Are you feeling caught in an anxiety spiral?

Yes, sometimes, perhaps more often than preferred.

I have found that spinning a hoola hoop around my hips can immediately derail the anxiety spiral. Do you want to know why? It’s an effective, fun, and kind way to calm anxiety. It works!

The theme of anxiety has become common parlance in our high info—tech world. People are connecting more to their screens than each other. There are more anxious people walking around now than ever before. Some of these people probably live in close proximity to you. You can feel it or notice: restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, short tempers, complaints of aches and pains, sleep problems, and difficulty controlling worry. Many of us are worrying in ways we never did before.

I read a New York Times article that called anxiety the “inner pandemic.” Why is this and what can we do?

WHAT IS CONTRIBUTING TO ANXIETY?

For each of us, the reasons vary. The majority of us are on overload with information about world events, people events, social media posts, environmental concerns, time management, navigating life on the Internet, or lists to keep up with the ordinary chores of daily living. It is about what our brains and bodies do with all of this information and our reflexive impulse to fix life.

When we are in overload and disconnected from our bodies, our brains, and nervous system do not have time and space to regulate, rest and recover. Our body does not have time to digest, assimilate and prepare for the next meal. Instead, our brains spin out of focus and we become unhinged. This can spiral into all sorts of frightening scenarios like what we see in the media or feel in our bellies. It’s not fun. I’m not one for fixing things. I prefer to have fun.

THE HOOLA HOOP EFFECT

I began playing with the hoola hoop when my twins were very young. A neurological therapist showed me how this can help sensitive children (or adults) to establish a healthy boundary, feel grounded, and safely held. Libby was not able to leave the house without immediately becoming overstimulated. How did I know? She would cry profusely. Due to her neurological condition, she was not able to cut out surround sound. She heard and felt everything all at once, like many of us do now.

As instructed, I began with the holla hoop over her head and slowly brought it down over her body in her wheelchair. Slowly to the ground while singing: “This is Libby’s space, her very own space. Libby is here. Libby is here…” Libby does not have language skills but every time it worked. She became quiet, still, and focused. Some days I had to ground myself first to be sure I was calm.

The hoola hoop comes in handy not just for Libby but for myself and sometimes my clients. Several things are accomplished during this process. As the hoop is descending to the ground, we are establishing a firm boundary. We drop out of the spiraling noise in our heads and into our bodies. We feel what is ours to attend to and what we can release to the ground. It teaches us to stay in our own lane, and to focus on what is important for us to feel calm, focused, and grounded. More importantly, a sense of safety is induced which significantly reduces fear.

Best of all, hoola hooping is fun. I have a wide weighted hoola hoop for this reason. After I’ve grounded myself safely in my body, I remember that I can play. I can take time for recreation, to re-create myself. I can make a game out of it and see how long I can last swiveling the hoop around my hips. After a bit, my breath deepens and I either feel invigorated or tired. Either way feels good. My body is telling me to rest or to play some more. Regardless, I am no longer anxious. I’m okay.

When we’re having fun, we’re much kinder to ourselves. When we’re able to be kind to ourselves, we’re kind to each other.

I invite you to try the hoola hoop effect next time you feel anxiety seeping in. This can be a fun tool for living a calm, silly, kind, and connected life. I hope to see you on the hoola hoop playground having a hoot.