Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour

Managing anxiety with a trip to the beach

Series of the MonthKerrie Woodhouse

A beach holiday is definitely my favourite kind of holiday.

A chance to step out of your life for a bit and watch the world go by for a bit instead of hurrying to try and keep up with it.

Days filled with time at the beach and the pool and no more complicated decision to make in each day than what to have for dinner. Bliss. This always gives me a bit of perspective on my life. 

 
 Beach Holiday no 2 - Boys will be Boys (Watercolour on paper, 8"x11")

Beach Holiday no 2 - Boys will be Boys (Watercolour on paper, 8"x11")

 

I like to walk on the beach at sunrise and sunset. I love the way the the rising tide smooths all those footprints and holes and leftover sandcastles. It clears the deck ready for the new day.

I always think that all the fretful, worried or anxious thoughts I have had that day are just like those mounds and indentations on the beach.

They are not permanent, they are just thoughts. They can be swept away and I can choose new ones, if I try… 

 
 Beach Holiday no 1 - A Girl and Her Sandcastle (Watercolour on paper 8 x 11 inches

Beach Holiday no 1 - A Girl and Her Sandcastle (Watercolour on paper 8 x 11 inches

 

I love to watch my children, totally absorbed in this moment, this wave, this sandcastle - right now.

That’s more like it.

 
 

Anxiety and depression are symptoms of being worried about the future and stuck in the past, respectively. Personally I have known them both, perhaps you do to. ( I read the other day that one in three Australian women and one in five Australian men experience anxiety, so it's not just us).  This is why learning to be present is so important - a way to avoid these both.

 
 Beach Holiday no 6 Seek the birds (Watercolour on Paper, 8"x11")

Beach Holiday no 6 Seek the birds (Watercolour on Paper, 8"x11")

 

It's funny how starting out with such well meaning intentions, like trying to be prepared can end up in a panic state if you don’t notice what is happening. Because that is where my anxiety comes from - always trying to be ultra prepared.

To me this means running all the possible worst case scenarios I can think of so as to come up with a possible solution. I am naturally risk averse, which I then compounded by becoming an auditor which is really just intense training for figuring out what could go wrong.

By now, I am pretty brilliant at it. 

 
 Beach Holiday no 7 Mini seascape (Watercolour on Paper, 2.5"x 3.5")

Beach Holiday no 7 Mini seascape (Watercolour on Paper, 2.5"x 3.5")

 

90% of the thoughts you have today are the same ones you had yesterday, apparently. So if most of those were worst case scenario sort of situations and these are the thoughts that are constantly repeated, a sense of impending doom is bound to be colouring your entire view of the world. 

 
 Beach Holiday no 3 Family Walk (Watercolour on Paper, 8"x11")

Beach Holiday no 3 Family Walk (Watercolour on Paper, 8"x11")

 

So I picture the sea, or even better I paint it, and remember that I can let those thoughts be washed away. For every worst case scenario that crosses my mind I am now trying to train myself to come up with a best case version. For every ebb, there is sure to be a flow.

 
 Beach Holiday no 4 Can't Catch Me!  (Watercolour on Paper, 8"x 11")

Beach Holiday no 4 Can't Catch Me!  (Watercolour on Paper, 8"x 11")

 

One of the most helpful things I found is a hypnosis track that came with a book called Control Stress by Paul McKenna - I have had it for years. The best line for me in the whole thing is the part where he says he would like to thank that part of my mind that worries for all the good it is trying to do. Funny that such a simple acknowledgement from a voice on recording should bring such relief but it did.

 
 Beach Holiday no 9 Mini Beach (Watercolour on Paper, 2.5"x 3.5")

Beach Holiday no 9 Mini Beach (Watercolour on Paper, 2.5"x 3.5")

 

Does it make you feel better? 

I hope so.

Because given my realisation that it is my worrying about the future (aka things that haven’t happened) that creates the anxiety I find it is easy to start feeling a bit foolish about what would then seem a self inflicted problem. Acknowledging that it came from such a good place helps me feel less ridiculous.

In this hypnosis track, Paul McKenna not only thanks that part of the mind that is worrying but also thanks the mind for coming up with new ways of doing this good work that don't involve worrying. He even says you don't need to know what those ways are. Seems a bit odd, but somehow it really helps. 

 
 Beach Holiday no 8 Twins (Watercolour on Paper 8" x 11")

Beach Holiday no 8 Twins (Watercolour on Paper 8" x 11")

 

If you are curious, this is the link to Paul's book on Amazon (affiliate link). The book comes with the hypnosis track that I have been talking about.

And if you are looking for more anxiety management strategies to try you might want to explore these suggestions from Beyond Blue. All good suggestions of course, but my favourite anxiety buster (beach trips aside) is painting.

Best therapy ever.... please give it a try!

 
 Beach Holiday no 5 Jump! (Watercolour on Paper 8" x 11")

Beach Holiday no 5 Jump! (Watercolour on Paper 8" x 11")