The Bunny Is Going To Be Okay: Learning To Calm Your Anxiety
If you or someone you know has experienced something threatening or frightening, you might notice that you have started to feel jumpy, or frightened more often, have problems sleeping, or feel watchful. In short, you might be experiencing anxiety. Read the story below, which can help you understand why your body is responding this way. Then at the bottom check out some Quick Tips, by Chris Richards, LCSW with South Valley Therapy!
Once upon a time there was a cute little black bunny with white paws and long floppy ears. And one day he was sitting out in a meadow and the grass was just below where he could see. He could feel the damp earth below his paws and there was a cool breeze was blowing through his fur. He could smell the wildflowers, the sky was blue with big fluffy clouds, and the sun was warm on his little nose. So, he’s sitting in the field, enjoying all these sensations.
But then…he thinks he sees something out of the corner his eye. He turns and looks and there’s nothing there. So he goes back to enjoying the breeze, the butterflies, the birds chirping.
But then again…he thinks he sees something. He turns and looks and once again; nothing’s there. So again he returns to enjoying everything he can see and smell.
Again, he thinks he sees something! He turns to look and there’s a fox! And the fox is running towards him and the bunny turns and runs and runs as fast as he can. He gets away and he’s safe.
But the next time he’s sitting in a field, and the earth is damp beneath his paws, and the breeze is blowing through his fur, and the grass is blowing, he’s scared. The grass looks like a fox. And a tree looks like a fox. Everything looks like a fox. And to a bunny, this level of awareness is important – this is going to keep him alive. There ARE foxes, and he needs to be alert. And this part of his brain that keeps him alert is important because it’s going to keep him alive. This part of the brain is called the Lizard Brain, but we’ll call it the Bunny Brain. We all have this ancient, instinctive animal part, in the deepest safest part of our brain that is there to keep us alive and it’s very important. If you’re a soldier in combat or someone living in an unsafe neighborhood or with an unsafe partner, or you used to be in any of these kinds of situations that could cause you to be like that bunny, then you need that part of your brain to keep you alert so you can stay safe. But if you come home from deployment, move to a safer place, or are no longer being hurt or in danger, you may not need it like you used to, but your brain doesn’t know how to turn it off by itself.
This is where therapy and various skills and interventions come in. They help our Bunny Brain to feel safe again so we don’t have to be afraid, and hyper aware constantly.
- Just being able to DO something to start turning off that Bunny Brain can be very empowering. When your Bunny Brain is in the driver’s seat, you often don’t get to make conscious decisions about what you do in that moment – you’re reacting. So taking back that power now can give you a sense of control. This can be as simple as speaking compassionately to yourself about how you’re feeling.
- Visit Bellaruth Naparstek’s website or on iTunes page and start practicing guided meditation. She has guided meditations for everything from anxiety relief to post-traumatic stress, insomnia and recovery from medical conditions.
- Download one of these apps to introduce calmness to your everyday:
- Mindfulness Coach ~ short guided meditations, progressive relaxation, reminders to practice, information about PTSD, and more!
- Personal Zen ~ a research-based mindfulness game, helping to decrease anxiety and increase mindfulness
- SAM ~ helps you track moods so you can better manage them
- Pacifica ~ daily tools for stress and anxiety, based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Meditation
- Happify ~ more research-based games to reduce stress and anxiety
This post comes to you as a part of The Counselor Chronicles, which you can read more about here. We had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Richards, LCSW, a therapist with South Valley Therapy based in West Jordan, Utah.
Talking with Chris felt like I was sitting down with a close friend or a nurturing mother. She has a calm and warm presence about her and it is clear she lives and breathes this work. She specializes in grief, loss and trauma, and has extensive training as a Feminist Multicultural Therapist, which connects very well with the empowerment component needed in trauma work. She has been doing this work since 2009. Stay tuned for more Quick Tips from Chris in the weeks and months to come! If you would like to learn more about Chris or work with her, please visit her site here!
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