difficulties of moving to and maintaining a more ‘loving’ or positive frame of mind (which clearly I have trouble with too!) when things are going well, let alone when they aren’t. I do find that the practical strategies that Gabby suggests, many of which serve as reminders to be mindful, focused, self-aware and loving, help to resettle my anxiety.

I think a very tangible example of the way that love further manifests itself is through kindness to others. I like this one because it seems to me to be less about the ‘self’ and more about spreading kindness in a broader sense. I’ve always truly believed that the world would be a nicer place if everyone was a little kinder to everyone else. I follow a local Facebook page for Canberra parents, in which parents share stories, ask advice and all sorts of questions. A couple of years ago, someone shared a ‘random acts of kindness’ post, where a stranger had paid for a new mum’s coffee in a cafe. After that, it seemed like kindness stories were popping up on that page all the time. I like to think that people can be inspired by others’ acts of kindness, to perform their own. Last week, there was the popular social media story about a stranger who paid a $110 petrol bill. I also see it every day when I drive: Canberra drivers are not known for being particularly good drivers, but when one person starts to drive more courteously in peak hour, I see others start to follow suit. Kindness breeds kindness.

I’ve only listened to the first part of it so far, but some of you may also be interested in the Slow Your Home podcast Kindness Experiment, in which Brooke and Ben (and listeners) tried to do a random act of kindness every day in September.

I’d really love to hear others’ thoughts on this topic – on the idea of ‘manifesting’, and also on kindness. What do you think?

15 Comments

  1. Amanda says:

    The importance of kindness has taken on a whole new currency since having my son. I believe that from kindness, we can help to grow young men who are respectful, emotionally intelligent and confident. It can be hard to find time for kindness within the chaos of life though (spoken as a kindred list maker from way back). I’m lucky I can learn from example from people like you Erin; we must remember that kindness to ourselves is a good starting point.

    • Erin says:

      Thanks Amanda, that means a lot to me coming from you. I agree with you about having sons – what a mammoth task we have ahead of us to raise boys in this way, especially when that isn’t always the status quo on how boys are expected to be. :-/ I’ve always thought that you are a good example of someone who demonstrates kindness in the way that you always seem to find the space to listen to and care for others, even while dealing with the big life challenges that you’ve had to. xx

  2. I had always thought of manifestation as hocus locus – did you every read the book ‘the Secret’? But I had never really thought about it in terms of the emotional manifestation. That actually makes sense to me. If I look back over my life, I can see so many examples of fear breeding anxiety and hopelessness, but also times where kindness has lifted me up and restored my faith. Thank you for writing the post Erin, so glad that you did!
    Rani x
    P.S Have you read Thrive by Arianna Huffington? I read it recently and it talks about their being a third metric to success (other than money and power) being well- being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. I really liked it because it provided very non woo woo strategies for letting the third metric in. It even got my meditating (well for 3 days at least, I’m still working on that one).

    • Erin says:

      I haven’t read The Secret, but I’ve heard of it – probably when it was on Oprah. πŸ˜‰ It seems to be a popular idea at the moment, but I really can’t help but think that the way the concept gets used also results in a kind of blame, for example, against disadvantaged or vulnerable people ‘just not thinking positively enough’. Which scares me.
      I haven’t read Thrive – but I keep hearing about it! Now that you’ve mentioned it too, I’m going to have to give it a try! (Just started reading Big Magic, also at your recommendation.) Thanks heaps Rani xx

      • I hope you enjoy Big Magic it really resonated with me. I used to think I couldn’t be creative because of lawyer brain, when it was just plain old fear all the time (fancy that!)

      • Erin says:

        Ah… I can relate to that. I always used to think I couldn’t be creative because I was just the ‘details-oriented organiser’…. No reason we can’t be both, right!?

  3. Beautifully and articulately written Erin, I love reading your blog posts!

    I can really empathise how “smugness” can certainly lead us to stop prioritising our mental health and our strategies that help to manage it. So I was so pleased to read that you’ve started to bring those things back in and I particularity love some of your strategies … I am really looking forward to the decluttering especially as numbers increase … it could all get very interesting!

    With regard to love manifesting itself through kindness to others, I sometimes need to stop, be mindful and slow down … then I can truly appreciate, recognise and acknowledge these and reflect upon it … and that in turn reduces my anxiety, imparts a sense of belonging and completes the cycle as I then feel I can give to others …

    Thanks for another great post and all that you give x

    • Erin says:

      Thanks Sarah, for a very thoughtful (as always) comment. πŸ™‚ I definitely agree about it being a cycle – you always articulate these processes so nicely! I guess it’s just about consistently practicing, as we would any other ‘skill’, to keep coming back to that when we feel it getting out of hand… Thank-you, you always help me to understand my own thinking! πŸ™‚

      • That’s such a lovely thing to write Erin and to be fair with your writing so clear and articulate it’s always easy to do … and you know me l work in cycles and love breaking them πŸ˜‰πŸ˜ŠπŸ˜‚

        I am my own worst enemy in all of this, in recognising my own relapses, jumping in and doing something different … l like to ride my cycle until it disintegrates … not a good strategy, huh?!

        So l loved reading your blog as it was a gentle reminder …. fix my puncture stat!!! πŸ˜‚

        Sarah x

  4. LuanneH says:

    I have also gone off Anxiety meds previously and I am now sloooooowly doing so again. I agree, its the routine, structure and kindness to self that work well in managing anxiety. I also find good wholefoods diet and EPA/DHA fish oil blend help me a lot.

    Thanks for a lovely post.

    • Erin says:

      Hi Luanne,
      Thanks for getting in touch. I definitely found that eating better made me feel better – it certainly made me realise how linked my physical and mental health is. Best wishes for going off your own medication again – I hope it’s a smooth transition for you. πŸ™‚

  5. Michele says:

    For anxiety or any mood management and or for better self understanding and emotional well being can I suggest you and your readers look into CBT, Schema Therapy (see book Reinventing your Life by Klosko and Young), ACT-Mindfulness see Russ Harris and John Kabat Zinn also Naomi Good,et has some good exercises on YouTube such as LeVes on a Stream and Urge Surfing, also look up Kristen Neff on Self Compassion she has some lovely guided meditations such as Soften Soothe and Allow and some Self C exercises for free on her website

  6. allaboutme31 says:

    Kindness is contagious and it’s called moral elevation, the warm fuzzy feeling we feel in our heart. I shared this in my post, and getting a different perspective is always beautiful. Great post!

    • Erin says:

      Gosh sorry I missed this comment – I didn’t get an email notification for it. I totally agree with you, kindness has the lovely added benefit of feeling good ourselves! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. πŸ™‚

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