Up until I started seeing my functional medicine doctor, I didn't actually realize I had anxiety. I experienced the feeling of anxiety all the time, I just hadn't assigned a name to it, however, that name stared at me as I filled in every single functional medicine intake form. Big feelings of it come and go in waves -- Am I doing enough? Will my mom make it home okay? Am I on the right path? Is Hansel eating the right food? -- but let's be real the majority of the time there is an undercurrent (a.k.a. city living) that just never completely goes away. To me, this was just life...until I realized it was a thing. Making it a thing was both great and not so great all at the same time. I was becoming more in touch with my body, but knowing you have anxiety and making it "a thing" tends to make it worse//happen more often. It's in that moment when you feel it coming on (if you pay enough attention), identify it as anxiety, comes the domino effect - why is this going on? what's making me anxious? what's going to happen now? Can you relate?
Between then and now I've learned a few things. Anxiety can be brought on by changes in the body including hormonal imbalance, gut problems (i.e. IBS)...even food sensitivities. All things that I have either experiences or am experiencing now. That being said, it's also about feelings, situations, and stress, too. When a friend recently asked if I would be interested in attending a workshop on anxiety you can bet I said YES. To be honest, I did not even read the description of the workshop, I saw it was called "Anxiety, It's Not All In Your Mind" and knew it was up my alley. What I didn't realize it that the focus was on tools for dealing with anxiety vs. overcoming it or addressing the cause straight on. The best things in life are typically unexpected and now I feel like I have enough tools under my belt to share them with you. Because literally nothing makes me feel better than helping someone who may be suffering -- especially if I can relate (you know that been there, done that feeling). P.S. these work for all anxiety provokers, not just mine :)
My take aways:
- Anxiety can be best understood (by myself at least) like the weather. If you are in tune with your body, you can feel the storm coming on - similar to an animal in a tsunami - and adjust as necessary to get through it in the best way possible - like an animal would relocate to higher ground before the tide rolls in. By creating a tool basket, we can pick what method will work for us in the moment, implement it, and ride out the storm on higher ground.
- A great tool is meditation. Meditation is something that had felt forced on me previously, so it took me a while to get into it. Over the past couple years I've constantly been told by doctors, by friends, by family members, "you should meditate." The truth is until I scheduled a meditation session with Sadie after receiving a micro-current facial from her, which unbeknownst to me before I arrived was much more of an inner working session than a traditional facial (let's be real, I was initially in it for the micro currents but am now obsessed with her and my awakening journey), I could never get myself to meditate. I was always focused on if I was doing it right or not, building to-do lists in my head and then getting upset that I couldn't let them go, etc. instead of just being with my body and accepting and experiencing waves of thought from an alternate perspective. Needless to say, meditation is becoming a mainstay over here.
- We all have a body (our only body this time around) and we can choose to connect with it. No matter what you may be going through or how much loss of control you are feeling, there is always going to be one part of your body - particularly feet or hands - you can feel safe connecting to. Feet and hands are especially great because they hold many nerve endings (and most people don't have negative body issues stuck there). We practiced standing meditation and drew our focus to our feet - the balance of our weight, the feeling of the floor, the space between our toes, the weight of our toenails on our toes. There is so much to get wrapped up in that you can't possibly concentrate on the anxiety that may be rushing through you or building up at the same time.
- We can incorporate mindfulness into our day-to-day lives to keep us grounded even when a "storm" isn't brewing. It's a fact that we will not always have time or think about sitting down to meditate for fill in the blank minutes a day. By incorporating mindfulness into our normal routine we are allocating time to be IN OUR BODY (often times, we're a million steps ahead of where our body is at the moment) and instill pause in our busy lives. EX: you could be in your car driving to work thinking about what you're going to be making for dinner. Experiment with choosing a small part of your day to always be mindful. Like when you are getting out of the car and walking to wherever it is you're going, for instance Whole Foods. Mindfully place your feet on the ground, stand up, take care with the car door, lock the door, concentrate your footsteps as you leave the car and arrive at the entrance to Whole Foods. Then grab a cart and go on with your shopping. That small 1 minute of grounding yourself adds up and becomes a practice! This is called inner awareness.
- It's okay to feel!! That's part of the process and part of life. Once you feel the anxiety coming on you can speak to it. Acknowledge it's presence like a salesperson at your door. Answer it, tell it thanks but no thanks, I'm not interested right now, and move on with your day. There is no need to push it out. If you push it out it will just keep banging on the door.
Throughout the workshop we practiced many methods of coping with anxiety, went through four different types of meditation to ease anxiety, and participated in one hand on activity. The activity was emotionally draining, yet amazingly insightful all at the same time. I am sharing because I found a common theme between this exercise and a practice in the meditation session I had a couple months ago. This theme makes me realize how important the message is for enlightenment and mindfulness in general. The exercise was to pair up with someone and speak to them answering the prompt: "what does your anxiety tell you?" for three minutes. During that three minutes your partner wasn't to show you any body language verbally or non-verbally. While you were speaking you were to pay attention to how your body was feeling and reacting as the words were pouring out of your mouth and as your partner was listening to you they were to pay attention to how their own body was feeling and reacting as they were hearing your words. Afterwards, we were to both sit for three minutes (eyes open or closed), still not speaking, taking it all in. Then we would reverse the scenario and do it again. This can also be turned into a solo exercise by journaling and read back the passage instead of speaking and listening.
There was so much of this that was intriguing and helpful to me. One, I had a realization that my anxiety was telling me a lot of the same things the fear overtaking my body was telling me in my meditation session. Perhaps anxiety = fear? Maybe? Two, I am an empath (I've always known this, but it was reinstated in this activity). While my partner was speaking I experienced the anxiety that was running through her body. My chest started pounding, my hands started sweating - the craziest part about it is that's not how I react about my own anxiety. When I was speaking I experienced the feelings I typically get - a clench in my gut, my chest tightening, etc. Three, we are not alone...YOU ARE NOT ALONE. So many of us hold anxiety over the same things and equally "trivial" // "crazy" circumstances. It can help to open up about it. You're not in a solo journey no matter how isolating it may feel sometimes.
If you've made it this far, I just want to say thank you so much for reading! I sincerely hope that one bit of this is helpful and if it is please let me know along with if you'd like to hear about my meditation // mindfulness journey.
Take care! XO