After experiencing a miscarriage in 2014, Gretchen Pearl found herself anxious and depressed. Through this loss, she reconnected with her intuition and found the peace she was searching for. Today, she helps others manage stress and anxiety through the Tarot, and in Episode 113 of the Biddy Tarot Podcast, I have a chat with Gretchen to hear about her story and about how you, dear listener, can use the cards to cope when things feel overwhelming.
Follow Gretchen on Instagram @WillowsEast
Learn more about Gretchen at WillowsEast.com
Order the Ostara Tarot deck on Amazon
You’re listening to the Biddy Tarot Podcast, and this is Episode 113 from the archive: Relieving Anxiety and Stress with Tarot with Gretchen Pearl.
Welcome to the Biddy Tarot Podcast, where you’ll learn how to connect more deeply with your intuition and live an empowered and enlightened life with the Tarot cards as your guide.
Listen as Brigit and her guests share their very best tips and strategies to help you read Tarot with confidence. And now, here’s your host, Brigit Esselmont.
BRIGIT: Hello, and welcome back to the Biddy Tarot Podcast. Today, I have a special guest, Gretchen Pearl, who is a practising intuitive, Oracle card maker and the creator of Willows East Intuitive Journal.
Now, after experiencing a miscarriage in 2010, Gretchen went through a period of debilitating anxiety and depression that led to a spiritual exploration, and it was after creating her own daily rituals that she found the peace that she really had been searching for.
Nowadays, Gretchen teaches other to create their own daily rituals to share their awareness journey with others and to use their intuition to connect to their higher power.
Now, I talk with Gretchen today about some of the strategies that she has used to manage her own levels of stress and anxiety, and I think you’ll really appreciate, hopefully, by the end of this interview, just how effectively Tarot can be used in times of crisis and in times of what feels like chaos and emotional turmoil. Gretchen gives you some ideas around what you can ask the Tarot cards to help bring that sense of empowerment, calm and peace back into your life when you might be stressing or worrying about something that may not even be happening at that time.
So, whether you're someone that experiences anxiety on a regular basis, or you might just feel a bit stressed every now and then, I think you're going to find today’s episode really, really helpful. Without further ado, let me welcome Gretchen.
RELIEVING ANXIETY AND STRESS WITH TAROT WITH GRETCHEN PEARL
BRIGIT: Welcome, Gretchen. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you here on the Biddy Tarot Podcast. How are you going today?
GRETCHEN: Oh, I’m great! Thank you so much, Brigit. I’m so happy to be here.
BRIGIT: Aw, it’s good to have you. Tell me a little bit about your journey with Tarot. I always love hearing different people’s stories about how they came to find Tarot, so what was your story with Tarot?
GRETCHEN: I think my journey to Tarot is kind of a crooked path, but it’s a good one! I was raised in a very liberal home. There was a lot of talk about spirituality. We talked about all the wonders of the universe, and I really grew up open-minded about ghosts and spirits and the unknown and was really interested in that kind of aspect of spirituality, spirit communication. My father actually worked in a prison. He was a prison guard in an old psychiatric centre, and he used to come home with ghost stories, and it was just something that was regular table talk at home.
I guess I really kind of started my spiritual journey kind of focusing more on spirit communication, but I saw other people doing mediumship and all these really neat things with spirit communication. I thought, “Oh, I’m not that cool. I can’t do that!” But I was just fascinated with it, and then in 2010, I actually was planning to start a family, and I lost a pregnancy.
I was completely devastated with it. I had this perfect plan for my life, you know? Not that anyone else had to follow this plan, but it was my plan: You go to high school, you go to college, career, marriage, family, and that’s what you do. And this was just a big block on my path.
But I also started having these incredible visions and dreams about my child, and it was just like flipping on a lightbulb. I just had this really big spiritual awakening. I start doing mediumship readings for people, and I was just really into it.
Then at some point, I think I just started to maybe lose my confidence a little bit, and it was right about that time that I was really involved in the pagan community, and I had heard all of this buzz about Tarot, and I was like, “Maybe that would give me some kind of confidence boost if I had these cards to really pique my intuition.”
I live in Vermont in this tiny, little town, but our bookstore had this little, tiny New Age section way in the back, and I was looking at the Tarot cards.
My husband came over, and he was like, “Do you want those?”
I said, “Yeah, I think I do! I kind of want to experiment with these.”
