Lean Into It

Imagine it is the start of a new day.  You throw off your covers and it is time to get dressed, get breakfast, and begin the day’s activities.  Imagine when you start to physically begin this process; you tense all of your muscles.  You want to avoid your day’s to do list so much you tighten your whole entire body.  Your head down to your toes are tensed as tight as they can be to resist what you have to do.  How would these activities look?  It would be painful.  It would take much longer.  You probably would not be able to put your clothes on or cook your breakfast fully. 

We all feel a little tension here and there but we rarely tense our whole entire body through day to day processes.  However, we often experience this same type of resistance within our minds.  Day to day stresses, anxieties, situations, emotions, and thoughts are more often than not met with struggle.  This resistance, leads to things such as denial, anger, fear, guilt, judgment, and hatred.

So what would we do in the case of the first example of physical resistance?  We would notice that our whole body is tense and tell ourselves to relax.  We would relax our bodies, for the most part, at least enough to move freely to perform our tasks.  In meditation practice, we do this same thing with the mind.  We practice noticing the mind and what it has to say to us.  We practice noticing what our body is telling us.  What our senses are telling us.  We practice noticing.  Just noticing.  Our whole experience at the very moment we practice. 

This is meditation. 

Meditation is not resisting, tensing, or running away from our reactions, our emotions, our experiences, or our thoughts.  Meditation is noticing, listening, and learning with them. Meditation is leaning into our experience. There is no right or wrong, good or bad here.  It is your practice of getting to know yourself.  When we do this, we train our mind, our heart, and our body to avoid resistance and just flow with our experiences.  Meditation does not take away our bad experiences.  Meditation does not magically provide us with all good experiences.  Meditation allows us to experience all experiences with full awareness and a clear understanding.   

I recently participated in an online meditation retreat with Pema Chödrön and Tim Olmstead.  If you are not familiar, Pema Chödrön is a Buddhist nun whose mission is to bring Eastern teachings/practices to people in a Western way of understanding.  She is devoted to providing teaching to those that may not otherwise have access to it or those that may not have access to an individual mentor.  Tim teaches with Pema and runs her foundation.  Please check out her foundation and teachings: https://pemachodronfoundation.org/

Pema and Tim built their recent retreat around this principle of avoiding resistance and leaning into your experiences.  When we settle into what it is we are going through, good or bad, we are able to experience it with more clarity, peace, and understanding.  Future situations are met with ease.  We lessen the panic response that we so often have with situations (that mind resistance I discussed earlier) and we can take on our lives in control.  There are so many things, now more than ever, that we cannot control.  What we can control is our inward and outward reactions. 

This might sound challenging.  Meditation is challenging.  When we want our bodies to be fit and strong, we do demanding high intensity cardio, lift weights, go on long walks, and tackle intense toning routines.  These workouts may be fun, but we sweat, sometimes we cry, we get sore, and we become out of breath.  Overtime, though, we start to notice that we can lift things with greater ease or climb stairs without losing our breath.  We begin to notice and feel the benefit of our practice. 

When we practice and train our minds, it might feel rough.  We might feel distracted, frustrated, and confused.  However, this practice of sitting in awareness and turning inward will overtime produce tangible results.  You may notice you will have less anger in response to others or a greater empathy for individuals you do not agree with.  You may begin to go through your day slower with more intention and mindfulness.  You may react to news stories or scary situations with increased strength. 

I want to share a practice taught by Pema and Tim.  This practice is called calm abiding.  This is a practice of just becoming aware.  It is a simple practice but it can be challenging, like a physical workout.  Calm abiding is a practice of resting awareness.  It is just noticing, experiencing, and avoiding resistance.  Let’s practice.

Find a comfortable place to sit. 

Begin by fully relaxing your body.  You can do a quick body scan here, noticing any areas of tension here and invite them to release.  Deepen your breath breathing deep into your belly and intentionally exhaling.  Letting go. 

You can close your eyes but you might try leaving them open if that feels comfortable to you.

