I have a condition that I rarely ever talk about. This is probably because I hate to admit it. Maybe it’s pride, or fear of judgement, or simply because I am a very private person and don’t like to talk about my more difficult stuff. But lately, I feel the need to share my story in hopes that it helps me to heal while perhaps helping others to see that they are not alone.
My secret… I have anxiety. No, not just the feeling that you get before a big event, or that which tends to accompany times of “basic” worry. I am talking about full-on, panic-attacking, feeling like your heart will explode (please, let me pass out first) kind of anxiety. The kind that can be debilitating and can happen at any time, anywhere, without warning. Yeah, THAT kind of anxiety.
It started about 10 years ago – very suddenly – and for no apparent reason. Like, NOTHING provoked it, at least nothing that I can recall. It was scary – really scary- because I did not understand what was happening. It was as if I was losing control of my life. It was the weirdest thing EVER.
It took some time to come to a place of peace within this new found existence. I avoided using anti- anxiety drugs and turned to more holistic therapies instead (insert disclaimer here: I am only sharing my story. I completely respect and understand that there are people who absolutely need traditional medical intervention. To those people, I wish you peace and comfort). My little tricks worked well and I had it under control for a while – until now. Now the beast called anxiety is back. This time, however, I know what has precipitated “the return”.
Ushered in by my dog’s illness, my soon-to-be status as an empty-nester, watching my children experience times that are so difficult that it is physically painful to observe, and the sudden, unexplained illness of a family member has reawakened this energy that I once thought I mastered. It is stirring, clawing – back with a vengeance.
So what now? How do I get it back into control? I have to get back in touch with my true nature and re-envoke my anxiety survival kit. Okay, it is not a physical “kit”. I am referring to simple, yet powerful practices that work for me when I do them meticulously.
Doing What Works
The most important thing that I had to remember was how to stop one of my attacks in it’s tracks. I have to get outside – no matter what the weather is like. It can be storming or 40 below – getting outside helps me to almost immediately stop an attack. Two good alternatives are sitting by an open window and/or drinking ice water. I do not know why these work for me. They just do. You may be thinking, “But Sybil, you are a yoga teacher. Why not practice deep breathing?” My answer: I’ve tried, but doing deep breathing in the middle of an attack just doesn’t work for me. After I have a burst of air or cold water, THEN I can access the breath. It’s like my system needs a little “shock” to begin the settling down process.
The next thing I had to remember is how to prevent the attacks in the first place. I have lots of little tricks, and I promise that I will share them all. For now, I will share just one: it’s spending time in nature. Spending time in nature helps to ground me. Since I am having a rough time right now, I make sure that I do so EVERY SINGLE DAY, RAIN OR SHINE. This is crucial for me. Being in nature is healing for my body, mind and spirit. It helps me connect to all that is and reminds me that I am bigger than my anxiety. Whether it is going on a walk, working in my garden, or just sitting on a park bench outside, I have to be in nature each day these days to feel in control. The best thing – it’s easy and it is free. It is available whenever I need it. This is one of my best preventative strategies that I have. It is like shining a light in the darkness.
Please remember, I know and respect that my way may not be your answer. However, I feel the need to share my story – And maybe, just maybe, someone else can find inspiration in it.
Since I have been spending so much time walking and hiking in the Lansing area, I thought it would be fun to start a walking group! Moving your body in nature feels amazing. Being with a supportive group of people who want to move, walk, chat, breathe and be is exhilarating! I want to get started in just a couple of weeks, so please message me if you are interested.