So, he bought me my first deck, and I was totally overwhelmed. I thought I could never learn all these cards, and I just kind of played with them off and on. Then I think I Googled one day, “How to learn all 78 Tarot cards,” and I stumbled upon your website, and it was like, “You don’t have to!” and I’m like, “That’s the site I’m following!”
GRETCHEN: I was just hooked on your site and all the information. It gave the basics to the more complex, how you could read suits. I worked through it as I could, and I probably started reading for others after my second pregnancy, after my daughter was born. I usually can say I’ve been reading about as long… As old as she is—she’s five, so for about five years.
And then I started to just… I just wanted to do it all the time, so I started doing events locally. We have little paranormal conventions. I just started reading at a wellness event locally, and that’s been by far my favourite event because it’s just a very different atmosphere. It’s all focused on emotional wellness, which I’m really passionate about.
BRIGIT: Absolutely. Have you found that you’ve blended your mediumship with your Tarot readings at all? Or do you keep the two quite separate?
GRETCHEN: I’ve actually found that they kind of naturally will be blended. Sometimes I sit down with someone, and they’re like, “I want to talk about my career,” and we do a Tarot reading, and they’re like, “Thank you!” and they’re on their way. And then other people sit down, and I just immediately feel an emotional connect with them, and we start talking about family, and it’s just instantaneous. I can just feel spirit around them, and I can connect with them and validate things for them so that those readings end up being really rich and really fun, and those are probably my favourite. But sometimes it just doesn’t happen, and that’s what the client wants, and that’s OK, too.
BRIGIT: So, it kind of blends when it needs to, and then it doesn’t when it doesn’t need to?
GRETCHEN: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly how it feels.
BRIGIT: Yep, that’s great. Now, you also just mentioned a little bit about this emotional wellness side of things. Do you find that a lot of your readings take that angle that you're supporting people on an emotional level and a wellbeing level?
GRETCHEN: Yes, and that’s always what I want, and I think I go into it with my mindset there. I will typically tell my clients, “I can’t exactly predict your future, but I can sometimes get a sense of where your energy is headed and how to shape that to meet what you want and your highest good and your fullest potential.” And that’s really where I just get so excited to see people, just give them little pieces of wisdom that help them feel connected and empowered to really either start their wellness journey or make some changes to it and move forward with it.
BRIGIT: Yep, yep. Beautiful. Recently, you posted on your blog that you’ve personally experienced anxiety throughout your life, and you had just a really inspiring way of using the Tarot to help you with this anxiety that you’ve experienced every now and then. Can you tell me a little bit more about that one, how you're starting to use Tarot more to help you through those periods of anxiety?
GRETCHEN: Sure. During my second pregnancy, my anxiety skyrocketed. It makes sense for a lot of logical reasons. If you’ve lost a pregnancy, and you're going into another one, you will be scared that the same thing will. You also blame yourself a lot, or at least I did. I had this tendency to say, “Oh, with the first pregnancy, I must have eaten the wrong foods. I must have walked too much.”
You think of all these horrible things to tell yourself to make it your fault, and for me, that’s what anxiety was. Anxiety was a lot of negative self-talk. It was a lot of, if one little thing was wrong, my mind would just turn it into some big problem. A rash on my arm wasn’t just a rash; it was like, “My arm is going to fall off next week—I know it!”
I think I really learned, initially, with my anxiety, to quiet that voice. You have to make that voice be quiet, so you can go on with your life. Even though, in therapy, you do talk about where this anxiety stems from, and we felt personally, for me, that it might be partially biological. You have all kinds of hormones going on in your pregnancy.
But they also thought it might be psychological, stemming from childhood trauma, and all those factors, to me, felt like, “Don’t listen to your inner voice! Your inner voice is freaking out. Don’t talk to that lady. Just avoid her!”
And what Tarot taught me to do… And I knew going into it because people were saying, “Oh, you have to listen to your intuition. Find that inner voice and listen to it,” and I was going into it kind of scared of that person. But when I started working with the cards, I actually started to see my inner voice as kind of a crazy lady and more like a child maybe having a temper tantrum.
And as much as sometimes I want to tell my child when she’s having a temper tantrum, “Just go away!” you can’t. You really have to try to get to the heart of the issue and find out: “Where is this coming from? Is this a really big deal? Is this as big of a deal as I’m making it out to be?”
I was doing that with Tarot. I was doing daily card readings. When I was really struggling with my anxiety, it just seemed like the perfect marriage of “I have to take these mindful moments every day to check in with myself and check my anxiety. Why not pull a Tarot card and really dive into my subconscious a little bit more?”
