Questioning Can Ease Anxiety

It is no surprise that I have issues with anxiety. Sometimes it pops up in my body for no logical reason, at at least nothing I can put my finger on. It can make my heart pound and make me feel like the sky is falling, when in fact nothing of notice has happened around me.  Other times, I know why I am anxious but still feel powerless on managing it.  I call this ‘reasonable’ anxiety as they are times when I have to go somewhere new, or meet with people or do something I am not confident about. All these things can make my stomach churn and my head hurt.  I call them reasonable because pretty much anyone I have ever talked to will say that these things cause some degree of anxiety, it’s a normal response. However the degree to which these are felt in our bodies can vary greatly and for someone like me, they can be overwhelming.  Sometimes my body is just letting me know that it is not something I  want to be doing and therefore I may choose not to. However, when it is something I actually want or simply really need to do, there is a very simple solution (simple does not mean easy) and it has to do with asking questions and getting answers.

For example, I have enjoyed yoga classes since I was a teenager. I used to sign up for classes wherever I lived and whenever my budget allowed. However, I had not been to a class for the last 5 years until very recently. I had told myself it was because I could practice it at home, I didn’t need a class, they are expensive etc.  But deep down I knew that I would enjoy a class if I could just find the right one, but just that thought stressed me out.  So I took baby steps. I first thought about what it was about classes that I liked, which ones I had liked most and what was it that they had in common?   Then I went looking online for places near me that seemed to match with my ideal. There were a few, but one stood out as I had met the owner at other events in the past. She seemed friendly and approachable (things that are important to me as a yoga teacher) so I emailed her. I decided to tell her straight away that I was anxious about starting a new class and that in order to make me feel more comfortable I had some questions. Things like where do I park? Where/when do we go in? What do I need to bring? Simple stuff really,  but things that would ease my mind and help get me out the door on the first day.  She promptly replied in detail so I had a good picture of what to expect.  There was no tone of ‘why the heck are you asking me these silly questions?’ as I had imagined. So I immediately signed up.

On the first day, I arrived incredibly early (not knowing exactly how long the drive would take me) and I went to the wrong door (the studio is part of her home). Again, she didn’t laugh or make a big deal, and I didn’t freak out.  I felt confident that she was not out to judge or ridicule me, which now that I look back was the main question I was indirectly asking in my first email.  It is important for me to feel that if I am going to spend time and energy on doing something new, I need to feel safe.  So although I was reasonably anxious that first day, it was a normal response to the situation and I was able to enjoy the class.

Had I not asked the questions, and she not so graciously answered them, I would not likely have shown up at all.  Now I go twice a week and feel like I’ve expanded my circle just a little bit wider (which is a current goal of mine).   So now, whenever possible, I am asking more questions (to myself and others) and I am happy to report it really can help ease anxiety.

*In case you are in the east end of Ottawa Ontario and looking for a great yoga studio,  I recommend connecting with Jackie Leduc  (and asking her your questions).

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‘Crazy’ Dreams Can Come True

Five years ago I had to take long-term leave from work and ended up on disability because I was suffering from major depression and anxiety. They had basically taken over most of my life without me really knowing what was happening. I could not get through a day without napping at least once. Taking a shower felt like running a marathon and even brushing my teeth was a chore that I dreaded. I never thought that this could happen to me. I was an optimistic person, had a loving family, took care of myself, did yoga, and was very committed to my job helping other military families.
Thankfully I had a doctor who saw the signs before I did and was able to help me find a good psychologist.  With their help, the right medication, and several months of recuperating,  I was eventually able to see things differently.  I thought that if this could happen to me, then maybe other ‘crazy’ things could happen too.
Once I started to feel better (ie. I could stay awake all day) I decided I was going to do things differently and try the things I always wanted to. I figured I had nothing to lose after feeling like I’d lost the respect of so many people around me with the loss of my career. My self-esteem was at an all-time low and yet I felt a new found freedom to do whatever I wanted. 
Ever since I was little, I wanted to be an artist. But when it came time to choose a major in university, fine arts seemed too risky. I didn’t want to be a ‘starving artist’ and I was afraid I wasn’t good enough to be successful. But after leaving work and having time on my hands,  I started to take art classes and eventually turned my dining room into my art studio. This in itself was huge for me. But yesterday I went one step further; I applied for my first juried art show. The other paintings that I saw blew me away and I was tempted to turn around and run home. But I stuck it out and even if I am not accepted into this show, I will keep trying.
The other dream that felt pretty crazy to me was that I took up horseback riding after not having been on a horse for almost 30 years. I took weekly lessons for over year riding the school horses, but I couldn’t help but think how awesome it would be to have our own horse for my daughter and I to share. This seemed really crazy to me (and a few people around me), but I focused on the fact that crazy things can happen. It was only a few months later that Red came into our lives. He had been well cared for but his owner was no longer able to ride him and she was happy to find him a loving new home.  Red is truly a dream come true.
I don’t want to imply that things are all rosy and whatever I dream up comes true. But really crazy things, things we think are impossible, may not always be.  Our mind wants to keep us safe and avoid disappointment, but unfortunately allowing ourselves to ‘think small’ will keep our lives small. So now my goal is to dream big and see what happens.
Do you dream big? I highly recommend trying it!