Diary of an Anxious Human
What My Anxiety Feels Like and How Practicing Calm Helps
I just dragged myself out of what I’ve come to identify as an anxiety attack. Then felt the urge to share what that felt like and the process I went through to feel better... So hear we go.
Upon observation from the outside, nothing has changed. My body is present, looking how it always looks. All the noise is happening inside my head while the room remains still around me. Physical sensations present themselves: tightening of the chest, breathing high up in the lungs at a quicker pace, a sinking feeling in the heart. Thoughts are scattered and somehow hyper-focused at the same time. Everything just feels terrible and I get the sense that the terrible feeling will never end.
This is where all that practice I put into healing myself with meditation and mindfulness come into play. For me, meditation means practicing calm. Getting quiet enough in the body and mind that I can hear my true voice whispering, guiding me in right direction. Even to me this sounds like way too much work. And a lot of the time I slack off and neglect my practice. But just knowing that that voice IS accessible is what allows me to help myself out when it feels like I might drown in my own anxious state.
So, because my body is practiced, it eventually remembers to take a deep breath. It remembers that taking a deep inhale, and a deep exhale, feels way better than tiny short breaths. Then, just like when I practice, my focus begins to narrow in on observing the sensation of breathing. Noticing the calming effects of allowing enough oxygen to get into my body.
Naturally, my body begins to relax. But it’s not over yet. Now that the body has relaxed and become a little more grounded, there’s more space in my mind and I begin silently asking the abyss, “What was that about? Is there something wrong with me? Why do I feel so terrible? What am I feeling?”
It’s not an easy feat, but it’s getting to that last question: “What am I feeling?”, that eventually leads me out of my spiral of thoughts. I remember that no, there’s nothing wrong with me, and begin trying to identify the emotion.
This is what I’ve been training for. Hours spent sitting or laying down, practicing calm, quieting down and listening. I’ve learned that whatever emotion it starts out as, it usually boils down to fear. And when I land on that, my mind tries to then ask the question “What am I afraid of?”. I’ve learned that it’s best not to indulge the mind in attempting to answer that. It's not so much the WHY behind the feeling that matters, but the allowing myself to feel it.
It’s enough that I’ve identified the feeling. I acknowledge it's presence without judgment (It's OK to feel afraid!)… Take another deep breath, and realize that I’m starting to feel better.
I thank my body for working so hard for me and delivering signals to me as best it can. I thank my past self for putting in the work and being strong for me. I promise my future self to keep doing my best and keep showing up for myself... And I go on with my day.
May is Mental Health Month. I’m grateful that my path has led me to a place where I feel safe sharing my experience. It took work, but eventually I internalized the fact that I need to practice being kind to myself because I’m not great at it. It took me years of treating myself poorly and having the same lessons thrown at me over and over to begin to figure it out. It is never too late to start giving yourself time and space to listen, and to begin to heal.
While I believe in the importance of practicing methods of self care, I also recognize how healing it can be to talk to another trusted human and let them help you with kindness and compassion too. Sometimes I think the statement “You are not alone” sounds cliche or played out, but it is actually just a simple fact. You’re a human, like everyone else. And there’s no getting away from each other in this world. So just be kind- to eachother and to yourself.
Curious about meditation? When I got started it was by listening to guided meditations in yoga classes and online. Carve out some time and space for yourself and try out my guided meditation in the video above. It focuses on tuning into your breath as a way to calm the mind.
Thanks for reading. Peace.