May 22, 2018
In 2006 I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. The diagnosis followed years of not knowing the reason behind my feelings of inner tension, which often led to physical symptoms (increased heart rate, eczema, shortness of breath and insomnia). On the outside I appeared calm and relaxed, whilst on the inside a tidal wave was erupting. I saw my General Practitioner who prescribed a ‘mild anti-depressant’, and provided me with the name of a local psychologist. After exhausting natural alternatives such as naturopathy, I felt desperate to find an answer and regular deep sleep. The prescribed drugs worked instantly, and I slept for at least twelve hours each night plus periodically throughout the day. Very quickly I became emotionally disconnected to everything and everyone. I perceived life through the eyes of a zombie, feeling mentally and emotionally mute. Naturally a sentimental person who expressed emotions freely, my emotions were in lock down. I made a booking with the local psychologist. During this time, I was thirty-one years of age and unmarried. The psychologist enquired as to why I was unmarried, as though this had some bearing on my anxiousness. She suggested I become more committed to my partner, get married and have children, indicating this assurance may settle my anxiety. She told me it was genetic, and I was unfortunately stuck with this affliction.
My upbringing was fortunate, my parents loved me and educated me well. However, my mum and grandma had suffered anxiety at various stages in their lives too. My parents squabbled as I was developing and I have recollections of feeling anxious when they argued. It is still in my nature to enjoy peace, love and balance and I recall being calm and happy as a child – I was certain anxiety was not my natural state. The psychologist overlooked this self-awareness and put it down to genetics. She watched the clock during two separate appointments, as she became irritated with my shortcomings. After both sessions I felt judged and misunderstood. Luckily, I ceased seeing the psychologist and moved forward. Certainly, there are excellent psychologists and I am not condemning this well-regarded field. It was merely my experience with one individual, who on reflection, encouraged me to seek other alternatives - namely ‘self-help’. Over a brief period, I persisted with anti-depressants and then decided to wean myself off them, with the guidance of my supportive doctor. The drugs were like the quick fix of applying a band aid however the healing beneath never took place, it only worsened. Soon after my anxiety returned and was gripping me within. A fear reaction presented as any new situation bestowed upon me. On one occasion I arranged to meet a friend for lunch the next day, and to be awake up all night and anxious about meeting her was the biggest nudge I needed – to heal myself.
I commenced reading self-help books, watching films and listening to audios, regarding mindfulness and self-love. ‘You Can Heal Your Life’, by Louise Hay was a great resource for me. I listened to and documented my self-talk, and noticed how I was criticising and belittling myself. I recognised I had become my own enemy, by comparing myself to others along with negative self-talk. Over time I learnt various techniques to calm myself naturally. Discovering my own authentic power was the answer to healing myself. I ceased handing my power over to other people, rather, to connect to my own heart and ask it for answers, then trust the answers as they arose. I discovered when I followed my heart, I felt in control. I stopped being a victim, worrying what others thought and realised I had the power to erase all the unhelpful thoughts, and upgrade them to what was true. I created affirmations reflecting my positive individual attributes, along with other affirmations stating calmness as my natural state.
Another helpful tool I learnt during this time was a meditation practise called, ‘mindful breathing’. The benefits were life changing and I am pleased to share it with you...
Mindful Breathing Process
1. Get comfortable.
Find a relaxed and comfortable position - seated or laying down.
2. Notice and relax your body.
Become aware of each body part – starting at your feet and working up to your neck and head. Allow yourself to relax and breathe naturally.
3. Become aware of your breathing.
Feel and watch your breath – in and out. Allow your breath to be natural, although gently deepen your breath by observing the rise and fall of your abdomen. This will naturally deepen and slow down your breathing.
4. Breathe into your heart.
Now commence breathing in and out of your heart (heart-focused breathing). I learnt this part of the exercise from the ‘HeartMath Institute’ when my anxiety reached an unbearable level. It became the key to slowing down my racing heart during an anxiety attack.
5. Continue for five minutes.
You may find your mind wanders - return to your breath and
allow your thoughts to come and go.
6. Observe and acknowledge the change in how you feel.
Benefits of Deep Breathing
- Increases oxygen to the body and brain
- You will use less energy by deep breathing than shallow breathing
- Removes toxins from your lungs
- A healthier respiratory system
- Calms your mind
- Boosts your immune system
- Clears your mind
- Can stop the onset of an anxiety attack
I like to practise some form of meditation each day, and even five minutes when I am busy provides me with huge benefits. In addition to the above meditation, I also utilise meditation apps -‘Headspace’ and ‘Calm’. There are basic free options along with subscriptions offering more detailed programmes. I can access short meditations when I am busy and on the go.
Benefits of Meditation
- Creates inner peace and calm
- Clears the mind and promotes clarity
- Encourages a rational mind and thinking
- Present living
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases immunity
- Decreases tension
- Increases energy levels
- Boosts memory
My daily practise is the main tool to maintaining peace within myself – it is my best friend. Meditation is vital in my life, as it assists me to cease worrying about things I cannot control. A state of meditation can also be achieved through exercise, or practising an activity that puts your mind in the zone - the mental space where the mind switches off completely and a heart connection is possible. Some find this mental state is achieved when running, dancing or brisk walking. Hobbies such as painting, woodwork, writing, reading or knitting can initiate feelings of inner peace. It is beneficial to note the activities which put your mind in the zone, and to practise them often. Once a peaceful mindset is adopted, the lens we view life through may alter, allowing us to look at life with more clarity, and to function from an authentic state. Authentic functioning is a magnet to authentic experiences and relationships – experiences our hearts truly desire.
How has meditation changed your life? Let me know in the comments below.