Bring awareness to your body.  You might pick one hand or foot and bring fool awareness to this part of you.  What does the air feel like around it?  What does your skin feel like?  Is it hot or cold?  Is it dry or soft?  Just notice.

Imagine that awareness flowing through your whole body to where you are now fully aware of yourself. 

Just sit and notice here.  Remember to breathe.

When a thought or distraction appears, just notice that.  Notice it and do nothing more than that.  You do not need to follow this thought; you do not have any task that you need to do.  Let the thought drift away, this can be visualized in a way that aligns with you.  Perhaps imagine the thought drifting away on a cloud or blowing away with the wind. 

Return to just noticing.  Just be aware.  Lean into it.

It might help to notice one thing.  You can just focus on awareness of your breath, what you hear, what you see, what you smell, or perhaps one object in front of you.  If you use a focus to help you, return from thoughts or distractions back to this focus. 

Rest here.  For however long you need.  One minute is practicing.  Thirty minutes is practicing.  Any amount of practice will be of benefit in the long run. 

Return your focus to complete relaxation.  Enjoy. 

When you are ready, return to your space, return to your day. 

May you find a time and place to practice calm abiding. May you practice often.  May you be free of self-judgment.  Any meditation practice you do, is a beautiful practice just for you.  May you find that when you walk with your experiences instead of resisting them, you find a peace and strength to carry through your every day. 

May you fill your heart with gratitude for this practice that is all for you. 

Anxiety for Meditation: Part 8-Find Your Light and Shine

***This post will wrap up the anxiety series. Thank you so much to my guests, Tori and Caroline! Thank you to all the readers. I enjoyed sharing this series with all of you. It provided healing for me, I hope you found comfort in it as well!***

To wrap up my anxiety series, I did want to spread awareness on panic disorder and phobias.  I think, like with other anxiety disorders/experiences highlighted in the series, these experiences aren’t well understood.  To begin, phobia related disorders are characterized by an intense fear to something or certain situations.  This may range from a general phobia to something very specific, such as a fear of heights.  These fears are so intense that individuals will avoid the thing or situation and may experience intense anxiety at the thought of encountering it.  These situations, to someone without the phobia, are not threatening. However, to the individual with the phobia, the fear and imminent danger feels very real and distressing.  Agoraphobia is a phobia related disorder that people may associate with a fear of open spaces.  Additionally, agoraphobia can involve fear of being in enclosed spaces, being in public or crowds, using public transportation, and being alone. 

Panic disorder is characterized by recurring panic attacks in which the individual will experience sudden, unexpected, and intense fear.  Individuals that experience this disorder or panic attacks in general, may also develop anxiety related to anticipation or fear of experiencing another panic attack.  Symptoms of a panic attack often involve several physical effects including, but not limited to, heart palpitations, rapid or pounding heart rate, sweating, extreme hot or cold, intense fear or sense of imminent doom, feeling loss of control, shaking, and shortness of breath.  Experiencing a panic attack myself and watching loved ones experience one, it is extremely scary and heartbreaking.  It can be immobilizing and is often exhausting.  A person that experiences panic may feel extreme fatigue or exhaustion following a panic attack for hours to even days. 

Finally, social anxiety is characterized by an intense fear of social situations. Anxiety is centered around their behavior and how other’s will react or perceive them.  This may be specific to social situations such as a party, performance situations, or specific environments such as work or school.  This may also be a general anxiety of being watched or judged by others.  Often individuals experiencing social anxiety will avoid certain situations or have extreme distress following being in one of these situations.  Additionally, these individuals may avoid initiating socialization or become extremely distressed when they are called on or feel like they are the center of attention.  Calling people on the phone, answering or asking questions in school, ordering at a restaurant, dating, using public restrooms, eating or drinking in front of others, and presenting a presentation are just some examples of anxiety producing situations. 

