I think when most people think of anxiety, they think of anxiety attacks. For me, anxiety is my constant state of being. I am by nature a very anxious person and I always have been, but there have been points in my life when my anxiety has reach unhealthy levels.
A few years ago I went to a doctor, thinking that I needed medication for what was wrong with me. Instead, she took a long look at me and calmly asked me questions. Rather than taking pills, she prescribed some lifestyle changes that she wanted me to try first. Needless to say, I never went on the medication and these lifestyle changes made a huge impact on my life. I wanted to share them with you today in case they might help you too.
My first life change happened slightly before I went to the doctor… I started taking “warm yoga” classes at CorePower Yoga. I loved the classes and even though yoga is supposed to be super relaxing, it was enough of a challenge that I pushed myself harder every week. But yoga also taught me to be gentle with myself too. Teachers will usually say “You did the hardest part. You made it to your mat.” They ask you to set an intention at the start of each class, anything of your choosing. Breathe, Calm, Presence are all “yoga-like” intentions that I’ve done, but I’ve also dedicated my practice to work, to my family and even to my cat. Though I probably don’t look it, I’m insanely strong from the classes and I leave feeling weightless. When you spend an hour focusing on not falling, not sweating on your neighbor and trying to breathe… your mind just tunes out everything else in the world. It’s an amazing feeling.
My second change happened when my doctor looked at me like I was a crazy person when I told her how many cups of coffee I drank a day. She suggested that I cold-turkey cut back to 1 cup a day and to really savor that one cup. Coffee is apparently really, really bad for people with anxiety. I still abhor tea, but I do my best to savor my one (large) cup of coffee every morning. I’ve even created a little morning coffee ritual with my tea kettle and Chemex. It’s time just for me in the day.
My third change was something I laughed at… at first. My doctor recommended that I meditate. I’d tried meditating once before and found myself pondering the premise of the M Night Shamalan movie, The Happening. Needless to say, I felt like an epic failure at it. She encouraged me to try guided meditations, and pointed me toward a site that “wasn’t cheesy”. I figured I’d try my first one that night, and I passed out. I become so incredibly relaxed when I meditate that I almost always fall asleep. It’s so powerful for me that I still don’t try myself to practice meditation at any time that wouldn’t be appropriate for a nap!
I use: Calm.com, Headspace and free UCLA guided meditations.
My fourth change was when the doctor asked me if I felt stressed at work. After a resounding YES, she recommended that I focus on my breathing while I’m working by joining a breathing room. Basically if I’m having a stressful day, I just put on my headphones and go to a website. I click a button and I hear people breathing slowly and steadily. You can help but join them and slow your breathing too!