In January 2016, I was experiencing problems with anxiety and dissociation (see this previous post). I sought out any treatment I thought would be helpful. For years, I was really stubborn about going to therapy. I have gone to plenty of therapists in the past and usually ended up using my understanding of counseling to direct the conversation away from topics I wasn’t comfortable addressing. At the time, I thought talking about my feelings was what should work. I understood the logic of recognizing and replacing thoughts that were either untrue or not working for me. “Thinking about thinking” was not the way to work with my already racing and anxious mind. When I do that, I become critical of my first thoughts and then begin second guessing every word that comes out of my mouth because I am not sure if it is untrue. Talk about a nightmare for a semantics-consious, people pleasing, anxiety ridden perfectionist. See, just reading that might have cause some of you to experience the disaster of “thinking about thinking”.
Knowing I needed some sort of treatment for my anxiety and stress, my mother hoped she could convince me to go back to therapy. We were both lucky I caved. I was so worn out and feeling pretty desperate. My new therapy experience has taught me a way to nurture my mind/body connection. Instead of the typical, “how do you think/feel about that”, I often hear my therapist say, “What does that feel like in your body?” It sounds kind of bizarre and maybe even elementary, but when I started to just answer the question without judgement, it made sense why it is so important. I started to recognize when my breathing changed, what my face felt like when I had a hard time with a concept or emotion, and how my posture changed with my confidence. I have learned that I can’t just live in my mind. I have a whole physical body which requires care and attention as well.
Noticing these things has slowed my thoughts and feelings and everything has started to be more in sync. When I slow down and pay attention, my mind has a chance to relax. The video below is an example of ways I have learned to try new things with less judgement. Believe me, I think this video looks cheesy and outdated. To be honest, it doesn’t matter what I think about the production value of this video. What matters is that I am taking the time to connect with my body and bring it all together. There is an awareness that comes from taking the time to do this. I have found that when I make this connection, my thoughts slow down, my breathing is more controlled, and my anxiety slowly disappears. By the time, it is somewhat difficult to even access the thing that was taking over and filling me with anxiety.
Sometimes out of desperation, we find the greatest peace. I put in a lot of work and threw out a lot of judgement to be able to train my mind and body to work together. I have started to learn what it is like to stay in a moment whether it is joyful or really painful. I have more resilience and balance because I have gained confidence by practicing these tools. I have been open to essential oils, acupuncture, meditation, yoga, massage, and more. I am listening to my body when it urges me to try something new. In the middle of a panic attack or extreme discomfort, I am now able to tell myself that I have the tools to work though this and I must use them. I have gone from extreme discomfort every time to listening to myself at least 65% of the time. Every time I use what I know, it gets better.
What I have done works for me. It might not work for all of you. I urge you to try something new in times of discomfort and in times of joy. Be more present. Listen to your body. Maybe even watch the video with an open mind and see how it feels.