Three types of anchors to get you through the hard times.

This is a concept which has been solidifying for me a lot over the last year. When I reflect on the tricky moments I have faced in my life and as I continue to work through some hard stuff I have discovered underneath the determination and sheer bloody mindedness there is a tool. An approach I deploy sometimes without even noticing. It helps gives me hold a positive focus and gives me a reason to move forward when all I want to do is stop. The best way I can describe this tool is as an anchor. They help me get through it, through the darkness, the stress, to anxiety or worry. I am always keen to share what tools I discover along the way because I recognise whilst everyones journey is different we all struggle at times and I hope they may help you, even if just to reflect yourself on your own set of tools. Feel free to follow if you find other tools helpful to learn about or share if you think this could help someone else.

Cast out in to stormy seas, these anchors can take many shapes and forms. An idea, a point in time, something which brings me joy. Here are some of the examples of types of anchors I have used and how they help…

Anchoring Action…

This type of anchor gives me lots of benefits and is probably the one I use most when I proactively know something difficult is coming. It allows me focus on something positive instead of thinking about the thing I am struggling with. (Perhaps avoidance is not always a good thing but dam it works for me).

Anchoring actions often give me something to keep busy. To proactively pass the time until the situation naturally improves or the darkness has passed.

They also give me a sense of accomplishment even if I did not manage to avoid the thing thing I was dreading I might have achieved something else.

Here’s an example where I have used this anchor…

Last year I was trying to tackle some of my behaviours. One of which was an overly active behaviour of hand washing. I find lots of anxiety in the space of cleanliness. One situation I was aware I excessively washed my hands was at archery. When we set up the equipment I would feel compelled to wash my hands. My hands would feel greasy and gross and I could not bring myself to contaminate my wonderful bow. My fellow archers would comment. “Washing your hands again!” No one else would wash their hands after setting up. And honestly the fact I was washing hands was not a bad thing but the fact that I felt I had no choice was diminishing.

So after one of the conversations with my psychologist I decided not to. Not to wash my hands. Dam I was dreading it. Way in advance of the session I was worrying, what ifs and maybes filling my head. I knew I wanted to avoid the situation. It would have been all too easy to find an excuse to just not go and so I had to find another way to encourage myself to go to practice. I needed an anchor. A positive point to cling too in amongst the angst. It was just before Christmas and I quickly found an idea. I would take mulled wine and mince pies to share with everyone. I love celebrating Christmas and wine and food.

I am fairly certain without that anchor I could not have got there, but I did and we drunk wine and shot arrows and I did not wash my hands!

Future Anchors…

A positive anchor does not always have to be an action. Sometimes I find a point in time anchor works well. I will focus my attention on a positive future point in time. I will anchor my thinking on that. This time next week I will be enjoying a lovely holiday or tonight I will run a candle lit bath. I will consider the point in time I want to reach and then I will at rapid sped step through all the actions I am going to take to get there. These anchors need to be an event/ activity you know with certainty will happen and something within grasp of the difficult situation. Ideally within the same day, but I would suggest no further out than a week.

An example where I have used future anchoring to good effect…

Visiting my mum was most often very stressful. You would be arrive at the hospital to have to run though a series of steps and locked doors before ultimately being locked in a rather clinical “family room” with a whole ensemble joining you. I did love to see her. To check on her, and talk to her and of course there was always cake. But I could have frozen so many times at so many of the stages to get there and overall the meetings will award and charged. I had to anchor myself in a point in time beyond the thing I was dreading. For me it was the car journey back. I loved the journey home, watching the trees whizz by. The solitude was probably the closet thing to alone time I would get and often which ever social worker had taken us would take the cue from my lack of desire to chat. So when I found myself hesitating to take the next step through the next locked door I would think ahead to that car journey and remind myself that was step closer to some quiet contemplation, music and a drive.

Anchoring understanding…

Let’s face it most of the difficult situations we face involve other people. Sometimes I will create a narrative which allows me to anchor myself in a kindness and acceptance which my emotions would usually not allow. This sometimes involves simply acknowledging the other persons situation. Sometimes though I can create whole worlds of potential unseen reasons for people to act the way they do. It is not about forgiving them of their behaviour, it is about recognising that we never know someones full story and if we take a moment to fill in the blanks they often have a struggle of their own.

When positive understanding works really well…

Road Rage. I am consistently and persistently using this action to avoid even a hint of road rage, I don’t even get road annoyed. I accept that there are bad drivers in a moment and just bad drivers. It actually annoys my husband sometimes how chilled I can be about it, but every time I get cut up or someone speeds past me or drives dangerously close to me I create a story which might help explain the behaviour. ‘ Perhaps his wife is in labour on the back seat.’ ‘Maybe she has just been called home to a sick child.’ ‘What if they have been unemployed for months, they are about to loose their house and they have been told if they can get to an interview by 4pm the job is likely theirs.’ I can come up with all sorts of elaborate reasons why people might act the way they do and it gives me a sense of perspective and an anchoring in a calmness that allows me to by- pass the usual annoyance.

I do my mind to be an amazing thing as much as I get frustrated at times with its ability to distract and descend into thoughts which are not helpful. I do love it’s ability to creatively play with my focus and perception to help make life easier too.


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