With all of the anxiety disorders discussed in this series, symptoms may not “look” like what one might think anxiety would “look like.”  Situations or environments that seem simple and easy to most, are extremely terrifying with certain anxieties.  Anxiety experiencers often avoid and hide from their anxiety as well as avoid and hide from others around them, even their loved ones.  It is common to feel lonely, misunderstood, and like a burden to others.  We often have our fears but also a fear of what others will think of our fear.  We become experts at centering our day around avoiding what we fear and when something or someone changes the plan, it can be very distressing.  We often feel ashamed or like we have failed which creates a deeper sense of isolation and loneliness.  We often hold good jobs, respected positions, and meet goals and success in our lives.  However, behind it all, we fight each day to avoid letting the anxiety peak through.  We avoid telling people our feelings and our experiences to avoid judgement, improper treatment, or loss of jobs or relationships.  We feel like no one else can possibly understand.  We feel and experience things that are so real, yet we feel like if we share these things we will not be validated, supported, or taken seriously. 

However, we stand tall and keep pushing forward.  Anxiety is not a failure, not a weakness, not a thing to judge, not a thing we can turn off and on.  It is not fake.  It is not an excuse.  It is not something that we are or something that we can or can’t be.  It is something we experience.  It is something we can manage.  It is something that makes us stronger, even though it may not feel like it.  We are strong, we are worthy, we are us.  Beautiful, wonderful us.  And WE. ARE. LOVED.  

During this anxiety series and the past 6 months in general, the anxiety I experience has reached all new highs.  I have found myself confronted with situations that felt so real, embarrassing, confusing, and lonely.  I have felt so…..lonely.  However, I have found peace and comfort and the strength to manage my experience each day.  I am not healed but I am healing.  Some days I feel like a new person, ready to shine.  Some days I feel like I just need to hide under the covers.  And this is ok.  Because each day I try to mindfully learn what my mind, my body, and what my heart tell me. 

I have found that meditation and the breath are so healing.  They ground me and give me a place to focus my mind when it becomes pulled by anxiety.  I have found that writing and sharing with my readers is empowering and hopefully brings empowerment to others.  I have found yoga and learning about my body has given me strength and understanding I never knew I had.  I have found that community, even virtually, has been a rock I can lean on.  I have met beautiful women from a few miles away to across the country.  Women that feel me, hear me, understand me.  I have noticed little moments with my friends, my family, my peers.  A joke, a laugh, a smile.  I have really mindfully felt those moments.  I have found that nature is medicine.  Food is medicine.  Water is medicine.  I have learned that spiritual connection, mental connection, and physical connection are powerful, to say the least. I have learned that so many others experience what I do.  Our stories might be different, but our paths align.  I have found that I really am never alone.  I have learned not to hide, but to share. To speak. To be me. All of those around me, love me, for me. Speaking and sharing helps me heal. I am so blessed to have a community that listens and stands beside me. I really am beautiful.  I really am a light to others around me. 

May you find what brings you healing.  May you be a voice for you.  May you always remember to take care of you and your heart.  For your heart is ready to shine onto all of those around you.  Anxiety is not you.  You are not anxiety.  You are amazing.  Trust me. May you find YOUR light and SHINE!

Meditation
Find a cozy place to sit and rest.  You deserve it.

Find your breath.  Inhale deeply into the belly with full awareness.  Feel the breath massage your nostrils, massage your lungs, massage your belly.  Feel its warmth letting it fill you with clarity. 

Exhale with slow mindful intention clearing your body and your mind of what does not serve you now.  In. This. Moment.

Set an intention.  Think of something you want or wish to see.  Phrase it and say it to yourself as if it has already occurred.  For instance “I am a shining light to all those that know me.” 

Say it three times. 

Write this down.  Revisit this intention and this wish for you whenever you need, remembering to say it as if it has already happened. 

Rest here. 

Just be.  It is ok to just be.

When wandering thoughts arise, imagine a bubble (the kind you blow with a bubble wand) swallows the thought up.  Now pop that bubble letting the thought pop away.

Breathe.  Deep into your belly.  Exhale fully. 

Those bubbles may float in, just know that they are there and pop them. 

Breathe.  Notice.  Right now.  In this moment.  You are safe and as one of my sweet yoga teachers, Jessica, reminds me, “all is well.” 

