November 7, 2023

Anxiety Wants To Be My Friend

Anxiety wants to be my friend. I know because she crawls into bed with me every night. I awaken before dawn and she’s still there, clutching my belly and rattling my mind.

It helps a little when my sweet pup Disco lies on my feet, the warm presence of another living being. It helps a little when I follow my breath and slow down the exhalations. One – two – three – four – five – six. Inhale and exhale slowly again, sometimes with pursed lips. It helps to remember that my grandparents once slept in this bed and they were anxious, too, through the Great Depression, two World Wars, a business when no one had money to buy what they sold.

It helps to read good poetry, but I struggle to keep my mind focused on reading Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. This is my second reading of the book, but I decided to read it again since I’m writing about Monarch butterflies. I’m anxious about Monarchs, too.

It makes me anxious to read recent news in the morning or at night or any time at all. I was once a government major and haven’t been able to stifle my need to know what’s happening in the world. It would be smart to give that up, but I can’t convince myself. Hearing loss saves me from watching or listening to horrific images, but I have a vivid imagination when reading and my heart breaks especially for children, their mothers, and others who want to live in peace.

Red Oak

I welcome good news. This week I read that indigenous tribes in Maine are receiving huge tracts of land to manage in their ancient ways. The Trust for Public Land bought 31,000 acres of forested land to give to Penobscot tribal ownership. Why? Because the Penobscot know how to take care of the land better than anyone. The land they manage has fewer forest fires, more productive fisheries, and healthier plants. The land was once theirs, and it gives me hope that it will be theirs again.

Sweetgrass bowl with crow feathers

Caring for the land and remembering the teachings of Robin Wall Kimmerer is the best anti-anxiety medicine I know. I love Kimmerer’s books Braiding Sweet Grass and Gathering Moss, plus a beautiful essay you can access for free on line called The Serviceberry. Kimmerer weaves indigenous wisdom with academic knowledge. She’s a member of the Potawatomi Nation, a Native American group originally from the Great Lakes region who had most of their land stolen. Since she lives in my area, I imagine Kimmerer creating a sweetgrass bowl for a ritual to honor the transfer of land in Maine to the Penobscot. I celebrate with her.

Haircap moss in snow

On daily walks, I remember to slow down and notice details. I take in beauty and remember gratitude. Anxiety releases her grip as I walk, and hope flows in.


How are you managing these tense times? Do you have a practice that helps? Would you share it? For other posts about challenging times, see A Healing Ritual in a Sweetgrass Bowl: Self-Care for Surgery.  For another post about handling hard times, see Cradled: Creating a Safe Spot in Times of Crisis.


  1. November 15, 2023 at 11:00 am

    Lin Gregory


    A very timely post Elaine, anxiety seems at epidemic levels at the moment with local and international news so full of doom and gloom. I don’t watch the news now (I like to sleep at night) but I’ll read the headlines and summaries of news stories to keep myself informed and at the same time. I also try to find a positive news story to counter the negatives – as you did with the wonderful news about the indigenous tribes.

    Like you I get anxious about the world, the conflicts and the effects of climate on our planet, but I know I can only do so much, I just have to accept that. I go out into nature, either walking, gardening or photographing to help me manage my anxiety. I find woodland is the most powerful salve, walking amongst living beings that seem sometimes to be more intelligent in the way they live life as a community with their “wood wide web” not to mention the way they accept and even feed trees of other species rather than living in conflict with them, is a lesson many politicians could learn from! I also practice mindfulness meditation, it helps me find my centre before I see clients and helps manage any worries that my come up for me. Hoping you had a good journey back from David’s – I’m sure Disco was beside herself with joy to see you!

    1. November 15, 2023 at 9:54 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Lin, it doesn’t seem we can do much except spread kindness where possible and, if inclined, donate to a group that helps everyone like Doctors Without Borders or Save the Children. I also find nature is the best place to breathe in a different feeling. A neighbor down the road is logging a neglected oak forest, but it doesn’t seem severe so far and I know that forest needed tending. I try not to make that another source of anxiety. It’s far enough from me that I didn’t know it was happening until my son told me. I see deer but fewer birds than usual for November, I hope because there’s much for them to eat in the wild in the warmer than usual autumn. I love knowing how interconnected the trees are and hope they’re cutting carefully and responsibly. Disco was in my son’s car at the airport, glad to see me, but ready to sleep after a few tail wags and ear scratches. She doesn’t always sleep on my bed, but I have a blanket for her there. Last night, she was in contact all night. (Meditation is such a help in these times or any time.) May all be well in this churning world.

