Anxiety and the art of zen

Okay, so, anxiety talk. I’ve been dealing with anxiety for almost four years now, basically since my Mom died. In the beginning, I had full-on panic attacks as well, but having spent some time in therapy, I managed to get at least those more or less under control.

However, every now and then, my anxiety kicks in and makes it hard for me to function properly, which is happening right now. I can’t get almost any peace, I am nervous and jumpy, I have that terrible, terrible feeling in my stomach, the anxious feeling, the mixture of nausea, anticipation, dread, and trembling. My thoughts are scrambled, I can’t focus. I can honestly say, it’s pretty crappy to feel like that.

While I was seeing my therapist, one of the things she recommended for me to start doing is to meditate or do yoga, or both, to make my body calm in order to calm the mind. And so I started discovering that whole world, the world of mindfulness, calm, noticing your thoughts and being able to separate them from reality. And that way I started getting the panic attacks and anxiety under control.

If you follow me, you might know that I spent this year in France on my masters. And you might have noticed that I have been under some stress lately. Though being abroad is amazing and enriching and life changing, it is also stressful and all-consuming. I was so busy that most of the time I didn’t have enough time to think about anxiety or work on it. So when I came home for a little bit and anxiety hit me over many different reasons, I was unable to fight it back properly. I let myself go into the whirl of insane, not-reality-based thoughts and I wasn’t able (and I’m still not able) to get out of it.

The reason I’m writing about it is because I’ve learnt that keeping it inside me is never a good idea. When thoughts are so scrambled, keeping them in our heads makes it only harder to deal with them. Getting them out, putting them in order can help, because they lose their power; they’re not just abstract concepts that I am afraid of, but simply thoughts that I can at least consciously say aren’t based in reality.

So, as I spent a lot of time with my cat, I started observing her and noticing some things, silly as that may sound. Cats (and basically all animals in general) are great zen masters. They always live in the moment, they look so unconcerned by anything, I like to imagine that their purring is basically like meditation, and they know how to enjoy. One thing at a time. Being fully present in that moment.

I was inspired by, pardon my French, the amount of fucks my cat gives about stuff, which is zero, and I wanted to get to that state of mind, liberated from my obsessive thoughts. Since I love stories and storytelling, I had an idea – what if, while I’m doing things, I start narrating them in my head? I was getting so anxious that I needed something, anything to make me feel a bit better. So, while I’m not with other people or really immersed in something, why not make myself more present by noticing what surrounds me in the given moment and telling it as a story?

The nature of anxious thoughts is that they are invasive and persistent. Still, my narration of what I was doing worked its magic somehow; it kept them at bay and, as soon as I was able to focus on something, anxiety started leaving me as well. And I even started making jokes and laughing at myself.

If you’re dealing with anxiety, you know how terrible it is. You know how hard it is to resist it and fight against it sometimes. I can’t tell you a recipe that will make the anxiety disappear, but the next time you feel anxious, try being playful, try being mindful, if you don’t like narrating your life like I did, you can try to be present and immersed in what you’re doing at the moment. Anything that can help is worth trying.

And if nothing works, you can always go and watch funny animal videos on YouTube. After all, laughter, especially if combined with cuteness, is the best cure for many things.

 

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