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Orienting and Slowing Down is Important for Anxious People

I’ve fostered cats and kittens for the last few years. One of the first things I noticed is anytime the kittens go from one room to another (maybe they graduate from a small bathroom to a bedroom with a cat tree) they have to ORIENT. That means they don’t immediately want to cuddle, they have to first check out every square inch of the new room.

The same goes for adult cats. If I bring a cat into my bedroom where cats are normally not allowed, he doesn’t immediately want to sit with me. He wants to check out every cranny first.

What does this have to do with anxiety? When a well-attuned individual comes into any new situation, they first have to orient. That means they will be quiet and observe the room for awhile. They need to know who and what is in it. When I start a new teen group, they are quiet for weeks sizing each other up. Then suddenly, as if a switch flipped, they start talking to each other.

This is natural and it’s in line with our evolutionary nature. How many times do anxious people give themselves a hard time for not being outgoing or friendly right off the start? How many times are kids told to get out there and play that game, hug that aunt, or greet everyone at the family shindig but the warm up time isn’t respected or encouraged?

When we take our time getting to know who is in the room, we keep ourselves safe. We need to know who is okay for us to share our concerns, who would be the best person to have as a friend or to ask for the syllabus. It’s okay to take your time and listen to the vibes. Give yourself permission to slow down. There’s no need to talk or rush.

Anxiety is often synonymous with interpersonal speeding. We attempt to match ourselves to the pacing expectations of what the culture wants from us rather than listening to ourselves. Today, just bring the pacing to a level that feels more like your natural pace. Really try it out and you might never want to go back to the fast way!

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Free Clear Mind Therapy provides in-person therapy in Fishers & Indianapolis and online therapy across Indiana. Specializing in anxiety therapy for teens, adults, and kids.

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