I think Tarot—on my spiritual journey and just my life journey—all of a sudden became a lot more than just a check-in with myself. It was like telling myself that “Your inner voice is…” I’m getting emotional talking about this.
BRIGIT: That’s wonderful.
GRETCHEN: Your inner voice is important. It’s worth listening to, and if it’s having a freak-out moment, that’s OK. We all have freak-out moments, but you can have a conversation with yourself and figure out what’s going on and talk to yourself as a friend. When your friend is having a freak-out moment, you don’t say, “Hey, be quiet! I have work to do!” You try to talk them through it. Learning to treat myself that way was incredibly empowering, and it just really boosted my self-worth.
GRETCHEN: I still have days where I look in the mirror, and I’m like, “You’re horrible!” I think that’s just a natural part of being a human, and we’re hardest on ourselves, but I’ve definitely grown a lot, and I don’t do that as much, which I think is a win!
BRIGIT: Yep, yep. So, just to be clear, you didn’t ditch your therapist or the medical professional that you're working with. You were using Tarot as well as getting help as well—is that right?
GRETCHEN: Yeah, and I was even very honest with her about how I was using Tarot, and she was really supportive of that, and she was like, “Hey, any way you want to check in with yourself is great. I don’t care how you do it! Just do it.” She was really supportive, and she was really interested in the cards, so we got to talk a lot about that.
I’ve also had quite a few clients come to me and ask about being on anxiety medication because I’ve always been really honest about being on a low dose of anxiety medication. Quite a few of them ask me, “Oh, does that kill your psychic power or maybe quiet it in some way?” And though I can’t speak for everyone, for me personally, it didn’t. It actually seemed to kind of give me a moment to assess. It just took that kind of panic attack I was having and just brought it down a level so that I could check in with myself. I didn’t find that my visions or my spiritual connection was lessened in any way.
GRETCHEN: That’s been my experience.
BRIGIT: Yeah, I think it’s a really important point because I think sometimes we can get confused and think it’s one or the other, that we must go the medical route, or we must go the purely intuitive/organic route. I actually think that sometimes it’s probably better to have both coexisting, and I think one supports the other. It’s refreshing to hear that from your perspective, too, the medication for you personally. Of course, we’re not giving medical advice here and all of that disclaimer stuff.
BRIGIT: But for you, you find that both worked well together. If you’re having a complete panic attack, you’re probably not in the right mind space to be going, “Hmm, where are my Tarot cards? How do I become more mindful right now?”
BRIGIT: You’re like, “What the freak is happening here?!”
GRETCHEN: That’s absolutely right, yeah. A lot of times, it was after the panic attack that I could have that mindful moment, but not when I was driving down the road and having a panic attack and having no idea why and just needing to pull over and take deep breaths. It’s like, “I’ll check in later with myself!”
BRIGIT: And actually, you mentioned something in the blog post that it’s really handy to have a digital Tarot deck on hand, or maybe a mini one in your handbag, whichever one is more convenient, because of that reason of it could happen at any time, and it’s good to have it on hand.
BRIGIT: Do you carry anything like a notebook or something, so you can jot down your thoughts at the same time?
GRETCHEN: I do.
BRIGIT: How does that work? I’m really in love with my digital Tarot deck. I really like it. I always keep both, so if I’m really into… I typically stick to the Rider-Waite deck. I always have the little tin in my bag, but then I always have the app as well because sometimes, if I am having a panic attack, I’ll just need to kind of remove myself from a situation and say, “I’m going to go to the restroom. I’m just going to splash some water on my face or just take a few deep breaths.” And if I get a quiet, private moment, I will take out my cards or my digital deck, and I’ll just ask a few questions.
Some of the questions I listed in my blog post are:
- What is the real source of my anxiety?
- How do I overcome this feeling of panic or dread?
- What can I focus on to move past this?
- What is my greatest strength? (Because I just think that’s a great question anyway, but ask it every day, and you might get a different answer!)
- How can I use my greatest strength to power through this situation?
Just a few examples… I might not ask all those questions. I might just pick what I need at the moment. A lot of times, I’ll just ask… The big one is usually “What is the real source of my anxiety?”
I remember, one day, I got the Ten of Wands, which I was like, “Of course!” That’s the anxiety card for me, you know? It’s this character holding all ten Wands at the same time and trying to get everything done at once.
