With the holidays approaching, I feel it’s imperative to discuss something we all tend to put on the back burner, especially around this time of year: mental health.
Shopping, cooking, going to your family’s house for dinner, having to engage with people you rarely converse with, possibly having to dodge a political debate with your ultra-conservative uncle (insert eye roll here)… All of these scenarios can trigger stress and anxiety.
So, let’s talk about something that can possibly help you prepare for these pulling-your-hair-out moments.
As someone who struggles with handling stress and anxiety, this ancient practice that helps a person achieve spiritual calmness and mental clarity has always been a suggested tool to utilize. Normally I feel whenever I try to actually sit down, close my eyes, take deep breaths, and focus on something other than the thoughts in my head, I end up falling asleep. Every. Single. Time. It’s ridiculous. So, when someone says to me, “I think you should try meditating,” I end up laughing. Sure. I’ll “meditate,” which obviously means I’ll just go take a nap, which isn’t bad, but also not the point.
In the last couple of months, though, I have become a believer.
Recently I began seeing a new therapist. (I speak openly and honestly about therapy because I believe mental health is just as important as physical health and I wish every person felt the same.) She is really awesome and has spoken a lot about holistic methods she believes in, including meditation. I was desperate for relief from my anxious brain when I started seeing her, so I decided, what the hell? I’ll give it another shot.
I found a bunch of videos on YouTube with soothing music and a man or woman with a calm voice giving direction about breathing, finding your center, focusing on one particular thing in the room, or, my very favorite, your mind’s eye.
The first time I did it, I situated myself on the hardwood floor, flat on my back, put my earbuds in, and pressed play. I felt sort of stupid. I don’t know why. I was home and essentially by myself. My dog was there, and she thought at first that I was getting down there to play with her, so of course she wouldn’t leave me alone, but otherwise, there was no one there to “judge” me. After I listened to the first three minutes and had no idea what was going on, I centered myself again. I restarted the video and closed my eyes. I listened to the music, to the verbal cues, the sound of my own breathing.
And for the first time in months, I relaxed.
It was incredible.
I didn’t fall asleep.
I didn’t lose concentration.
I didn’t feel like an idiot.
I found my center, which before I always laughed about. People actually find their centers? That’s nuts!
No! It’s real. And I was so calm and clear and at peace for the rest of the day that I decided to keep trying it.
I’ll admit, I did lose steam and stopped doing it for about a week. But I got back on it just last week and again, it has helped so much. I don’t know if it’s because I work in a stressful environment, or that I’m a writer (I use that term loosely) and my brain is constantly working (also using that term loosely), but the five or ten minutes that I give myself to decompress and turn my brain off has been so wonderful.
I know a lot of people suffer from anxiety. If you read my first blog post, you’ll see that I didn’t even realize that what was going on with me was actually anxiety. So, dealing with it, finding a way for the anxiety to not be crippling, has been a real learning curve. Meditation has been so amazing for me. I’m not saying it will work for everyone, but if you haven’t tried it, or if you have and didn’t have success at first, try it (again) and see what you think. It’s a game changer on my end. Hopefully it can be the same on yours.
originally posted on women and words
Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your voice? I don’t mean that you have a cold or that you were screaming too loud at a concert the night before. I mean you are struggling to remember who you are, why you’re here, what your purpose is…
Yeah… um, me neither…
Who am I kidding? Of course I’ve felt that way! Probably more often than I’d like to admit!
It always hits me really hard when I remember that life is a process. Everything about it. Waking up and showering and getting ready every day to go to work – it’s a process. Learning about someone and falling in love with the person and getting your heart broken – it’s a process. Not liking yourself and figuring out that it’s only pushing people away and crawling back from that darkness – it’s all a process. And sometimes the process sucks! And other times the process helps in ways you hadn’t anticipated.
Recently something happened in my life, which is too long to actually describe here, but suffice it to say I finally came to terms with the fact that I have a pretty severe case of anxiety. In order to channel all of that emotion and negativity that anxiety births, I found journaling again.
One of my very favorite sounds in the whole world is the sound a journal makes when you crack it open for the very first time. I don’t know why, but it fills my body with excitement. Is it the promise of filling the pages with heartfelt words about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness? Maybe it’s the idea that no one else will ever read those words, so I know I can say whatever the hell I want? Or maybe it’s the smell of paper that has never touched anyone else’s hands? Whatever it is, I cannot get over the thrill of walking around a store, finding a perfect journal, taking it home, hearing that sound when I open it, and starting to write on its pages.
Over the years, though, I lost touch with journaling. It stopped being something that calmed me and, for some reason, started being this weird burden. I cannot pinpoint why exactly, but I feel like it had something to do with me losing touch with who I was as a person and as a writer.
I don’t know why or when or how, but I wandered into a bookstore one day and journeyed the stacks until I found the journal section. It was as if a siren was calling me. It was strange. I looked through them all and found myself particularly drawn to a bright yellow one with dotted paper and let me just tell you, the sound when I cracked that bad boy open was like coming home after not even realizing I was gone.
I started to write almost instantly. I sat down right in the store (after I purchased it, of course – I’m not a complete barbarian) and wrote and wrote and wrote. I couldn’t get the words out fast enough. I wrote about my feelings, my life, what I was going through, why it didn’t make sense, why I couldn’t find a way to get my head around what was happening… And it started to all make sense again.
Don’t get me wrong. Even after all of that writing, I still had no idea why I was feeling those feelings or why it was all happening… But knowing that I was at least acknowledging it made me feel so much better. Putting my feelings down on paper always helped. When I was growing up, or hell, even as an adult, if I wanted to talk to someone about something that meant a lot to me, I would always reach for a pad of paper, a pen, and I’d pour my heart onto the college ruled notebook paper, scribble out the mistakes, nibble on the end of the pen, read and reread what I wrote, and ultimately feel better. There was something about explaining myself with written words that grounded me.
After talking about journaling with a friend, she said to me, “I think you should try writing poetry.”
I laughed at her. Why? Why wasn’t writing in my journal enough? Even though I felt like my entries said the same thing over and over and over again.
“Try it out. You never know. It could be like journaling,” she said.
I told her that I had no idea how to write poetry. “Do I have to write in iambic pentameter?”
She laughed and laughed, then said, “It’s words and feelings… and we all know you have a lot of both.”
So, I did what she suggested and tried my hand at writing poetry. And I actually really enjoy it! I never thought I would say that, though. When I thought about poetry, I would think about iambic pentameter and rhyming words on alternating sentences and the way poetry was always so hard to read out loud in school in front of classmates. But as I wrote in my journal, I realized my heart and soul had so much more to say than the same entry over and over again about “why can’t I just figure myself out?”
My point to all of this is if you’re struggling or not sure how to channel anxiety or stress or depression or whatever, find something that you can pour your heart and soul into or onto. I guarantee harnessing that creativity will help you heal. I know it has helped me.
originally posted on women and words