The Thrill of Progress
Living with anxiety is like being on a rollercoaster ride that’s terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. One minute anxiety can make you super energetic and able to accomplish an unheard of number of tasks in a day (Think of the mom or dad who does it all; I bet they have anxiety too!) and then have a hard time winding down at the end of the day. The next day you can be mired in the more apropos part of anxiety, panicking over things like getting to work on time after dropping your child off at school. These are all common occurrences for anxiety sufferers, but once you put your meditation and self care practice into place, you begin to see small steps of progress.
One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever given myself is time for myself to just be. Every morning I wake up early and give myself 90 minutes for my spiritual practice. This involves 60-75 minutes of journaling about what’s arising inside of me at the moment followed by at least 15 minutes of meditation. This practice has sustained me and kept me mentally aware of my emotions and anxiety triggers. This gift I give myself every morning allows me to be present enough to realize that my commitment to getting up early, meditating and giving myself the gift of quiet, and undisturbed ‘me’ time pays dividends for me throughout a busy day. It becomes easier to tell myself that I need to stop and breathe in the course of a day when I feel an increase in anxious energy flow start to form in my body.
I like to call on each of my five senses to pull me back into the present when I can feel anxiety setting in. If I stop and find five scents, five sights, five sounds or touch five different textures (taste can be hard to do depending on the setting), I can pull myself back into the present and remove my body from its anxious state. This practice works to restore my body to its natural rhythm and state. Sometimes I need to do it multiple times depending upon how much anxiety is building in my body, but with practice and perseverance it works. I believe this is possible because I’ve given myself the gift of time to pursue my sacred spiritual practices every morning. These practices act to reinforce that it’s acceptable for me to put myself first and take care of my needs.
I believe this sacred morning practice is at the root of my ability to manage my anxiety. Giving myself permission to take this time for myself to pursue my passions and center myself has planted the seed of calm and presence in my life. There are many mornings I’d rather spend the time sleeping rather than getting out of bed to journal and meditate, but I can now see the progress I’ve made and it’s more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. I can now take airplane flights without grasping the arm rests with white knuckles or feeling like any form of turbulence is going to lead to death. I can now enjoy the ocean waves and experience the joy of letting them carry my body instead of seeing the oncoming waves as a threat to my safety. Because I’ve had these realizations of progress and have allowed myself to revel in them and celebrate them, they spur me on to continue my morning spiritual practices and dig deeper in my journaling and self care rituals.
It can be difficult to set aside time each day for self care. Getting to the gym, or onto the yoga mat, journaling or meditating can seem ridiculous on the days when your schedule seems packed with necessary activities, especially if you’re a person who has fallen into putting everyone else’s needs ahead of your own, but these are the days when you most need your self care practices. There is a noticeable difference in my energy level, mood and attitude when I either say no to things on my busy schedule, or if I give myself the gift of just five minutes to myself to meditate, listen to music or sit in silence. When I remind myself that these five minutes can be the difference between having a day filled with anxiety or panic attacks or one based in calm and presence, the choice becomes crystal clear. All I have to do is reflect back on my progress and victories and I am instantly assured that putting myself first is the right call. This is one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned because our culture tells us, especially us women, that we are to put others needs ahead of our own. I believe the opposite is true. When we put our own needs first, we establish boundaries based in self love and self respect which other people in our life can mirror.
Progress requires work, but I believe that work is based in silence, spiritual practices and self reflection. They are the keys to my daily mental health and the boundless joy I feel when I overcome a deep-seated fear.