No, seriously. Stop what you’re doing. Stop it.
Does that mean stop reading this blog post? Yeah, for a minute.
Bear with me. Close your eyes. Breathe.
Take five deep breaths.
Especially in America, I feel like doing things quickly has a lot of value. We’re a country of immediacy – of fast food, Quik Marts, speedy service. But in all that time we spend trying to pressure ourselves or others just to get things done, we miss a lot.
And I’ll be the first to admit that I am one of the worst perpetrators of this. I love getting things out of the way, getting tasks over with, getting on to other things.
But this has also contributed to a lot of the high anxiety and depression I’ve had over the past . . . well, I mean, my entire life. And I’ve been walked through a lot of tactics – but it’s taken me 20 years to figure out ones that are actually starting to work for me (which, along with medication, is pretty awesomely miraculous).
Riding the Wave
We often don’t take the time for ourselves we need to be human – we try and push away a lot of our issues. Many tactics I’ve been told over the years involve just covering up the problems, thinking of “happy places,” imagining stop signs, “rewriting tapes,” or pushing the thoughts away, replaced by other, pleasant thoughts. But the thing that I’ve been running into constantly with those is that the feelings always come back, often overwhelmingly so.
And I’ve been terrified of drowning in those feelings for a long time. One of my biggest fears is of fainting. This was a discovery I had while meditating the other day. I’m actually afraid of passing out. This stems from the fact that every time I’ve passed out, it’s a full day spent vomiting, sleeping and generally feeling awful – and always caused by high anxiety situations. So, there’s a vicious cycle that goes on in my brain of anxiety, then immediate pressure from myself to calm down which therefore makes me more anxious.
But my first experience with anti-depressants was actually really good, in many ways. For those of you who don’t know, starting new medication can often be bumpy. And for me, my first experience was pretty rough. The first week or so, every morning about an hour after popping my pills, waves would crash over me. And I mean crash. I could barely stand, focus, or breathe. It felt like a panic attack – and anyone who’s ever experience panic attacks knows how awful that uncontrollable feeling can be.
And my mother told me just to “ride the wave.” It was a way that I had never thought about dealing with my feelings before, but these waves were un-ignorable. They were too powerful. These ones weren’t being “rewritten.” So I had to sit and drown for a little while.
And one of the successful things I’ve found are some of these tactics that don’t push those feelings away – they actually accept them. But it requires stopping. It requires taking time to actively be you.
If you know me, you know I’m kind of obsessed with yoga. And yes, you can say I’m completely a white girl hopping on the “yoga craze” train. But hear me out.
Yoga does a lot for you. Yoga isn’t just about the poses, which took a lot for me to start to understand. It’s not just a workout – it’s not just being weirdly touchy-feely, but it is about connecting with yourself.
The thing I really like about yoga is that you can push yourself and push yourself, but you won’t be successful unless you are connecting your mind to your body within the pose. There’s a lot of control in your body, and even more in your mind. Of course, there’s always the physical control as well of a rhythmic breathing pattern (similar to swimming, which is one of the reasons I love that as well) – and it’s extremely rewarding to be able to breathe into tight stretches, complicated balancing, long practices.
I’ve been trying to complete a sun salutation (or the Hindi name, surya namaskar, as a close friend of mine once corrected me) at the very least every day, if not a half hour to hour yoga video. And that’s a lot of time out of my day to take for myself, especially after taking absolutely zero time for me. This is partially inspired by the amazing yogis I follow on Instagram because I just feel so inferior – but the thing about yoga is it’s one exercise that you won’t be successful at if you’re just trying to be competitive.
It’s a deeply personal practice and that’s a very new thing to come to terms with.
The thing that really inspired this post is my recent delve into meditation. I’ve always had a really hard time with meditation because I never really understood what to do. I always liked the idea of it – take some time just to relax, calm yourself, breathe. But I didn’t like the idea of just falling into the recesses of my mind – that’s a dangerous place.
But recently I discovered this awesome app called HeadSpace. And HeadSpace is amazing. It starts you out with 10 minutes for 10 days. You have 10 minutes. I promise. I’ve been doing them right before sleeping and they’ve been really awesome. The great thing about HeadSpace is they really encourage not pushing your thoughts away – you just have to let yourself experience them. It’s not about “clearing your mind” or thinking about a blank room – it’s about being with yourself and your own thoughts.
Emotional Brain Training – yes, it sounds like some weird hippie psychological mind stuff. And yeah, it kind of is. But it’s also really helpful for gauging and identifying your own feelings, which can be really difficult in the midst of everything.
EBT (which also has a really cool app) identifies the emotional state that you’re in – 1 of 5, from least to most stressed. It then gives you steps based on your emotional state to help yourself accept those feelings – and it’s as simple as repeating that you accept your feelings as they are.
Take some time for yourself. It’s important to be able to allow yourself to have feelings.