How to Find Your Anchors During Difficult Times

by | Jun 14, 2020 | Anxiety, Highly Sensitive Person, HSP, Intrusive Thoughts, Transitions - General | 22 comments

As a nation, as a world, as individuals, we’re coming unmoored. Our familiar tethers are dissolving. Our anchors are rising to the surface. We’re in a new sea, and it’s a tumultuous one. As I wrote about when covid-19 first hit, we’re in a time of Great Transition, a dark night of the world’s soul. And like all dark nights, it’s a time of seeing what is needing to be seen so that we can heal at the next layer of growth.

Covid-19 revealed many inequities and injustices, including ways of living, relating and working that are not serving the whole of humanity and our planet. But it wasn’t enough. It took the death of George Floyd to peel back even more curtains that many of us have been living behind. Between Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, the seas are roiling with an intensity we have not seen in decades.

We’re in a time of tremendous veil-lifting. We’re being asked to examine the mindsets and systems we’ve leaned on in an attempt to feel safe and in control. Our illusions of safety and security – both individually and collectively – are falling away. The habits that we’ve clung to try to gain a foothold amidst the sea of uncertainty, as well as the systems that have served some and oppressed many, are being exposed – highlighted against the backdrop of this time of great change.

We’re being asked to dig deep, to uproot, to show up. It might feel like the world is falling apart, and in some ways it is. We have to dismantle the patriarchal systems and structures that are not serving the whole of humanity and our beautiful planet in order to grow into the next paradigm, one based on cooperation, respect, and kindness for all people and the planet herself.


In short, we are crumbling. And it’s unsettling, to say the least. 


As a highly sensitive person, you know this and you feel this in your bones. As I shared recently on Instagram, highly sensitive people are lightning rods: because of our highly sensitized nervous systems, we feel the collective grief, pain, vulnerability, unrest, anger, and fear more deeply than a typically wired person. We dream for the collective. We hold the big feelings in our family systems. We walk into a grocery store and our souls take the collective emotional temperature (I feel it every time I walk into a store these days).

One of our deepest and highest tasks is to learn how to transmute the gift of being a lightning rod into serving as a lighthouse. We receive the collective pain, we take the emotional temperature of a room or a planet or a family, and just as the ancient alchemists transformed coal into gold so we, through the alchemy of our practices, can become a clear channel and a still point, thus helping to transmute the greater pain and serve as a safe harbor for others.


In order to transmute from lightning rod to lighthouse, six key elements are required:


  1. Contextualize What’s Happening:


One of the most potent anchors during times of upheaval is to name what’s happening through the context of transitions, which always follows three stages: letting go (separating, dying, releasing), liminal (in-between stage where we are no longer in the old but not quite in the new), and rebirth (awakening into new mindsets, habits, and systems).

Transitions remind us that just as spring always follows the death of autumn and the stillness of winter, so a new birth always follows a death. As the patriarchy crumbles and the world unravels, we can fall into despair if we believe that it will always be this way. It won’t. We’re in a Great Transition, which also means a Great Awakening.

I say this not to glorify the unbearable pain required to dismantle broken systems and create new ones – both internally and externally –  but to offer a context that can ground you in real hope so that you don’t fall into despair. As a lightning rod, despair can easily slip in. Holding the context of transitions, which carries renewal at its core, can help buoy us so that we can continue to find the energy to serve.


  1. Feel the Emotions


As always, keeping our emotional channels open is essential to the transmutation process from lightning rod to lighthouse. When you read something profoundly upsetting in the news or on social media, let yourself feel it. Rage might erupt. Feel that rage and allow it to move through you in some way so that it doesn’t stagnate, then listen to it so that you know how to best serve.

Transitions, like life, are rarely linear, which means that we’re feeling the emotions intrinsic to all three stages.

We’re feeling the grief, fear, and vulnerability of the letting go stage.

We’re feeling unsettled, groundless, and unmoored, which characterize the liminal stage.

We’re dipping into visions of possibility, flickers of a new earth, dreams of a planet informed by respect, kindness, and gratitude. This is the awakening that laps at the edges of our psyche even amidst the stormy seas, and it’s essential to let these positive feelings in alongside the difficult ones.

I suggest carving out time each day to feel your emotions. If we don’t slow down into stillness and silence, the sound of the storm will overpower the quieter emotions that are needing to be heard. The more we can process, the less we stagnate. And the less we stagnate, the more we can show up.


  1. Ground Into Regular Practices


In order to transmute from lightning rod to lighthouse, we must ground into the practices that regulate the physical body and the soul body. If we hang out too long in the place of being unhinged we will not be of service to anyone. One of the most potent ways to serve as lighthouse is to anchor into your practices that connect you both to the depth of your soul and to something bigger than you. Transmuting from lightning rod to lighthouse hinges on spiritual practice. 

