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For a long time, I felt ashamed of my anxiety, and desperately wished it would go away.
As someone in the health and wellness industry who teaches others to take care of themselves, my negative self-talk scolded me saying, "You should be able to figure this out."
My history with anxiety
As a young woman, I looked for answers and thought if I took care of myself, ate whole foods and went to yoga 'it' might go away. I literally prayed every night that my worry-wart nature would just disappear... "Please God, make this horrible feeling go away. I just want to be normal." I mouthed silently into my pillow.
And as a child, I didn't even realize that I actually had a mental health issue that was called something. All I knew was that I worried a lot, was nervous speaking up in class, had trouble making friends, oh and I suffered from homesickness too and an eating disorder as a teen.
When I got older and had a better idea what was was wrong with me (thanks to the many campaigns on mental health issues), the odd thing is that the harder I tried to get over my anxiety, the worse and more frequent my panic attacks became. I was a mess on the inside and yet appeared relatively pulled together on the outside.
When I finally reached out for help the response I got from many was dismay. I mean, why would a nice looking, well educated young woman from a good family be in such apparent distress? They all told me, "You have so much to be thankful for!" (a fact that I was aware of) but that didn’t make my fear and self-doubt go away.
One morning, after a particularly challenging sleepless night, a friend (who has been through the school-of-hard-knocks herself) took me under her wing and dragged me to a meditation teacher. I was skeptical, but I also had nothing to lose.
It didn’t take too many sessions to realize that finding stillness during a led meditation gave me some space to come into relationship with my anxiety when it reared its ugly head. This allowed me to acknowledge the spiral of fearful emotions that were bubbling up BUT began to allow me not get swallowed up by them.
Slowly, I began to develop a modest inner confidence and I eventually began to see things how they were rather than get swept up in the fear that fuelled my anticipation of bad things which might occur.
Looking at my anxiety in a different light
I now realize that anxiety is not my enemy but rather, it is my body talking and giving me information to help guide me.
Once I understood my anxiety was part of me, I began to almost feel grateful for it. I began to think of my anxiety as an alarm clock... as if when my active mind isn’t able to get the memo, my anxiety steps in to make sure I don’t miss something. I realize that my anxiety is actually my body talking to me.
Here are a few of my reflections where the still small voice of calm (thanks to meditation) has helped me navigate through some anxiety-provoking situations.
Like when my marriage was disintegrating and everyone was telling me to get a "real job." Believe it or not, my fear of staying in a destructive situation was greater than the fear of me not listening to that quiet, inner voice that kept telling me to continue teaching yoga and follow my vision of making skincare products (despite the countless times I was told I couldn’t possibly succeed since the beauty industry is too competitive).
And here's another good one. I have been ignoring a flutter in my stomach and a bit of a lump in my throat all too often these past few months. I've been staying up too late (working), not making it to yoga on the reg and worse, not doing my morning meditations.
I have totally known that the fluttery stomach and lumpy feeling throat is my body telling me too make some changes BUT it has taken me some (uhm lots) of courage to have faith that if spend money to hire more people, our little business will expand much more effectively than me trying to do it all myself... and NOW I'm really excited that our little team is growing and I'm feeling much better.
If I'm making it sound easy to manage anxiety, let me be clear, it is not. It has taken years and many melt-downs, but today I look at my anxiety as a very unusual gift. It’s a barometer for me to check in with myself. It points me in the right direction when I’m not listening to my intuition.
Not coincidentally, the IBD and rosacea that I was diagnosed with 8 years ago have almost entirely dissipated. They only flare up when I stop meditating and working on myself
So the next time you feel wound up and overwhelmed like anxiety is swallowing you whole, my question to you would be to ask yourself if there’s any wisdom in your panic?
Your anxiety just might be telling you something important, something that will help you grow, thrive, and live the life you want to create.
Credit for main image: stockce