Source: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

Resources:

https://www.nami.org/home

https://adaa.org/

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Meditation for Anxiety-Part 7: Coping with This Year

***Over the next several weeks the blog will consist of a series on anxiety. These posts will feature guest writers to share their experiences and guidance. This series will promote awareness of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, acute anxiety, and phobias. None of these posts are meant to act as medical or mental health advice. They are simply a voice of empowerment for anxiety sufferers and their loved ones. I will be including how meditation can be a resource for anxiety disorders. Thank you for reading! ***

The year we find ourselves in has been overwhelming…to say the very least.  Anxiety and depression are being experienced by a significantly higher number of individuals than last year.  Individuals that have never experienced anxiety are experiencing an anxiety experiencer’s pre-pandemic “normal.”  And anxiety experiencers are experiencing our worst nightmare. We all know why.  I do not want to focus or list the ways in which our lives have been turned sideways, upside down, or all around.  I do want this post to provide comfort and a source to turn to as we continue to push forward.  If you find yourself feeling anxious, depressed, having trouble coping, and lonely here are some things you can try:

~Reach out to a professional

First and foremost talk to a health professional.  Whether that be a doctor, nurse practitioner, nurse, therapist, holistic practitioner, chiropractor, etc. let them know what you are experiencing.  If you do this and left feeling like they don’t understand or don’t align with what you want your healing to look like, keep searching and reaching out.  It sometimes takes a while of meeting with different providers and learning what you need.  If you are uncomfortable going out, search for telehealth practitioners or set up phone consultations.  You know you.  You know your kids.  You know your family.  Follow your heart and gut in finding the right team for you and your family.  They are out there!

~Breathe

Always remember your breath.  Your breath is always there for you.  When anxiety presents itself, practice noticing what it feels like without judging it or becoming scared.  It is not uncommon to feel anxious more often in these circumstances.  When you feel this, place your left hand on your belly and your right hand on your chest.  Notice where your breath is.  Is your left hand moving?  Is your right hand moving fast?  Notice and feel.  Then focus your attention on taking in a slow deep breath allowing your left hand to move with your belly.  Slow the movement of your right hand and chest. Often in anxiety our breath is short and up high in our chest or neck.  Focus on directing deep lovely breath into your belly.  Slow your breath, fill your belly, focus on your breath.  Anxiety will try to keep bothering you during this process.  Keep telling that anxiety you are focusing on your breath. Take your time, you will get through this. 

~Stay connected with support

Stay connected with your family and friends.  Please remember that your support system loves you and wants you to be as well as you can.  You are not an annoyance or burden to them.  Let them know when you are having a bad day.  Let them know about your good days or even your good moments!  If you cannot physically connect with them, try phone calls, online video meetings, outside distancing, etc.  It might be fun to try a watch party on your favorite streaming service, a virtual game night, a virtual talent show, a supportive phone tree, an online book club, a virtual campout, etc.  Try a virtual or phone group meditation.  Join a group of friends or family, set your phone on speaker or your device beside you and breathe together, share together, sit and be silent together.
*For more on loneliness and support: https://omiswherethecalmis.com/connection-for-wholeness/

~Do what you enjoy

Explore a new skill or new hobby.  Try out an online cooking class or sit down and just start drawing.  Perhaps you could explore a hobby you used to do often and have set aside for a while.  Don’t worry about the outcome of your learning, really focus on the journey.  Notice how you feel when you practice what you enjoy, notice the colors of your activity, the sights, the textures, the smells, the sounds.  Mindfully practice and enjoy.  If even only for 5 minutes each day, do something you love. 

~Smile

Take time each day to smile.  You might feel silly but take a moment to stop and smile.  Find laughter in the little things.  Find gratitude.  Find joy if even just for one single moment. 