If you have these practices but have fallen away from them, now is the time to re-commit. If you don’t have a regular spiritual practice, now is the time to create one. If you would like to be guided through a roadmap that will help you create meaningful practices that are personal and sustainable, see my Grace Through Uncertainty course. More on this below.


  1. Reach Out

We’re not meant to do this life alone. I can’t imagine who I would be or how I would feel if I didn’t have my very close girlfriends, the people I can call when I am unhinged and having trouble finding my way back to ground and center. There have been many times in the last few months when I’ve felt groundless, called a friend, and cried for the first ten minutes. Knowing that we’re not alone in the storm is a lifeline beyond words. A great therapist can also be life-saving, and even if you haven’t been in therapy for a while now is the time to commit to another round.


  1. Stay in Right Balance with the News and Social Media 


As many of you know, I typically stay away from the news and social media as a way to protect my nervous system. But now is not the time to stay away completely. We’re at a watershed moment in history, and we need to know what’s happening. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. It’s important to safeguard your mental space and know when to take a screen break, and it’s essential to process the feelings as they arise. Everyone has a different threshold when it comes to news. Tune into yours, trust it, and make sure you balance news consumption with the other elements in this post.


  1. Serve


The inner practices serve the outer action. And it’s through action that we find some ground; it’s a symbiotic relationship between the inner and the outer. If we’re only focused on doing and serving and showing up we will burn out. If we’re only focused on our inner work, we’re out of touch with what’s happening. We heal so we can serve and we serve as part of our healing.

My highly sensitive audience: You are being enlisted – not into an army for war but as a carrier of peace. Just as a lighthouse is lit by lamps that are tended to by a lighthouse keeper, so your job is to tend to your inner lamps that might help others find their way. You are teachers and parents and lawyers, nurses and therapists, coaches and friends. However you are connected to others, you can serve as a lighthouse in some way, for everyone is listening to someone. As a highly sensitive, you have a special role, and I want to encourage you to step into it.

In my opinion, a daily practice that grounds you into your soul and connects you to spirit is essential to well-being and to being able to show up and serve. The daily practices are the anchors that allow us to find our center-point and, from this place of clarity and light, help others find their way. I would not be able to do the work I do as mother, wife, friend, and therapist if I didn’t have a daily spiritual practice. I wouldn’t be able to anchor and tether amidst these roiling seas if I wasn’t able to find the still-point inside of  me.

When I sit down each morning and begin my practice, I can see and feel the inner lamps being lit and charged by a light bigger than myself. Fear quiets down and often is knocked out of the way completely. Alighting this central channel is a starting point. From there, I begin my day, following the prayer that serves as my own lighthouse: Here I am. Let me be a chariot for your will, Great Mother. In short, I am here to serve, and my practices allow me to transmute from lightning rod to lighthouse so that I can show up with my full self for those who need me.

Through my course, Grace Through Uncertainty, I’ve guided hundreds of people through a roadmap that helps them bolster an existing spiritual practice or create one from the ground up. With the breakdown of organized religion, many people are left spiritually impoverished, which then leaves them prone to seeking false anchors of control by grabbing hold of the dangling vine of intrusive thoughts. This course is for anyone struggling with intrusive thoughts, health anxiety, money anxiety, career anxiety, the fear of loss, and the fear of death. And of course, as the name suggests, it’s for anyone who is longing to find more grace through these uncertain times and this uncertain life.

This is a potent time, as transitions always are. We’re being given a powerful opportunity to throw what is outdated and oppressive into the sacrificial fires that emerge during the letting go and liminal stages of a transition. What if you could heal several layers of your intrusive thoughts, obsessions, and compulsions – the false tethers that attempt to keep you safe – and create a new template, one in which you can dwell in the only true and enduring safety? What if, from this tethered and anchored place, you could show up for this aching world in the ways that you are uniquely suited to serve?

The time is now. The course starts on June 27, 2020, and I look forward to meeting you there.



  1. Dear Sheryl and all, I was reading the third paragraph of this article, already making so many connections, when tears filled my eyes. I stopped and wrote something that I would like to share with you:

    “In this phase of transition that the world is going through,
    when it is obviously not possible to remain as we are or return to what we were in the past,

    I ask myself:

    May I open to the different, to what I don’t know how it will be, to the imponderable.

    That I do not cling to what I know

    because of the arrogance and the fear that the new might make what I am today less important,
    because of the fear of losing what I have,
    because of the fear of losing who I am, of needing to become someone else, with other habits, other attitudes, thoughts and feelings that I don’t even know what they would be.

    What I know, the role occupy, how I am, what I have,
    they are just one option among the infinite possibilities that exist.

