19 Jun MAY – Just breathe
In the months leading up to beginning this project, my anxiety was beginning to manifest in the most unexpected and unusual of circumstances. It would consume me when I least expected it. One minute I would be happily carrying on with my life as I knew it. All of a sudden, my heart would quicken, I became irritable and snappy and I didn’t know why. In the mess of clammy hands and confusion. My world seemed blurred and everything seemed like it was moving quickly.
The only way I can explain it would be that I am literally standing in a storm, knowing I needed to get inside, but couldn’t pick up my feet and move.
The biggest trigger for me was when my life stepped out of it’s usual routine or looked different to what I had planned. My routine was mental. I woke up at 4am to go for a walk (something I found I enjoyed as it gave me 45 minutes of “me time” where I was free to nut out my day, listen to an audiobook and gather myself). Upon returning from my walk, I would throw down a coffee and head to the the gym. After the gym, I would race home, get ready and run into work. My evenings were just as jam packed as my mornings. I HAD to eat by a certain time. I would then jump from dining table, to shower, to couch for 10 mins of phone surfing and finally crash.
This routine worked for the first few months of the year. Back to that time where I was internalising my stress and turning a blind eye to the fact I was doing too much. My bull at a gate mentality served me well at this time, yet was also highly misleading. I thought I was able to manage this timetable but when the stress crept in post wedding, I was finding it harder and harder to manage. All of this running around meant I had zero time to stop and breathe.
The homeopath stressed that I was in desperate need of some calming and breathing activities.
Research tells us that breathing can help to:
Reduce anxiety and depression
Increase happiness and optimism (JACKPOT!)
Strengthen our ability to regulate emotions
Improve trauma symptoms
and reduce impulsivity, cravings and addictions.
It was clear this resolution would serve my project well.
She suggested yoga as a way to learn breathing techniques. I had done yoga before, but always and only for the flexibility element. So I decided to return and give it a go to train my breath. Low and behold…I went and fully immersed myself in my focus on the breath and not the stretch. I wasn’t there to bend my way to a pretzel or fold myself like playdough. Previously, I was always too focused on other things in my yoga practice…Like other people, how my butt looked and how tight my hamstrings were. Now, I found myself tuning into the message and becoming mindful of my breathing. I saw yoga for how it should be – a healing process focused on being in the moment, grateful and calm! In addition to dabbling in yoga, I tried my hand at mindfulness using an app Smiling Mind. I found that these 5 minute practices were excellent for the emergent phase of redirecting my wandering thoughts and focusing on the breath.
I thought I would start small in the month of May (about the only smart move I made in terms of maintaining a manageable load!) and made it my focus to just breathe each day. This may be through yoga, stretching at the gym or through practicing mindfulness. This resolution served my commandments well and would help me to ‘slow down,’ be in the moment’ and ‘heal’
This resolution was by far one of the best I could have started with! Throughout May, yoga became my saving grace. I started off attending 3 classes at the gym per week and the results were almost instantaneous. I was so much more positive and relaxed. Coupled with my mindfulness practice, I found it much easier to focus on the breath during the relaxation phase and I got a lot out of the practice. My Monday night yoga instructor Amanda asked me what brought me back to the practice and I gave her the quick rundown of everything that had happened and why I was back and really committed. I think I sparked her interest when discussing the learned lessons and I asked her if she could recommend any books about yoga for the mind (as opposed to the poses). Her eyes lit up and I could sense her excitement. Her speech quickened and she excitedly told me that not very many people connected with yoga like I did – I got it. She invited me to a yoga masterclass on the weekend and indicated that she could chat to me a lot more outside of this gym class. Forever the diligent student, I got off on the attention!
In addition to my gym yoga, I eagerly searched yoga on youtube. I found ‘Firemaster Yoga – 30 days of Yoga Happiness” – what a titie! I started doing this on days where the gym was too much to fathom, when my anxiety was consuming me and when generally when I felt like it! Yoga was the one form of exercise that was serving my happiness and my anxiety. Employing breathing techniques and listening to the positive messages within the practice soothed me and I instantly felt better. I was curious to see how it would make me feel if I did it everyday and decided it would be a resolution for the following month.
Aside from yoga and meditation, I found breathing an excellent technique to employ as the anxiety took over. I would feel that fast beating heart ravaging in my chest. I’d acknowledge it and breathe my way through. My psychologist had told me that in these moments of anxiety. I needed to remind myself that this was just a moment and it soon would pass. I just had to wait it out. The amazing thing about breathing. Is the ability to anchor the thoughts to that moment. I had set the commandment to be more ‘in the moment.’ By focusing on big breaths, I was not so consumed by my worries and frustrations about the past or the future, but more present in that moment and what I needed to do to ensure I slipped out of it as calmly as I could.