  2. November 10, 2023 at 11:28 pm

    Susan scott


    Thanks Elaine I felt a lessening of my anxiety while reading your post. I too like to keep up with the news but goodness, I can feel the pull towards mass thinking and feeling and thereby a considerable lowering of consciousness.

    Keep safe, enjoy the beauty of all.

    1. November 12, 2023 at 4:43 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Paying attention to the news is hard on us, yet it’s necessary. I agree with you completely. And we need Sacred help.

  3. November 9, 2023 at 7:12 am

    Pamela Slagh


    I believe anxiety and my brain have become best friends, they meet nightly when I am about to fall asleep. They float between ‘ if only I had done, what if there is another world war, how safe are the schools from shooters just to name a few things that come to my mind at bedtime. I have tried the slow breathing exercises, reading sonnets from the Shakespeare era or a cup of non caffeine sleepytime tea. Thank goodness those thoughts don’t come in my dreams but I would love to not have those thoughts at all.

    1. November 12, 2023 at 4:46 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      There’s wisdom in those disruptive thoughts. We need lots of people to understand and pay attention to the human heart.

  4. November 8, 2023 at 11:46 am



    Dear Elaine, thank you for as usual, finding the gold, even in the pain.
    Love & Safe travels, Gita

    1. November 8, 2023 at 1:53 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you, Gita. I’m privileged since no one is dropping bombs on my house, but this is a problem with media. I think of my mom who didn’t hear from my dad for months during WWII. Like me, she was safe in her home with my grandparents, but there was very little news. Sending love as I try to pack with less stuff and more order.

  5. November 8, 2023 at 6:53 am

    Marian Beaman


    Last evening I met up with a missionary to Ukraine who has an ongoing ministry to children and families in that war-torn country. Thanks to her influence, some Ukrainian children have enjoyed a respite from war at the invitation of a benevolent doctor in Massachusetts. In another initiative called Mountain Shelter, a young Ukrainian man (with staff) also provides help. These dear children are marked by war and such initiatives help alleviate some of the pain.

    Walking in nature is a balm to me too and so is thinking on Scripture. One verse I see next to my car keys: “He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be you shield and buckler.” Psalm 91:4

    Just now I’m thinking of the Mary Oliver poem “I worried.” I like her conclusion: Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing./ And gave it up. And took my old body / and went out into the morning, / and sang.

    Thank you, Elaine, for your book suggestions and lovely photos. I especially enjoyed seeing your heirloom bed and the exquisite handwork above it.

    1. November 8, 2023 at 11:15 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      I’m grateful you can be part of helping these children. Another friend sent me an article about a village in Palestine where Palestinians and Jews live together in peace and teach the children to love each other. I hope this idealistic village has survived the bombing. It’s called ‘Oasis of Peace’ and my friend heard about it on NBC. I love the scripture you sent and also love that Mary Oliver poem. I seem to have to get deeply into worry in order to give it up, but I took a lovely walk this morning and I sing to myself often despite my hearing.

      The bed is from my maternal grandparents and it was wobbly when I received it, but Vic added bracing underneath. The crocheted pieces are from my paternal grandmother who was a master of her craft, a fine baker, and a wonderful pianist and hymn singer. My grandparents always scraped the money together to have the piano tuned and after sumptuous family dinners we sang everything from Broadway music to hymns. Grandma also loved to play ragtime. Best to you, Marian. Be well.

      1. November 8, 2023 at 9:50 pm

        Marian Beaman


        Thanks for the follow-up comments and also adding to your family lore!

  6. November 8, 2023 at 6:07 am

    Aladin Fazel


    I said often that the fear and the only fear is our great enemy! However, we cannot ignore the fact that there is an eerie concern lurking around the world. In times like these, it’s helpful to read a poem or a good book to find solace. I am too busy with all these happenings and must confront these challenges.
    Recently, a friend of mine (also my dentist) suggested trying the Tibetan method of meditation to find inner peace and the calmness of the soul and shut off all those awful events. Take care, my lovely Elaine.