    I ask myself to fight for the possibilities that attract me and speak to my heart,
    but also for me to remember

    that today these options can only be glimpsed,
    like something behind a curtain,
    something blurred by the fog
    or perhaps outshined by a great glow.
    That reality can be something beyond what I can imagine today for me and the world.

    I ask myself that I don’t delay the world that needs to arrive for such a long time.

    • This is so very beautiful, Marie. Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. Is just came to me, regarding the COVID crisis,
    that I live in Italy, a country that has passed the worst phase and is reemerging of the pandemic,
    but I am Brazilian, and in Brazil we are in one of the the worst situations globally.

    It’s being really hard to hold these two places inside me. I am not able neither to feel the relief most people seem to be feeling in Italy nor to engage in life as if things could go back to normal, as it seems most people are doing here. I feel separated of this.

    • This makes a lot of sense. It’s always challenging to hold the tension of opposites, which is what you’re being asked to do. When we hold these conflicts, we unfold into more expansion and possibility.

      • Thanks for your words, Sheryl.

  3. Thank you Sheryl. I need this exact kind of guidance today.

    • I’m so glad it arrived at the right time, Keri.

  4. Thank you once again Sheryl, I have followed your work for about 5 years now firstly through the grips of relationship anxiety, reading your blogs, your reading lists. I had meant to take your RA course but as life goes, managed to work through it and accept it for what it truly was and got engaged last year. I recognise the same patterns apply to anything my mind likes to leap onto, and right now our brains have so many opportunities. But I feel a sense of peace reading your words, you always speak straight to me. So thank you once again. I am half way through your book and will of course be recommending it to everyone I know! Love and light to you and your family. I had a question and of course if you can’t answer I completely understand – I am a HSP and a helper. How do I help my family without it drawing from me too much? I love to help and serve my loved ones and I don’t want to risk making it seem as though they can’t ask, but at the same time I want to make sure I have energy to do my inner work, work on causes I believe in and be a source of support for loved ones. I think it has to do with continuing to practise the methods in your blog, but anyone who has any tips on this I’d love to hear!

    • Yes, it’s about filling your well first through your daily practices, and from this place of fullness, ground, and clarity, you will have the energy to serve others without becoming depleted. The practices are our renewable energy source!

  5. Thank you for this, Sheryl. Once again, I find that your post speaks to a deep part of me that is terrified of transition, of letting go, even for the sake of finding a better state of being, and soothes it. I also LOVE the metaphor of the lighthouse, as I grew up in New England and they have always been friendly landmarks for me. There is one in particular near the house I spent my summers at whose light I could see pulsing from the behind the trees. With each sweep of the beam of light I felt held and watched over, as you say, grounded 🙂 .

    Regarding the concept of service, as I am a Non-theist (I am open to the concept of a power greater than my own consciousness, a collective life force, but not an intelligent deity) the idea of being a catalyst for the “will” of a higher power, no matter how benevolent, makes me a little uncomfortable at a spiritual level. However, I will say, for the benefit of any other spiritual non-theists out there, that for me the idea of the “light” as a passive but illuminating and nourishing force similar to the sun is a more intuitive image to latch onto during my grounding practice than that of any anthropomorphized spiritual intelligence. I find that when I feel connected to that united but leaderless flow (whether through art or music or immersion in nature), the paralyzing questions of what I “should” be doing or what is “right” fall away and make room for loving action without the burden of judgement.

    P.S. Is anyone else’s relationship anxiety spiking like crazy during these turbulent times, or is it just me?! Like you said, Sheryl, now is a time for examining the false lighthouses we have all latched onto over the years for absolute meaning and unconditional safety—like many people here, probably, I am guilty of casting my partner in the role of one of those bulwarks, and it’s only now that I’m beginning to realize how unsustainable that is. Still working on finding the balance between being able to depend on him and being DEPENDENT on him….

    • You are most CERTAINLY not alone in this Niamh. Mine’s spiked particularly over the last two weeks – coincides with both a stressful time in the outer world what with all the horrific things that are being unveiled there, and a particularly stressful time for my boyfriend at his volunteering post. We’re also both freelancers in the theatrical world in “normal life” and want to know whether we’ll have a job come the end of the year as it’s forecast that 2/3 of the UK’s theatres could close if Govt. help isn’t offered swiftly and soon. The unkind thought have had the rule of the roost until this weekend, trying to persuade me that it’s just excuses. But with a new week and perseverence with my daily practices (and a renewed committment to ensure that I make time in my day to slow down) I feel like I can see those thoughts for what they really are now. I’m also meeting my wonderful counsellor tomorrow afternoon too – as Sheryl says, we all need to reach out sometimes.

