Anxiety is something that we all experience at some point in our lives. Most people don’t realize they’re anxious, and it probably soon passes on. But, if you are anything like me, you know how crippling anxiety can really be and how it can drive you to do so many things that you otherwise wouldn’t do.
Looking back on my life at this very moment, I now have the feeling that my anxiety started early on. I never realised it then, but in retrospect, a few life-changing events have made me more aware of what anxiety really is and that it seems to love me.
You often tell yourself that you are strong and that it takes a lot for you to crumble. But, what does strength have to do with being anxious? Exactly! It doesn’t!
Having anxiety does not mean you are weak or that you cannot handle whatever tribulation is in front of you. It only is a way of making you aware of what is ahead of you. Saying “calm down” can sound counter-intuitive or paradoxical at this point, but that is exactly what you need to do. Calm down, and be mindful.
Mindfulness is a way to focus your thoughts or take the focus away from your stressors. Either way, it helps you to be more aware. Adopting mindful practices changed my life. Read this journey with me as I relive it right here.
While mindfulness is about being aware of your breathing, this journey started for me with a general yoga practice that I turned to in order to lose weight ten years ago. What really appealed to me about yoga is both the simplicity and complexity that coexist with each other; hanging in the air at the same time. Honestly, it is mind-blowing. For those of you who practice yoga, you know what I mean. Well, anyway, yoga and I had an on-again, off-again relationship through all this time, and most of the time, when I did yoga, it was for one reason: weight loss.
The very first time I appreciated yoga in its truest form was in one of the best classes I have had to date. It was just an early morning session (that I was always late for) that involved repeating a few asanas every day. What surprised me wasn’t the asanas but rather the whole winding-down process. So, at the end of the class, we would just lie back on our mats (in shavasana), and my instructor would just guide us with his voice by describing the various sounds arounds us: the birds chirping, the leaves gently rustling in the morning breeze, and so on. Once I actually got all my giggles out of the way (Teenagers, right!?), I soon realised that this experience was… trippy. I kid you not, because he eventually guided us into listening to our breaths.
While I left the class all excited about what I felt, I soon forgot all about it and went about my life. Fast forward to more recently; I rediscovered yoga. By this time, I could practice on my own without the need for an instructor.
At the time, I was super overwhelmed with my life and where it was going and some other events that completely turned my world upside down. I was having panic attacks, insomnia, feeling too blue too often, and just feeling crazy-anxious about anything and everything around me. In addition, I was gaining weight so fast that I had to change my wardrobe overnight. So, I turned to yoga again for the much-needed weight loss. Except this time, the process was something else.
One night, I was just reading about insomnia and seeing which non-medicinal measures I could take to help fall asleep, and I came across mindful practice. Since I was already into yoga, on a whim, I decided I should try it, and that night, I did.
I sat there as I followed someone on YouTube who guided me through my breathing and movement. It was the single most exhilarating experience of my life. Just breathing in and breathing out, listening to every inhalation and exhalation, noticing the micro-movement of your muscles when you breathed and just shutting out everything else around you. Just like that, my anxiety started to melt away.
I have now been practicing every other night for the last 8 months, and it has been a fruitful journey to self-awareness. As I went along, every breath kept me focused on my reason for anxiety, and with every exhalation I tried to let my anxiety go. While this is not something that is necessarily taught in mindful practice, I just felt like every exhalation was telling me to bid my resentment and confusion “adieu.” All I did to relieve my anxiety was follow my breath.
I am by no means spiritual or religious in any sense of these words, but this practice just made me embrace myself and realize that our breath is one with the body, and the body is one with the universe.
Not only is my anxiety now much lower, but my life is also turning around with so much excitement to look forward to. Whereas I once was anxious to get out of bed in the morning, I now feel equipped to outshine the sun.
Featured Image via Pexels.