As I write this, I am the embodiment of physical and mental health—or, so it would seem—but there once was a time when I was not, and there will inevitably come a time when I am no longer... For a short time, at least.
I've struggled with anxiety for most of my life. Because of this, my brain often feels like an endless tug-of-war battle gone awry. Sometimes I find myself scattered, lost and irritable for seemingly no reason at all. Sometimes I obsess over an outlandish thought that invaded my brain and end up panicking over an event that never even occurred, and sometimes socializing with other human beings just seems exhausting.
For many, the holiday season can bring up similar negative or unwanted emotions, often resulting in bouts of anxiety or depression, which can seem debilitating when we're left to face it alone. I'm deeply grateful for the current state of my mental health, and would like make good use of the time I've got, so I've come up with a few reminders for the hectic holiday months to come...
First thing's first: Productivity is going to look different right now, and that's okay.
Let me just start by saying that you are doing just fine.
And beyond that, the world is not going to end if you give yourself a break. I promise you, the Earth will continue to rotate within a blanket of sky and stars if you allow yourself ten minutes to take a shower and/or eat a donut. If I'm wrong, you will earn yourself an irrefutable “I told you so,” but until then, you're just gonna have to take my word for it.
When your brain enters the anxiety trenches, you may start to convince yourself that you aren't doing “enough” even when you are literally accomplishing everything in front of you. As if “enough” is only measured by the amount of energy you're putting into everything outside yourself. I've got news for you, if you aren't tending to yourself, nothing you put out into the world will be as authentic and pure as I know you'd want it to be. So, stop what you're doing right this second and take a real, full, deep breath. (Not to alarm you or anything, but your world WILL end if you continue holding your breath like you probably were three seconds ago.)
Oh, and another thing, you have GOT to stop comparing your level of productivity to someone else's. Especially when that someone is on a completely different wavelength.
Your progress isn't any less significant, just because you aren't producing as much as the next guy.
The next guy's a workaholic who only gets two hours of sleep and pours eight shots of espresso into his Froot Loops every morning. You don't need to be that guy, okay?
You're doing the best that YOU can, and that's all that matters.
If getting out of bed was a challenge for you today, but you did so anyway—guess what? I'm proud of you, because that means you won.
Of course, you should never stop working toward your goals, but you should also never allow that drive to lead you off an emotional cliff. I have no doubt your goals are going to continue biting the dust, even if they take a little bit longer to complete, because you are no quitter. Given an adequate amount of time and effort, you can do absolutely anything you put your mind to. For now, let's point your mind in the direction of self care.
Second: Your feelings are valid, and they need no explanation.
Verbally expressing your emotions can be a challenge in and of itself—especially in the midst of anxiety. So, when those floodgates do open, I completely understand the compulsion to try and manipulate the flow of the rapids. You may want to explain what and why and how, because you're afraid your thoughts and feelings will be misconstrued, like they have been in the past.
I feel you. I really do. But believe me when I say, anyone worth expressing your concerns to is probably already aware of the rocks in your river. And while we're at it, it is not your responsibility to throw a life-raft toward every moron who refuses to learn how to swim. Why should you have to drown yourself to fulfill the life of an anchor, when you're a mermaid who just needs a few winding rapids to guide her back to the ocean?
I'll keep this one short and sweet: You do not need someone else to validate your feelings and assure you that they are rightfully placed.
They are. No matter what they are, they are.
So, feel what you're feeling, go with the flow—and because no water metaphor would be complete without it—just keep swimming.
Third: Courage is not measured by the fear itself, but by your willingness to face it.
I'm just gonna come right out and say that nothing you fear is too small to matter. We've already established that your feelings are valid, and that includes this one.
Anxiety is strange, because it can transform the most mundane tasks into a living nightmare. But just because the rest of the world considers them mundane—and therefore “not terrifying”—doesn't mean you are any less courageous for facing them head on. No matter how hard anyone tries to conform your thoughts, they cannot define your reality.
I got my driver's license and bought my first car at the age of 21, after a lifetime of being riddled with the crippling fear of driving. I was so proud of myself for accomplishing something I'd previously considered an impossibility... But, for a while, I felt too ashamed to celebrate that win, because it's a win every “normal person” experiences a lot sooner in life... At some point, I finally asked myself two of life's most important questions:
1. What is normal? And 2. Who cares?
Overcoming something—no matter how big or small—is a feat to be celebrated. Continue to battle your demons with the flaming sword of courage, and be proud of the progress you've made.
Fourth: It is all in your head, but that doesn't mean you're imagining it.
This is good news.
It means that, while everything you're experiencing is the result of your own mind—and can ultimately be reversed—you are not crazy.
Repeat after me: I am not crazy.
Pay no mind to those who insist there's “no reason” for you to be anxious. The reason exists—it's as real as the bones beneath your skin; as real as the bitter after-taste of this morning's coffee; as real as the crisp, cream pages of your favorite novel.
Your anxiety is not imaginary; it is just invisible.
You know what else is invisible to the eye? Courage. Remember that thing? It exists in a part of your mind that only you can access.
The beauty of mental inhibition is the fact that, while it's entirely subjective and confusing, it is also entirely yours. It belongs to you; it does not happen to you. You get to decide whether to feed the anxiety or to overcome it. No one else gets to reap the reward of looking the phantom of your psyche in the eye and telling it to sit down and shut up.
That, my friend, is what real power looks like.
I know you're afraid you don't know how—but you'll figure it out, because I did.
Last, but not least: I know it's horrible now, but you know it won't be forever.
You've been here before. This means you're going to have to bite the bullet—and chomp down hard—to barrel through this moment of stress and return to your badass self.
Think back to the last time you had a cold or the flu. Perhaps at one point you forgot what it was like to breathe, and started to wonder if you ever would again. After one, maybe two weeks of resting beneath the foot of an elephant and coughing up a car's engine, your lungs expanded and a natural, steady breath eventually returned to them.
In other words: You healed.
A mental flu is no different. Even though it feels like you swallowed a gallon of lighter fluid and coughed up a flame in the same second, you are not going to spontaneously burst into flames. I promise. This moment of shallow breath and aching limbs is just that—a moment. A mere speck of sand in your hourglass. All you can do now is cough up that emotional phlem and wash your hands of its germs, because you've got a life to live, and you can't allow a total meltdown to overstay its welcome and cramp your style.
With the proper care, your mind will heal just as your body did.
1) School is almost back in session, which means it is nearly time to make the transition from summer to fall. We have updated our schedule for the fall months, so keep your eyes peeled and your mind open to the endless possibilities of your practice.
2) One of our newest teachers, and brightest yogis, Jessica Cenotti, has brought her vision to life and made some special goodies for all of your self care needs. Packed with nourishing essential oils, and wrapped in quality packaging, all of her Witch Doctor products can be found in the studio, with sample-goodies available for testing.
Stay up to date on our Mountain Yoga Studio Facebook Page for more information, or drop by the studio for a chat! Your mental and physical health are our top priority. Come hop on your mat to rediscover your light.