      We’ll get through this together! Just remember that you’re certainly not alone. xx

      • Phew! Glad to hear this, Lynwen (well, not glad, but more hopeful at least). I wish you both luck and stability in the days to come 🙂

        Yes to slowing down! Finding moments of stillness is definitely something that I’ve been having to work at with increased tenacity recently, and I’m certain I’m not alone in that either. These days it’s like, so many ways to distance yourself from your own sensations and feelings, so little time! Social media activism has been blowing up, which I am often grateful for as this is an extra tough time to gather and march, but I have to remind myself to step back every once in a while, as Sheryl suggests, and BE, or risk burning out. Very hard to feel, act or love effectively when you’re perpetually stuck in the fight or flight response.

        I appreciate your and others’ affirmations so much. Yes, we WILL get through this!

    • Yes, Niamh, my relationship anxiety has definitely spiked too. I see you and I suspect we’re far from alone on this.
      Like Lynwen, I’m recommitting to my daily practices and have reached out to a therapist recently too.
      Best of luck in your journey.

    • Hi Niamh, you are NOT alone. I am still in the phase of avoiding relationships because of my relationship anxiety (I’m working on it). But, my intrusive thoughts have been getting MUCH worse during this time.

  6. Dear Sheryl

    I’m so glad that a new fiend of mine (we are on the same rocd Facebook group) led me to you just last week.

    Since then, I have been reading your blog posts “cover to cover”. (Does that even make sense? lol!) I’ve signed up for alerts so I won’t miss a single thing!

    I have spent my whole adult life battling through all the anxieties of loss and transition that you write about so beautifully and wondering why. Although I’ve searched long and hard for answers over the years,, all I now think I achieved was to over intellectualise (thinking rather than feeling) and medicalise my feelings (thinking I need pills to live).

    At 52, I’m menopausal and have been in a liminel state all year, even before Covid – my younger child has finished uni, I am no longer working and the relative I cared for has died. The pain of loss and feelings of depression have overwhelmed me. Never have I felt such unrelenting physical pain from thoughts. And, of course, the rocd about past and present relationships has been off the scale! (I never realised until now how this type of thought plagues sensitive people – I just thought I was of pathetic.)

    It’s as if all the long-held pain, which I have tried to release before but failed (or does it come back again and again for further examination?), has exhausted me. I have no idea what my next stage could possibly be but I hear what you’re saying about us sensitive peeps being the lighthouse in a time of change and I truly want to get onboard!

    Last week you advised me to buy your Wisdom of Anxiety, which I am going to do this week when hubby gets paid. I also want to consider doing a course with you at some point but I’m not sure which one to start with at this stage in life?

    Thank you and those who share their feelings on here. I no longer feel so alone and I am so relieved to learn I’m not broken.

    Lots of love to all xxx

    • I’m so glad you found your way here. You’re in the midlife transition, which is a time of great reckoning when the unlived lives and unshed feelings rumble and rise to the surface. It’s an extraordinary time, but also a very challenging one. After you read The Wisdom of Anxiety I recommend reading James Hollis’ books, starting with The Middle Passage. When you’re ready for a course I recommend starting with Trust Yourself, which I’ll be running again as a live course in about six months.

      • Thank you, Sheryl 🙂 xx

  7. Hi Sheryl,

    My name is Amelia and ive been brought to your site by a wonderful friend of mine. However, I’m not sure it applies to me….So I’ve come through another round of feeling unattracted and can’t seem to figure out how to muscle through this one. I was spending time with my partner today and all I could feel/think was he’s so boring/spending time with him is boring and you don’t feel attracted and how could your anxiety make you feel so certain of something and that it’s be easier to just leave. I feel utterly convinced that even though he is an amazing person this can’t be right….I’ve been googling over and over trying to find a solution that means I don’t have to lead but they’ve told me quite the opposite….I’d really appreciate the guidance as to how to determine what the best thing for me to do right now, would a course even help? This has been a very long time struggle for me and it gets so bad sometimes I get so irritated just texting him back….

      • I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your reply I will try my best to find a way to make finances work so I can register! Blessings to you!

    • Hi Amelia,

      I feel like I’m in the same boat as you! It’s the worst thing ever, and I think that it doesn’t help that this is happening during this pandemic. Have you started the BreakFree course?

  8. Angela: I’m surprised to hear this response from you, especially given the dozens of beautiful and supportive emails and comments on this blog I’ve received from you over the years. I’m very sorry to hear that your marriage didn’t work out, but I highly doubt that the root cause of the separation is lack of attraction and chemistry.

    Also, my mother and I differ radically on many subjects, including chemistry. She obviously represents the the mainstream mindset about attraction and I hold a vastly different view, one that has guided thousands of people through their relationship anxiety and helped them commit to loving partners. In any case, I wish you all the best, and I hope you find your well-being moving forward.


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