I think it came with [inaudible 00:17:09], maybe an Eight of Wands energy, things moving really quickly, and I was like, “Yeah, I know! I have a lot on my plate. I get it!”
But it ended up being a reminder to me that I was keeping a lot in my head and not writing it down, so I always have a notebook or journal with me, and I’ll just take that out, and I’ll jot down… Sometimes it’s just the projects that are on my mind. And I notice when I start writing them down that I may have six or seven things that are in my head.
I remember sitting with my therapist and her asking me, “Well, what are you thinking about right now? What’s going on?” and having six or seven things to tell her.
I remember her saying, “That’s a really lot of things to have going through your head all at once, so it’s no wonder you're having anxiety.”
I specifically remember that reading as being one that was like, “Well, maybe if I just jot down all of these things, I can kind of get them out of my head, onto paper, organised,” and then it was like my anxiety was gone.
GRETCHEN: And I had a [inaudible 00:18:08]. Yeah, journaling is probably one of my… That’s my other favourite thing to do. I log all of my readings. I’ll look for patterns, things that are coming up a lot. I’ll go look through the past month or the next week, and I’ll see I have a bunch of Wands coming up. It’s going to be a busy maybe work energy week or month, or a lot of projects and passion going into my work tasks. Yeah!
BRIGIT: Yeah, and I’m just blown away by the power of those questions that you’ve chosen. And just, even as you were reading them out, I could feel a very strong energy shift between being in the moment of anxiety or panic to being in the moment of being more empowered and looking for a solution or looking for a more balanced space that you can operate in. Even you said that—the question around “What’s the real source of my anxiety?”—it just allows you to bring in that conscious awareness to what’s really going on here, and then you go, “Oh, that’s it! OK, that’s why I’m feeling a bit stressy,” you know?
BRIGIT: Super powerful. I love it.
GRETCHEN: Yeah, I remember, one time, I asked, “How do I overcome this feeling?” and I remember I got the Eight of Pentacles, and that was… I read the Tarot Mucha deck as well, and that deck has just a very clear image of this character working on one coin at a time, very organised and focused, and I was like, “Oh, that’s what I do to overcome this: one at a time!”
GRETCHEN: One project, one task at a time. Just start. Don’t worry about finishing. Don’t think of the big picture yet. Yeah, Tarot just tells me to tap into that inner strength that I really need.
Sometimes I feel like with anxiety, just over the last two weeks, I’ve been kind of checking in with myself, and I’ve gotten a lot of Major Arcana cards. I got the Death card and the World card. I am going through some really big transitions right now, and it feels like it’s on this path to completion—or at least an aspect of completion in my life—and it really felt like the cards were telling me, “Hey, you’re supposed to be a little worked up about this!”
GRETCHEN: “These are some really big life changes. If you are completely relaxed, that probably wouldn’t be healthy!”
GRETCHEN: So, you know, you just get that little slice of truth from the cards, and it’s just so empowering. I feel very OK with myself after I do a reading.
BRIGIT: Yeah, absolutely. And I think what it’s doing is it’s allowing you, not to be defined by your anxiety and not to be anxious, but instead to be empowered, which I think is just incredibly powerful because you're not allowing yourself to get bogged down into this state of anxiety. You’re more in this state of empowerment. You’re just dealing with this thing that has temporarily ended your life that you're going to release yourself of as well.
BRIGIT: And, you know, I’m just thinking of it for myself. Even just those moments in the day where you feel a bit of tension building up or stress, and you’re like, “Where is this stress coming from?” and just being able to check in with those cards and just get additional awareness can be very powerful as well. Do you coach your clients, too, on how they can use the cards for their own personal wellbeing in this way?
GRETCHEN: I do, and I’m always that reader who people walk by my table at events, and I’m like, “Hey, do you read Tarot for yourself? And if not, you should!” They probably want to run the other way because I am a little bit forceful about it! I’m just so passionate about teaching others to use it and just to dive in and try it, and I like to point them to your website if they’re feeling overwhelmed, and just say, “Here’s a really easy way to just start learning.”
I really love when I get some of the younger folks. You can tell they’re going through some big transitions, whether it’s starting college or it’s their first job, and I just know that there’s this really great tool that they can use to work through those situations.
BRIGIT: Yeah, absolutely. Do you give anything like homework or a ritual or something at the end of your readings for people to take away? Or do you just tell them, “Go, learn Tarot for yourself”?
GRETCHEN: I like to direct them to my website, and then I also have our journal, the Willows East Intuitive Journal, and that has little sections for really brief daily card draws. I’ll direct people to that and say, “Just maybe be start by pulling a card each day.”
