We have all experienced anxiety at some point in life, some more than others. It can be a debilitating condition that creates stress and affects us in many ways; in our ability to relate, to work effectively and to be in the world in a confident and calm way. I know the times in the past when I have experienced anxiety I have felt overwhelmed and powerless, unable to feel clear or be at ease with myself.
I recall experiencing panic attacks and anxiety so badly at times that I felt I would be unable to leave home for fear of not being able to handle the situations or people that I would run into. I felt totally immobilised and would start to get hot sweats, feeling like I couldn’t function properly if I saw anyone I knew, and if I did speak with them my face would go bright red making me feel even more anxious, compounding the stress I was already feeling.
Up until this point I had only experienced mild panic attacks that were short-lived but my desire to do something thrilling for my birthday ended up triggering panic attacks and anxiety that would go on for months. I had decided to do a tandem skydive for my birthday. When it came time to jump from 14,000 feet I was incredibly scared but was encouraged to jump with my skydiver, and suddenly this didn’t feel like fun at all. I finally made it to the ground and breathed a sigh of relief knowing that I now had my feet firmly planted and was still alive.
The experience was one I would never do again, as I didn’t enjoy it one bit and nearly fainted whilst in free-fall. It probably only lasted a minute or two but felt like much longer because of the distress and discomfort I was feeling in my body.
What happened in my life for the next few months was possibly harder for me to deal with than the skydive itself. I suddenly developed frequent panic attacks and the thought of leaving the house and doing my grocery shopping etc. seemed all too hard. There was a sense of hopelessness and I would fear being embarrassed whilst I was out in public. I am naturally a warm, friendly and open person so this was quite noticeably different from my usual behaviour and initially I felt totally incapable of dealing with it as I had lost any confidence in myself and was always fearing the worst.
I became a hermit for a short while, only venturing out when I needed to, as I felt ill-equipped to deal with what may happen unexpectedly to me. I created a wall of protection for myself so that I didn’t feel hurt in any way, but this wall ended up feeling more exhausting and didn’t help me to face what was truly going on. I still needed to go to work, which was probably a good thing as it got me out of the house and I noticed when I was committed to my work the anxiety didn’t seem to exist as much because my focus was on others rather than on myself. While getting ready for work I would convince myself that I would be fine, that there was a part of me that could trust myself and know I would be ok as I had lived without this anxiety ruling me for many years, therefore this anxiety wasn’t who I was and it didn’t need to control me and my life.
What supported me greatly was to take the time to check in with my body and to notice if there were any pictures or ideals about how my day should play out – as this was adding to the anxious thoughts. By focussing on my breath I was able to stay more connected to my body and to stop any stories that started circulating around in my head, for if I disconnected from my body the anxious thoughts were able to flood in.
Over time I could feel how staying with my breath supported me to feel a steadiness in my body; I was now beginning to trust myself more and felt a growing confidence within, which gave me a better understanding and acceptance of myself rather than being hard and beating myself up if I felt anxious in front of others. No matter what happened I would have my back and not give up and if I did not apply this then the anxiety would further increase.
Slowly I was beginning to unravel this anxiety that I felt used to own me and now I was taking back control of my life; I had learnt to be more loving with myself and to talk to myself in a more tender and respectful way, as I would to a young child. This has been valuable in building a relationship with myself and my body.
From this experience I can understand how anxiety and panic attacks can take a hold when we begin to perceive that this is who we think we are. I have come to a better understanding of how key it is to stay connected with our body so we are aware of any anxious feelings, not letting them take us away from this connection and not allowing the mind to take over with any crazy thoughts.
I now experience only mild anxiety at times, and it is with learning to stay more present with myself that I have built this inner confidence that has allowed me to feel I can handle these anxious thoughts and not let them take me over anymore. Learning to become more consistent and steady in my life has given me a solid foundation that has supported me throughout very challenging and difficult times. This has been a gradual process, assisted by learning about some very simple and powerful techniques through attending Universal Medicine presentations where I was introduced to the powerful Gentle Breath Meditation™, a practical and simple meditation that has supported me to feel more steady and present in my body – especially during the times when I feel anxious or stressed in any way.
By Anna Douglass, International Flight Attendant, Mother, dedicated student of the Ageless Wisdom, Australia