It is not very often anymore that I experience the crippling debilitation of anxiety in my physical body. However, it has most certainly reared it’s fierce head with vengeance these past couple of weeks and I want to share my experience with you.
Anxiety itself can present in many forms and I am sure that most of you have your own stories about this common and nasty little pest. Today, I would like to share mine as it is fresh in my body and hopefully it may help some of you too.
Physically for me, anxiety starts as an ache in the left side of my neck, a throbbing and relentless pain that I at first attribute to a bad night’s sleep. In the couple of days that follow, this pain moves down into my chest and shoulder causing stiffness and sharp muscular twinges. At this stage, I start to panic about the many life-threatening diseases that have inevitably built up on that left side and I begin feeling constantly for lumps and swellings in my breasts, arm-pits and neck. I am convinced that this is a new pain that I have never felt before, that it is caused by a cancer that is eating my body and I start flipping out in my mind.
First my memory goes, I can’t remember names, places or events; I am convinced this is the brain tumour that will lead to an inevitable stroke. Next, I start to imagine that there is no light in the world, that I have no talents, self-worth or love. I turn against my loved ones and things become very dark in my mind. I begin thinking about what I haven’t fulfilled yet and start to feel sorry for myself. I become emotional over the smallest moments and finally, I lose my voice.
The messy thing about anxiety is that your mind tricks you into believing that your symptoms are independent of your state of mind. That rather, the anxiety is simply a justified result of your impending doom. If you can just manage to separate your mind chatter from your subconscious you will see clearly the true catalysts that has manifested into anxiety.
In the last two weeks I have given up drinking alcohol (mostly), become an air bnb host and already hosted two separate guests, juggled the balance of friendships, gone vegan, been offered the biggest job interview of my career, spent a whole weekend preparing a five-minute presentation for it, attended said job interview, planned the Christmas lodging and transport logistics for my whole family, all the while continuing to meet the necessary and trying demands of teaching. Yep, that is probably the cause of my anxiety overload…but why is it so difficult for my brain to make the logical connection? The fear is all encompassing.
However, this might be the part that helps some of you and I really hope it does because we should not let anxiety consume us in silence. It takes a whole village to ‘cure’ someone of a mind disorder, read here.
I gathered up all the strength I could wrangle from my wrecked body, thought about everything I have learnt so far on this spiritual journey and tried a few things (10 actually) in order to lift the shadow.
10 Ideas to be present with anxiety:
- I recognised the anxiety (late of course) and allowed for an internal dialogue to occur between mind and subconscious. I tried not to be judgemental or give in to the fear my mind was creating. This allowed for some relief as the sensible part of my soul was given some space to offer a more balanced perspective.
- I sat with the pain and spoke to my body about recognising the familiar symptoms that I would now address in order to heal. Asking your body to heal is the most under-rated exercise in human existence.
- I used my neglected yoga app to do some 15 minute routines (this is great for some instant relief). Physical movement when you have the least motivation is sometimes the best cure.
- I drew my pain. This is something that Maria showed me how to do and it actually works. Grab a piece of paper and some coloured pens. Sit with your pain and begin to draw it on the paper, intuitively choosing colours and not thinking about the drawing. After drawing it out, choose some lighter colours and begin to place healing energy around the image- do this for as long as you need. Sit with the energy of the picture and you will feel much more relaxed. This could be repeated daily until your symptoms subside.
- I went to the job interview, tried my best and then let it go. There is nothing I can do about the outcome now and reliving the interview itself over and over in my mind is completely counter-productive. Let things go that you have no control over, you will feel much better for it.
- I cooked for my housemate. It was only pancakes and they were vegan and probably super bland but the point was that I took a moment to do something simple for someone else and I immediately felt my energy lift.
- I recognised the root of my physical pain as Bruxism (teeth grinding) a subconscious sleep habit. I already have a mouthguard for this but I began looking at hypnosis videos on YouTube to try and cure this stress-induced habit (work in progress). Actively working to heal yourself is healing in itself; it lets your body know that you are listening and responsive to it’s pain.
- I made a video of every single pug clip I had in my collection. Leaving my pugs behind to move to a new country is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I owed it to them and myself to create a montage that I could watch whenever I wanted to. Sitting in this energy of immense love whilst making the video was healing in itself. You can see the movie here!
- I went to a concert! Yes, I forced myself to get out of the house and stand in front of a band that I loved as a teenager. I let the beat of the music vibrate through my body and went into a slightly meditative state. Sound healing is incredibly powerful and uplifting.
- I remembered that somebody loves me for who I am. Love is the purest and some say, only true emotion. By taking time to focus on somebody we love, we can heal ourselves.
Today I feel like a different person, I feel strong, alert and healthy again. I still have the remnants of pain but I am not allowing them any room to grow. That is what I need to remember, that anxiety, although all consuming, can be moved along faster when you are kind to yourself. I don’t want to simplify healing anxiety to a series of steps but at the same time, maybe I do. Anxiety is about living in the future, of creating scenarios (usually worst case) about people and events that haven’t even occurred. Each of the exercises above is solely focused on living in the present; doing, sitting, moving, creating. The present is the only moment that exists and I need this as much as a reminder to myself.
Be kind to your mind and body in all of its contradictory states, listen to the internal messages and heal yourself with the things that make you present. In a state of peace we are highly successful and in turn, can heal the world.