And what I like to do is I’ll pull a card for the next day and say, “What do I need to know about this day?” or “What are some energies that might be at play that I need to work through?”
I also encourage people to do a weekly three-card draw, although I often will do… I try to do a daily three-card draw more to keep my skills fresh and to practise with my cards, and I like to ask about something specifically going on in my life. I work in publishing by day, and it’s a very fast-paced, deadline-driven job. That can trigger anxiety, or you get caught up in a situation you can’t really get the energies of, or really know how to control in that moment.
At work right now, I’m taking on more of a leadership role, so I’ll ask, “How can I make this easier on myself?” And I kind of think of it as just a daily practice. I get some really solid, specific advice for myself, and then I try it over the course of 24 hours, and I say, “Does this help? What worked? What didn’t work?” and I try to journal about that as much as I can.
GRETCHEN: As time allows in my schedule.
GRETCHEN: So, definitely do that, and yeah, I’ll journal about anything. Sometimes I like to plan out. I like to do a lot of writing. Sometimes it’ll be just “What would I like to write about today?” and I’ll pull a few cards to get a theme or an idea of something that might be kind of a theme in my life that I might not even be thinking about, and then I try to write about that. They definitely kind of give me that creative spark, too.
BRIGIT: Yep, and your intuitive journal looks absolutely divine, so we’ll make sure that we link to that as well in the show notes, which will be at BiddyTarot.com/113. Fabulous! So, is there anything else you would like to share so that you can feel that this interview is complete?
GRETCHEN: I would just really like to encourage people to, if you haven’t read Tarot, just give it a try. I found that it was really helpful to just learn the basics, what the Major Arcana traditionally means and what it can mean in a reading. Same with the different suits, understanding the suits and maybe even basic numerology. Just learn little pieces as you can, but for the most part, I just encourage people to dive in and just pick a card from that deck and see what you think from the visuals.
BRIGIT: Yep, yep, because people get so stressed about “Oh, my gosh, it’s going to take me years to learn 78 cards!” You’re like, “No, just get started today! Please! Just do it!”
Oh, man, I’ve had so many friends who were like that: “I’ve got my deck in the drawer.”
I’m like, “No, get it out now! Please, just do it!”
GRETCHEN: Just grab a card!
GRETCHEN: I actually just picked up the Ostara Tarot because the visuals are… I mean, they still feel rooted in Rider-Waite, but they’re different enough that I don’t immediately recognise what the card is, and I’ve been using that to do readings for myself, and I kind of set my intention to only focus on the visuals and not the name of the card at all. I even tried not to look!
GRETCHEN: And I found that my readings are a lot more even specific and accurate. You look at the way the characters are facing, how they’re interacting with each other, and it’s just really fun!
BRIGIT: Yeah, absolutely. Awesome. So, where can people find out more about you?
GRETCHEN: Yeah, sure. My website is WillowsEast.com, and then all my social media links are on that website, but I’m pretty much on Instagram the most. I’m a bit of an Instagram nerd, and that’s @WillowsEast.
GRETCHEN: So, that’s it! Yeah.
BRIGIT: Great. Well, we’ll also post those links over at BiddyTarot.com/113, so you can go straight to Gretchen’s site and also so you can get the transcript for today’s call as well. Gretchen, it’s been such a joy to talk with you today. I love hearing about your strategies around how to deal with anxiety using Tarot as a guide. I think it’s super empowering, and I know that you’ve probably helped so many people in the last half hour just with your suggestions, so thank you very much.
GRETCHEN: Oh, that’s wonderful to hear. Thank you for having me.
BRIGIT: My pleasure!
BRIGIT: So, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Gretchen and me. Now, remember, you can access all of the show notes, including the transcript of today’s call, plus all the links to Gretchen’s site. It’s all at BiddyTarot.com/113.
Now, just after we wrapped up our interview together, Gretchen and I also had a bit of a chat, and Gretchen said, “You know what? I think I can put together a course around how to use Tarot for relieving anxiety and stress.” And Gretchen promises me that she is going to have it ready by the time that we set this podcast to publish, so make sure that you check out Willows East Tarot to find out more about her upcoming courses. That is WillowsEast.com, and you can, hopefully, find out more about her program for helping people who might experience anxiety and stress, and who want to tap into their intuition to find that place of peace.
All right, I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s call. I’m looking forward to chatting with you again very, very soon. Bye for now!