It took some time to realise this, but I was in a constant state of anxiety for more than a year.
I remember not being able to sleep, getting startled by noises easily, being more sensitive towards temperature changes, and in general, not being able to focus on conversations or tasks as well.
I didn’t know it then, but I was on a persistant fight/flight mode. I was in shock. My reality had shattered into pieces and my mind was trying to protect me.
Shock from certain traumatic incidents that happened. Incidents that triggered a lot of feelings from events that happened years and years ago.
It was only after working with my therapist that I found out I was dealing with anxiety, depression and that my triggers are linked with emotional neglect (when I was a child), betrayal, and a fear of abandonment.
Anxiety puts us in fight/flight modes whenever we get triggered. Triggers can come really randomly – opening Spotify and seeing a playlist your ex used to make for you, a brand of cereal you used to buy together, or the name of a person.
I’ve learnt through therapy, that when we experience anxiety, the first thing our minds try to do is put us in a survival state – some people freeze up while others will go on fight mode and start attacking others.
Our minds, in order to protect ourselves, will try to control the situation and think of different scenarios that might happen – and how we can defend ourselves in them.
But what anxiety doesn’t do, is show us reality.
The easiest way to beat anxiety, is to use various methods to come back to the present, and realize that we’re in a safe place.
While reading the book ‘ The wisdom of a broken heart” by Susan Piver, I learned one method to help bring myself back to center: Take deep breaths, scan your surroundings and name 5 things that would include your different senses. For eg: There is a palm tree outside my window and it’s slightly swaying in the wind; Someone is having a barbeque outside and the smell of food is great etc. After this, take deep breaths again and note 3 things in your surroundings you’ve never noticed before. Take your time to slowly scan your surroundings. It can be for eg: The fridge has a magnet that’s chipped, someone has left a pair of socks on the floor etc. This exercise would immediately bring you back to reality and help you see that the big scary thoughts that are happening in our minds are just created by us – they’re not actually happening. It could be a horror story unfolding in our minds, and our bodies might be reacting in response to our thoughts (heightened senses, inability to focus or perform tasks, chest pains etc) but in reality – nothing is actually happening: we’re safe.
The reason why we immediately think of worst case scenarios is because we’re basing on past experiences and we fear that it would happen again.
While working with Rella, she taught me a few ways to help me beat anxiety. One would be to breathe in through my left nostril, and the other, to rub my palms together creating heat and place them over my eyes.
Amongst the many things I learned from Rella – one of them stood out. That my mind has been so used to feeling anxious that even if I’m ready to let go of it, it might not want to let go of me. Our minds want to stay loyal to feeling anxious, because it’s a place of comfort and familiarity.
That’s why, we could be feeling perfectly fine and happy sometimes, and then immediately enter a state of anxiety whenever we meet with triggers.
Rella said, “Ask yourself, are you ready to let go of anxiety? Are you ready to embrace the change that comes after”
I liken it to trying cliff jumping for the first time. Your feet is inching towards the edge, step by step, and you can feel the back of your hairs rise, a trickle of cold sweat down your neck. The longer you stay at the top, looking 10 feet down into the water, the harder it will be to jump. Yet, you just have to embrace the unknown of what will happen after you jump into the water. Even if you’ve already seen 20 people jump before, and you know you’ll be fine, trust can only come after you’ve jumped yourself.
So the point is – trust the process. Sometimes it just takes that second of being illogical, of being reckless and fearless, to help you overcome a challenge.
“Describe your anxiety in a way you would like to, so that you wouldn’t be afraid of it, but want to befriend it” Rella tells me
“Are you ready to go on an adventure, anxiety?”
“Are you ready to explore this city, anxiety?
“Are you ready to learn more with me, anxiety?”
Maybe the point is not to eliminate anxiety completely, because I do believe it’s a great signpost that teaches us things about ourselves. But maybe the point is to befriend it, to not be scared of it, and to be able to stay calm when it becomes overwhelming.
Maybe the point is not to beat anxiety, but to conquer the debilitating effects of anxiety when it hits us.
Either way, I’m learning alot through therapy and books now, and I feel that it carries through in my conversations with family and friends. It also helps me to find my voice and strength and not be afraid to stand up for myself when the need arises.
Life is worthwhile 🙂 And it’s great to finally be enjoying the life I’ve been living, and not just be alternating between extreme highs and lows. Self-awareness truly elevates us to a different frequency, one that can help us love life better, and in turn, love others well.