I started noticing anxiety symptoms about 3 years ago.
At first, I didn’t know what was happening to me. I remember auditioning for a position as a yoga and barre teacher at a studio that’s no longer open. After completing my sample class, the owners called a short meeting. As we sat cross-legged in the middle of the beautiful warehouse space, they offered me a few classes on their fall schedule.
My calendar was already quite full. I was only a few months in at my first, full-time corporate job. Plus, I taught 1 or 2 classes a week at a different studio. Even though I really wanted the opportunity, I was overwhelmed with the thought of adding even more responsibility to my already busy life.
I studied my phone for openings in my schedule. Suddenly, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was physically unable to take a full, deep inhale. The metaphorical elephant was sitting on my chest.
Despite my body telling me, “DON’T DO IT!” I enthusiastically said, “Yes, I’d love to!” And became their newest fitness instructor.
Ever since then, I’ve experienced anxiety…pretty much every day. Clearly, my angst comes from overcommitting myself (something I’m very good at). But a lot of other things can trigger these uncomfortable, anxious feelings and shortness of breath.
I’m getting better and better at managing my anxiety. Although I may never fully cure this disorder, I do believe in my abilities to heal and improve. Over the past few years, I’ve tried on a lot of strategies borrowed from various books and teachers.
Below are 3 methods that work best for me:
Meditation. I mediate 5-10 minutes every morning. Usually I use the (free) Calm App. Sometimes I miss a day. My anxiety is significantly worse on the days I skip my meditation practice. Download the app or find a guided program on YouTube. Commit to meditating every day for 2 weeks and see if you feel a difference. Remember: It’s not about how long you meditate. It’s about doing it consistently.
I love this quote about meditation from Pema Chodron.
“We’re encouraged to meditate every day, even for a short time, in order to cultivate this steadfastness with ourselves. We sit under all kinds of circumstances–whether we are feeling healthy or sick, whether we’re in a good mood or depressed, whether we feel our meditation is going well or is completely falling apart. As we continue to sit we see that meditation isn’t about getting it right or attaining some ideal state. It’s about being able to stay present with ourselves.”
Present Moment Awareness. Peace exists in the present. When you’re fully here and now? You’ll find your anxiety is absent. Thing is, you spend most of your life in your head, thinking about the past and future. Josh Pais teaches a really cool method in his Committed Impulse classes. To come back to the present, he encourages you to think or say, “I’M BACK!” When I do this, I’m suddenly able to take the long, deep breath I so desperately crave. Try it…right now! 🙂
Identify the Source and Sit with it. When I notice myself getting worked up, I often get lost in the physical symptoms. I worry about the fact that I can’t breathe and this makes me panic. Sometimes I feel like I need to leave the room, pull over to the side of the road or go to the emergency room. My acupuncturist taught me to identify where the anxiety is coming from. When I specify the source, it doesn’t seem so big and scary. For example, I’ll say to myself, “I’m feeling this way because I had a bad day at work.” Instead of trying to change it or run from it, I sit with the sensations and allow them to come and go. Before I know it? I’M BACK…and feeling just fine.
I don’t know about you, but I want to make 2017 the best year yet. In a perfect world, I would live every day anxiety-free. I’m guessing you want the same thing. Please play with the strategies above. Take what works and leave the rest. Stop making excuses and start living your best life possible.
Happy New Year!
Peace, love & presence,
PS. This the Long Drive Playlist I made before traveling to my parents’ house for the holidays. Enjoy! 🙂
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