Tip #13: Do you have what is sometimes called “floating duck syndrome?” On the surface you look calm and unperturbed, just lazily floating along. But under the water your legs are pedaling as fast and as hard as they can just to stay afloat? I’ve had times like that. I was a psychotherapist and felt for the sake of my clients I should never let anyone see my emotions or my legs frantically pedaling under the water.
This was particularly true when my daughter was a teenager and was kidnapped by a young man she knew who we later learned held her at gun point. She was gone for two weeks and we were terrified she was dead. But I still had to work. And I had to be perfect. Or at least that’s what I told myself. Besides the police, no one else than the family knew what was happening. There was a part of me that blamed myself for what had happened. If only I had, or if only I hadn’t. How could I have not known how crazy he was, and me being a psychotherapist?
The more anxious and depressed I became the more critical I became of myself. Instead of showing my stress I dumped it all into my back and neck muscles. It was my way of hanging on without others seeing what was happening inside. I slept very little. Anyway, the incident, thank God, turned out alright in the end.
As I look back on that time I ask myself what I could have done to decrease my anxiety, my depression and my stress?The first thing that comes to mind is that I could have followed my own advice to my clients. “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” If I had had some compassion for myself, my life could have been easier. It took all my energy just to pretend to be strong and not let anyone know.
Here are a few things you can do if you have “floating duck syndrome.”
1. Quit denying you are human and give yourself some slack. You are not “perfect” whatever that means to you, and you may need help. Seek help if you need to from family, friends, and professionals. It’s okay not to be strong all the time.
2. Acknowledge your emotions and be as compassionate to yourself as you would be to a child or best friend. Give yourself emotional support. You may even give yourself permission to take some time off work or school.
3. Talk to someone you trust about what’s going on inside of you, and feel your feelings.
4. Touch. Allow a loved one to hold you. Or you might even hug yourself with your arms around yourself.
5. Create a self nurturing mantra you can say to yourself immediately when you notice your anxiety rise. (E.g., “I am anxious right now. That’s okay. Everyone gets anxious. Anxiety is part of life whether I like it or not. But I choose to be compassionate to myself at this moment.” Or one I use a lot, “I accept and love myself just the way I am and where I am at.”)
Take care of yourself. You are worth it.