~Give yourself grace

Anxiety can cause a huge loss of control and often occurs in times of already feeling out of control.  When this happens, it is common to look at yourself negatively or with judgment.  We become harder on ourselves which only leads to isolation.  If it takes you longer to do things, that is ok.  If you can’t go out some days, that is ok.  If you can’t do laundry or dishes one day, that is ok.  If you have a day filled busy thoughts, that is ok.  If you try and meditate and your mind is busy, that is ok.  If you want to have a treat to eat, that is ok.  If you need to watch your favorite streaming service all day, that is ok.  If you need to wear your PJs all day today, that is ok.  It is ok to rest, it is ok to take time, it is ok to focus on YOU!  Find what you need, become friends with you, treat yourself sometimes, and know that that is ok.  Avoid knocking yourself down or labeling yourself as a failure.  Find one good moment, one piece of gratitude, and one thing about yourself that you absolutely adore.  Let those shine. 

~Avoid excessive news checking or social media

It of course is important to stay informed and connected with the outside world.  However, too much can contribute significantly to anxiety and depression.  Try setting a guideline for a specific amount of time where you will be screen free.  Maybe this is half an hour, a whole day, perhaps a week. Whatever is right for you, set a guideline and put the phone on silent and turn the screen off.  If you don’t meet your goal, that is ok, keep trying tomorrow.  You could even start with five minutes of no checking and then work your way up each day.  Again, if you have several good days and then a day full of checking, that is ok, just notice and try again.  This doesn’t make you a failure, this makes you more mindful and stronger.  Practice this just like you are practicing a sport or an instrument.  You won’t be perfect but you will hopefully find calm. Notice how this feels to practice.  Notice how you feel when you spend time away from checking media.  Write this down or share your experience with someone. 

~Eat healthy, drink water, exercise, and get good sleep

Remind yourself to eat clean nutritious foods.  Try fresh fruit or veggies for a snack.  Drink lots of water.  I am one that does not really enjoy water so it is hard for me to drink it.  What I like to do is add some flavor to my water by adding fresh fruit especially lemon, lime, cucumber, berries, etc.  Try making a water bottle before bed and cool it in the fridge overnight (adding fruit if you like) to grab and have ready in the morning.  Make sure you keep moving.  Find a fitness activity YOU enjoy!  You do not have to lift heavy weight or run a marathon to be fit and healthy.  Try out different things.  If exercise or movement is difficult because of a physical limitation, check with your doctor or physical therapist on some options or ideas.  Every little bit of exercise matters and counts!  Lastly, try to get some good sleep.  Formulate a bedtime routine meaning try to go to bed at the same time each night.  You could combine your no screen time with bedtime by turning off screens an hour before bedtime.  Turn your neon lit alarm clock to face the wall; you will still be able to hear it but you won’t be taunted by the time.  Try relaxing music, sound machine, or open a window slightly and just listen.  You might try a new pillow, an eye pillow, or a new blanket.  Journal or share with someone how you feel when you eat clean, drink water, exercise, and try a new sleep routine. 

~Redirect anxious thoughts

Mindfulness practice is excellent as a practice to reduce anxiety or to utilize when in moments of anxiety.  Focus on the here and now.  When you start to feel anxiety rising, take a moment to notice how your body feels and how your mind feels.  Recognize and acknowledge this is anxiety.  Turn your focus to your breath, an aroma (lavendar is great!), a mantra, or an object.  Redirect your anxious thoughts back to this one focus.  In anxiety, it is common to feel a sense of things being “off” or experience reality different than it is.  These feelings will gradually dissipate when you redirect your focus to something that is real such as a smell, an object, your breath, your words.  You can also pick one of these areas of focus to practice just focusing on each day.   This way, when anxiety does try to find you, you will be ready with mindfulness. 

For more on mindfulness:  https://omiswherethecalmis.com/mindfulness-for-the-whole-family/

Always remember, you are not alone.  You are not a failure.  You are not a burden. 

What you are is strong.  What you are is capable.  What you are is beautiful. 

May your days be filled with comfort.  May your days be filled with strength. 

