Ask Vicki: Relationship Advice Using the Five Elements

Anxious About Meeting with Friends

Dear Readers: It’s time for another quick Five Element Fix and an opportunity to address how we relate to ourselves.

Recently, I received the following question:

After over a year of working from home and strict distancing, more and more of my friends are getting together, going to movies, eating indoors at restaurants, etc. I haven’t joined them at all, not even to get together outside. Rationally, I know it’s pretty safe if everyone is outside at least six feet away, but the thought of being with people other than my family makes me nervous, even anxious. I miss my friends and want to join them for outdoor events, so what can I do?

Answer: This is an issue all of us must deal with in our own time and place. The last year turned our world upside down. But as case numbers decrease and vaccination numbers grow, there will come a time when it is relatively safe to step more fully into the new version of our lives. No one can tell us when that will be – or even what it will look like – it is something we must each come to at our own time and place.

However, it sounds like you believe it to be safe to spend time with your friends outside if properly spaced but are anxious about actually doing so. If that is the case, there is something easy you can do to calm yourself and go have some fun with your friends.

One hour before you are set to meet your friends, do the following quick exercise:

Place your fingers on both sides of your head at your temples. Inhale and, with gentle pressure, smooth up to over your ears. Then exhale while you trace behind your ears and down your neck to your shoulders. Rest the palms of your hands on your shoulders with your fingers pointed behind you. Breathing normally, relax and slowly count to three, then take a final deep breathe in, slowly exhale through your mouth, and let your arms fall to your side.

Do this several more times before you go to meet your friends. And honestly, you can do this as often as you like; it will always work to settle anxiousness.

Why: Smoothing behind the ears helps to calm excess Fire energy, frequently a major cause of anxiousness and nervousness. It also activates the vagus nerve. This is important because if we believe there is a threat, real or perceived, our fight, flight, or freeze response is triggered as part of mobilizing our sympathetic nervous system.

In your case, even though you will be far enough from your friends to effectively eliminate the possibility of transmission, the concern that you might get sick is triggering your sympathetic nervous system. Since this isn’t a real threat as long as you stay a respectable distance apart, you do not need the mobilization of your protective mechanisms, so you need to recruit your parasympathetic nervous system to calm you down. The vagus nerve is the most influential nerve in our parasympathetic nervous system and functions like our body’s natural reset button. Stimulating it with this little exercise helps bring about the calm, collected feeling needed to counter the anxiousness. Doing this frequently helps your whole nervous system learn to relax.

And it goes without saying that if you truly do not feel safe meeting with your friends yet, do not do it. Always trust your inner guidance.

Blessings to you,