In 2008, I worked at a bank and the financial and housing market was experiencing a drastic down-turn and clients called daily with panic. I watched people lose their homes to foreclosure and come into the bank to yell and vent their frustrations. As I drove down the street towards work, I could feel my blood pressure rise and tears well up in my eyes. I would hyperventilate as I parked my car and wait for the wave to pass so I could go to work. The waves took longer and longer to pass as time went on which led me to seek help and try to get a grip on my escalating anxiety.
I was experiencing a mental break down as each day the panic and anxiety got worse. After several visits to the doctors and various methods to help me cope, I found myself confused, lethargic and frustrated. I eventually left my job because I could not function. I began looking for other alternatives for coping and this is when I found the practice of meditation.
At first, meditation was difficult. I had a hard time sitting still and quieting my mind. I would make lists, start thinking or get distracted by noises outside. The more I practiced, the easier it was to find my inner silence and soon my intuition. My anxiety levels have dropped dramatically since I began meditating. In the silence, I found peace, balance and answers.
I then learned about transforming my fears into strengths and finding ways to redirect the thoughts into something that served a purpose. I began acknowledging my anxieties and looking for ways to transform the negative into a positive feeling or thought. I also realized that I was taking on people's anxieties and reacting negatively. I implemented one of the Four Agreements as a daily practice. "Don't take anything personally" and started to react less.
Learning to listen to my intuition and take a break to breathe during stressful moments has changed my reactions. I have been told that I hold my breath when I am stressed or extremely focused. Mindfulness has help me become more aware of my breathing. Breath can be used to slow down heart rate, focus and send much needed oxygen to the places where stress is held.
The daily practice of meditation has curbed my anxiety for the most part. However, there are situations where it still rears its chaotic head. I go back to these 5 steps each time anxiety arises and they have helped me reduce worry and stress. When I feel the familiar inner flutter of anxiety, I start with these steps and repeat them daily until I find my balance again.
1. Breathe: Sit with your breath for 5-10 minutes. Close your eyes in a comfortable seated position and breathe in and out through your nose. Listen to your breath. Focus on taking even breaths. Count the inhale and exhale to even out the breath. Allow silence and peace to take over. If needed, time yourself to make sure you are getting a full 5-10 minutes of breathing.
2. Reflect and Write: What is the root of the anxiety? What triggered the reaction? Write down every thought that comes to mind. There doesn't need to be a structure, just get it out of your head and onto paper.
3. Transform the thought: How can you restructure the negative thought into a positive one? Remember that fear is a gift and it serves a purpose. How is this serving you? Write down your observations.
4. Movement: Taking a walk, running or even stretching can transform the energy. Redirect the nervous energy with movement. Get your blood flowing and capitalize on the oxygen that was just sent through your body through deep breathing.
5. Put Down the Phone: It is so easy to get caught up in our devices and not pay attention to the present moment. Since being present is a way to combat anxiety, the phone can add to our anxious thought. With social media, email and texts, we can easily fall into the comparison game, FOMO and constant communication.
With practice, these steps have helped transform my anxiety into something manageable. Anxiety does not need to take over. It can be noted and recognized, but the power lives within each of us to choose to transform the energy.
If you would like to support and be part of our mission for mental wellness, please visit our store at Outta.ca.