Its Sunday afternoon and its raining.
I’m sitting on my bed in jeans and a T-shirt surrounded on both sides by my precious dogs, Tumnus and Pippin. Normally, this would be my perfect scenario for zen-style relaxation, but today I am overcome by anxiety. Its a set of feelings that creep up at the most inopportune times–when I’m ready for bed, when I finally have a little time to myself, holidays, etc…
What is it about anxiety that is so hard for me to let go of?
It almost seems as if its my mind’s way of balancing itself. I am a big dreamer and I spend much of my time with my head in the clouds, yet I also suffer from what I would call a disease of the mind, anxiety. Feelings of failure, never being enough, being incapable–they creep into my mind and take over like a toxic oil spill in the clear, blue ocean water.
My anxiety does not merit medication, in fact, I don’t believe I suffer from it any more than anybody else. I do think though, that it is an unhealthy emotion that has gained a foothold of epidemic proportions in our over-achieving, high-performance, success-obsessed society (what is success anyway?).
Did you know that according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America that anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness and that they affect 40 million adults in the United States alone? Its a $42 billion dollar industry according to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Its gives me anxiety just thinking about all the people with anxiety. LOL. (I am empathetic, too, okay???)
But I think I have been missing the point here… my anxiety is the symptom of a much bigger issue–and that is my refusal to consistently listen to and nurture myself.
Unhealthy thoughts and boundaries breed unhealthy thoughts and boundaries, while a healthy mind and healthy boundaries lead to more healthy thoughts and more healthy boundaries. The cycle is self-perpetuating unless a change is made.
So how do I nurture a healthy mind and healthy boundaries so I can battle anxiety sans the pills? Well, quite honestly, I think it is a life-long process that takes some cultivating. However, there are three things that have really helped me manage my anxiety.
Meditation calms the mind and allows focus, fostering the transformation of negative thoughts into positive ones. I think of meditation as the “reset” button on my mind. If you want to learn more about meditation, Deepak Chopra’s Meditation website, here, is a great resource.
Yoga makes me feel so in touch with my body. The poses and practice awaken and focus my mind while connecting me to both my inner and outer strength. It is as much spiritual as it is physical, and I highly recommend it for people who suffer from anxiety. YogaGlo.com is a great resource for yoga. It is $19.99 per month and allows you access to hundreds of yoga classes taught by the best teachers in the world from anywhere you have internet connection (also available as a channel on Roku and Blue Ray players). I have no excuse not to practice because I can literally practice anywhere! (Kathryn Budig is my favorite.)
3. Deep Breathing.
My mind runs all day long. I forget to stop. Deep breathing, even if just a few quality breaths, helps me to take note of where my mind is at and address any anxious feelings that are creeping up. Believe it or not, one of the first steps for dealing with anxious thoughts is addressing the fact that you are experiencing them. Think about what is causing those feelings and what would help them to go away? For me, I know yoga and meditation will help me to combat anxiety. I also know that creative pursuits (song writing) help to melt my anxiety. Think about when you feel most calm… What are you doing? Where are you? … It can be as simple as a cup of tea. Get to know yourself and take the time to nurture what brings you peace. Dr. Weil has some great tips for deep breathing here.
In conclusion, I want to say that just because I suffer from anxious feelings does not make me an anxious person.
The same goes for you. We are all human and we are all susceptible to unhealthy thoughts–its how we deal with them them that either builds us up or breaks us down. You can choose to stuff down your thoughts or deal with them. Even though it requires some effort up front, I am choosing to deal with mine.
Thus far, it has been time well spent.
I wish you light, love, and days free of anxiety,
Go and love one another,