    1. November 8, 2023 at 11:01 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      I also believe we need to listen to the warning we receive–not be devoured by fear, but notice and honor it as a kind of wisdom. I’ve been meditating since 1970 and sitting meditation helps, but these days I rely on walking meditation. I first met the Dalai Lama in 1979 on his first trip to the United States. He stayed at our meditation center for three or four days and, in the 1980s, Vic and I traveled to India to see him. There are many types of Tibetan Meditation so I wonder which one was recommended to you. There’s no shutting off the world, but there is a calmer witnessing that I can sometimes experience. There’s also Walking Meditation which I find to be most helpful when my body and mind are agitated sitting. I do lots of walking meditation these days. Take care of yourself, Aladin. If you just follow your slowed breath for five minutes and maybe add a prayer, it makes a difference.

  7. November 8, 2023 at 2:28 am

    Deborah Gregory


    Safe travels dear Elaine! And if a wheel chair is needed, offered, why not get ahead of the crowds and grab one! I think, hope, pray slowly that the world is understanding, realising we cannot live without the beauty and wonder of nature. Maybe I’m only realising this as I age but last week I was stuck indoors for eight straight days and to be honest I was climbing up the walls to get out for a walk. As is tradition in the poet’s house, I’m working on next week’s birthday poem which this year is going to be written in a haiku style. As you know, some get to sleep forever in a darkened drawer and others get to see the light of day. We’ll see! Have a wonderful trip my dear friend. Big love! x

    1. November 8, 2023 at 10:49 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      I ordered a wheelchair because I can’t hear announcements if they change the gate. It doesn’t seem quite fair since I hike long distances, but the issue is the sound and missing that a gate was changed. A wheelchair was advised and I resisted, but finally said yes.

  8. November 7, 2023 at 12:08 pm

    Deborah Gregory


    Dear Elaine,

    I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been feeling anxious of late my dear friend. Watching daily and breaking news programmes often delivers heart-sink, anxious moments! And there seems to be such a lot to worry about these days, let alone the Israel and Palestine war taking place, daily, almost hourly, on our screens.

    This morning I thought to hell with all that and decided to pull on my walking boots and head over to the beach where I could listen to one of my favourite podcasts. I took in a five mile trek along the shoreline, it was wild and heavenly over there! Nature, I truly believe, really is the best cure for many people’s anxiety.

    Hmm, in a heightened emotional state I also can’t read anything scientific or academic, I can’t really concentrate until I feel more emotionally balanced, so mythological stories, poetry and music, often calm me down. I don’t do it often but getting my brushes, paints out relaxes me too, as does looking at art images.

    Sometimes I’ll spend an hour or longer looking for an image. It’s often the symbolic, archetypal, metaphoric or surreal ones I find myself most drawn too. Butterflies, foxes and deer have been some of my most recent searches as I’m currently musing on writing a new poetry series next year based on our woodland inhabitants.

    To summarise, I think my main anxiety reducing activity has to be ‘walking in nature’. Jigsaw puzzles are great for taking my mind off my troubles too. Yet nothing really beats nature for me, especially when I get to share a walk with friends. Sending much love and light across the oceans and oaks between us.

    Your poet friend, Deborah

    1. November 7, 2023 at 6:01 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Dear Deborah, the brutality and killing throughout the world break my heart even if I don’t read much about it. Not just the headlines. It’s everywhere. In this country, the political situation is horrifying. It’s hard to imagine how we got to this nasty place, but here we are. I didn’t read details about any of these things today, but I know they’re going on. I ended my piece by saying that walking soothed me–and it does. Disco and I walked in the forest which is beautiful even on a gloomy day.

      I wish I could listen to music, but I remember some songs and sing to myself. Painting is lovely, too. Next week I have an appointment with a “body and energy worker.” I like her and think she will help calm anxiety. At the moment, I’m packing for a short trip to see my son who lives too far to drive. I want to see him before the snow flies. Meniere’s Disease acts up in the tumultuous changeable weather and emotional chaos of the world, so I endure some discomfort to avoid increasing the dose of addictive medicine. Sometimes life is challenging, and it’s helpful to write about it. Nature is my biggest healer along with friends, sons, writing, hiking, and Disco. I pull out the jigsaw puzzles when snow flies which is usually by now, but not this year. Yesterday a friend and I walked in the forest to the place where we buried Vic’s ashes. As she said, “Let’s go visit Vic.” He had a calm energy and I miss that. Have a wonderful break until Yule. I’m considering a break, too, but first a trip and then I’ll see if I’m ready to tackle the last chapters of the Monarch work. No hurry. Love, sweetness, and hugs to you and Lin.

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