I see many people who deal with panic disorders, and one of them asked me yesterday if I ever dealt with anxiety and if so, how.
First I will start with saying that as a person with ADD, what we deal with every day is a flurry of too many thoughts all the time. Not knowing this was what I had growing up led to many negative life experiences and self esteem problems. Happiness research shows that when the mind is permitted to wander excessively, the end result is depression because a wandering mind thinks more negative thoughts than positive ones. I suppose this was once an adaptive trait, because this excessive thinking allowed one to be prepared to run at all times, thus leading to higher survival if one ran at the front vs the pack of a pack during a life threatening event. But with most of the “dangers” today being the ones we think, running is no longer a solution for most of our fears. Although life would be much more amusing if every time we felt overwhelmed, we just took off. Can you imagine an office setting? People running every which way all the time? The boss walks in the room and everyone just gets up from their desks and scatters in all directions….What great shape we would all be in! Except those ladies with the 4 inch heels, ow! Lots of workplace injuries!
So I explained yesterday to this lovely woman how much yoga has helped me, because it cultivates mindfulness practice. Yoga, if always thought of as a practice, is do-able for everyone at all ages and abilities. In fact, this is the key to enjoying yoga. If you think of it as a “practice” rather than something you must do, you’ve conquered one of the most important aspects of yoga practice – honoring where you and your body are at this moment at this time. Your abilities to do various things in yoga vary from day to day and practice to practice, and you can always just decide nope, not doing that and stand still. “the teacher won’t be mad?” she asked. Nope, at a good yoga studio with an educated instructor, the instructor will actually be extremely pleased with you honoring your own body and ability at that time by resting when you need to. What a wonderful lesson that can be taken with you off the matt! Honoring yourself and where you are in the moment!
So yes, yoga has been very helpful at helping me calm my mind, as has Mindfulness practice which is teaching yourself to be in the moment. So I shared with her how I also used Visualization when I was as scared as I have ever been before in my life. I was driving to a pottery workshop in Steamboat Springs Colorado. I was lucky that my husband drove with me to Denver and then flew home, so I only had the last 4 hours of driving to do myself. I wasn’t expecting it to be hard. I took a detour and visiting my cousin Jordy living in Boulder which was a lovely treat. And then in this time before GPS, Jordy gave me the route forward. So it happens that there are actually 4 lane highways through the mountains this day, but that wasn’t the route to go when coming from Boulder to this little remote farm I was driving to. I had to drive through the mountains.
What’s the point of having signs that say “Beware, falling rocks” as you drive through a narrow two lane road around mountain cliffs? It’s not like there’s anything you can do if a rock falls on your car! Where can you move to avoid it? So all that sign does is scare you half to death as you start your journey, put you in a state of mind that at any moment, you could be terrified and squashed to death as you try to navigate this narrow winding roads where one wrong move will take you off a cliff. Now add the steep ascent, construction in the middle of the mountain, being in an old car that I was sure would start sliding backwards the minute I took my foot off the brakes, more than one construction stop along the ascent, plus fog, rain, sleet and snow. Really truly happened! There is no room to turn around, there’s no where else to go but up. Gulp! Got the picture. I was getting more and more frightened and didn’t know what to do. Then suddenly my imagination piped up to save me from complete terror and panic. “I’m a race car driver, driving a course through an extreme terrain. I have nerves of steel.” And the more I said this to myself, the more I grew stronger and I made it. I just kept repeating “nerves of steel, nerves of steel” and I really began to feel I had nerves of steel. That mantra has helped me since as well, but it also helped me smile and laugh at myself during very challenging moments then and since. What we tell our minds affects how we feel and how we handle things. What mantras might you adopt to help you through your next challenge?