Learning The Flip Side of Emotions

How to not run from anxiety but embrace it.

Learning The Flip Side of Emotions

Beat, beat, thump. Beat, beat, thump.

Those were the sounds pounding in my head as I waited for my plane to take off. I had always loved to fly. The thought of boarding a plane made me feel energized. For years, I had happily walked through terminals and stood in customs lines, eagerly awaiting my next trip. But this time, I felt different.

It was my first flight after Covid, and nothing seemed the same. Everyone was wearing a mask. The flight was packed. I looked around, wondering who might have Covid, if I would get it, and if I would bring it back home to my family. The thoughts were lightning flashes through my mind. My body was tense. The pounding in my head got louder and louder. So loud I could hardly think.

I got out my notebook and began writing. “Beat, beat, thump. Beat, beat, thump is a sound deep in my chest that lets me know something is wrong.” Those words became the first line of my new book.

Anxiety comes in all forms, but it is possibly the scariest when it impacts our bodies. It seems inescapable when we can feel the beat of our hearts, the sweat on our palms, or the dryness of our mouths. We want to fix it. Make it go away. We would do anything to squash the feeling. On the other side of it, we regain our balance. Our heart beats normally, our bodies relax, our palms dry out, and our mouths feel saliva again. It is only then that we realize we are ok.

At the start of the book, Alex only notices the beating of his heart when he’s worried. It beats loudly when his friend wants to play with someone else or he’s not ready for a big test. As the story continues, he notices the beating of his heart when he has other feelings, too. “Beat, beat, thump is the sound of my fears. But it is also the sound of my joy, my happiness, and a reminder that I am strong.”

This realization is powerful. If a child can learn the flip side of emotions, how to not run from anxiety but embrace it, it will change their life. We know from neuroplasticity research; the brains of children are much more capable of change. Childhood is like the center of an onion. As you grow, you keep adding layers. Change the center, the layers will follow. If you wait until adulthood to change, you must peel back all of the layers to get to the center.

By the end of the plane ride, my heart had calmed down. I had regained my equilibrium and felt my usual joy at arriving at a new destination. I had ridden out the internal storm but became acutely aware that even the things we are so comfortable with sometimes startle us. Our world is constantly changing. We are constantly changing and the only thing we can count on is our ability to manage the discomfort.

As we journey through this crazy time in the world, acceptance of emotions is really all we can do. Feelings aren’t as scary if we don’t run from them. The world is not as scary if we have the emotional capacity to handle what we encounter. I have boarded a number of planes since my first battle with plane anxiety. I haven’t experienced the fear again, but I know it could come back at any time. Either way, I won’t let it keep me from flying.

Written by Allison Edwards.

NCYI Original

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