The feeling that life is beyond our control can be overwhelming and scary. When we feel like things are getting away from us, whether it’s work, school, relationships or another aspect of our lives, it can be tempting to seek control in unhealthy behaviors. Obsessions, compulsions and other behaviors might lure us in, promising relief from our uncertainty and anxieties. That relief, however, is fleeting at best, and engaging in these behaviors will only drag us further away from health and happiness.
When we feel out of control, an anchor can be immensely helpful.
What do I mean by “an anchor?” An anchor is something that grounds you in yourself – your mind and your body. An anchor is something you can hold on to when you feel overwhelmed. An anchor is something that makes you feel calmer, more at ease, and more sure of yourself. Anchors can take many forms, and what works at one time may not work in another instance.
What might your anchor be? It could be a longtime friend, a good book or a cozy blanket. It could be the movie night you have planned, the dance class you love or even a five-minute stretch on your bedroom floor. An anchor can also be a simple phrase like “Progress not perfection” or “I am doing what I can.” Simply planting your feet squarely on the ground can be a helpful right-in-the-moment anchor, bringing you into the present moment and pulling your mind back from worrying about the future.
Anchors can be abstract: your relationship with your boyfriend/girlfriend, mom, dad, siblings, pets, etc, can be an anchor. The love you share can be an anchor. The awareness that they walk life alongside you can be an anchor. Their confidence in you can be an anchor that helps you confront difficult moments and accept uncertainty.
Anchors can also be smaller, more concrete or tangible things: A journal, a song, a piece of clothing or jewelry. These items remind us of moments, people or feelings and can help us conjure up strength and resilience when the world feels like a hurricane.
Eventually, anchors that once served us well may be longer be useful. That’s ok. Just as the shoes we wore as children wouldn’t fit now, we may outgrow our anchors. The John Mayer CD that anchored me in college no longer has the same effect. We can also grow into anchors, and our anchors may change as often or as infrequently as is necessary. The promise of a future with my boyfriend was not an anchor for me before I met him, and now it is one of my go-tos. Some days, an evening walk around my neighborhood is my anchor. Other days, talking to my dad is the best anchor I could ask for.
The important thing about anchors is that they give us roots. They remind us of our goals, our values and who we are. They reaffirm what is important to us, and why weathering the storm, without giving into behaviors, is totally worth it.