Resources:

https://www.nami.org/home

https://adaa.org/

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Meditation for Anxiety-Part 6: OCD. It’s Not That Clean or Tidy

***Over the next several weeks the blog will consist of a series on anxiety. These posts will feature guest writers to share their experiences and guidance. This series will promote awareness of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, acute anxiety, and phobias. None of these posts are meant to act as medical or mental health advice. They are simply a voice of empowerment for anxiety sufferers and their loved ones. I will be including how meditation can be a resource for anxiety disorders. Thank you for reading! ***

I am not sure how many times I have heard people say “I am OCD” or “I am OCD about…..” or “he/she is OCD.”  I am probably guilty, myself, of misusing the phrase prior to understanding I am NOT OCD but I experience OCD.  The typical misconception about OCD is that it is something you are when you like to be clean, tidy, or both.  However, obsessive compulsive disorder is not something you are and it is not limited to cleanliness.  With the understanding I have now of OCD, it is hard to hear individuals without OCD state “I am OCD” to explain that cleanliness is important to them.  I only say it is hard to hear, because I know the difficulty that comes with experiencing OCD each and every day.  This post will hopefully bring awareness to what it truly means to experience OCD and that it is not really that clean or tidy.

OCD is a disorder that has been both defined as an anxiety disorder as well as a condition of its own.  Regardless, OCD definitely creates significant amounts of anxiety for those that experience it.  OCD is characterized  by uncontrolled distressing and recurring obsessions (these can be fears, thoughts, or mental images) leading to the need to perform compulsions (routines, rituals, counting, etc.).  The obsessions cause distress, anxiety, and the feeling of a threat (that is not actually there or not there to the extent it feels or appears to be).  The compulsions are performed to either prevent these obsessions from happening or to stop them as they are occurring. 

Distress and fear of germs, dirt, and clutter is a well-known type of OCD.  What I never knew until I was diagnosed with OCD, was that there are many other types.  These include fear of causing harm to others, fear of failure, fear of behaving socially unacceptable or inappropriate, fear of thinking sinful or morally inappropriate thoughts, needing things to be symmetrical or exact, difficulty in getting rid of things/fear of not having enough of something, persistent feelings of things being “off” or “not right,” and some may experience obsessions only without visible compulsions.  Individuals that experience OCD may experience one, some, or even all of the above types of obsessions.  One person with OCD may have debilitating germ contamination fear and not have any obsessive thoughts of making sure things are symmetrical.  Some may have obsessions of fear of harming others but not be impacted by germs or dirt contamination.  It all depends on the person. 

Common compulsions that accompany these types of OCD are (but are not limited to) excessive hand-washing/bathing/cleaning, inability to touch a door handle/remote/sink handle/etc, inability to shake hands/give high fives, word or phrase repetition, counting (especially counting a certain number of times or to a certain number/having things equal a certain number/only counting even/odd numbers/etc.), hoarding/collecting, having certain ways of arranging things, doing daily tasks in a certain order, excessively checking locks/stoves/appliances, having specific things you say repeatedly as a routine (for instance having to say “I love you I will see you later” three times before you leave to go somewhere) and seeking out constant reassurance from others (asking someone the same thing repeatedly).  These compulsions are often performed in a ritualistic way each day to prevent obsessions.  They may also be performed following a perceived fear or obsession occurring. 

Some individuals with OCD may become very “skilled” at performing these compulsions without others around them seeing or knowing.  Others may perform compulsions and overtime invite others around them to perform them as well to decrease their distress.  It can be very challenging to have close and intimate relationships without OCD becoming a major part of it.  Others may experience obsessions with no outwardly visible compulsions. The world around an individual with OCD is quite a daunting place full of things that feel very threatening.

OCD is a tiring monster.  The mind is constantly on guard for dangers that aren’t really there making sure they don’t happen or they stop happening.  The compulsions sometimes help but only for short periods before the obsessions return.  We rarely feel clean.  We rarely feel tidy.  We often feel like we have failed. Routines become our normal.  If our routines are disrupted or thrown off, it can be distressing to say the least.  It. is. e x h a u s t i n g. 

A day for me, personally, is filled with routine, worry, and a lot of hand washing.  I struggle to touch remotes.  My shirt sleeves open doors for me.  Driving is difficult because I do not want to cause harm to anyone or anything.  I am quiet at social events, I fear I will be mean or offensive (ask anyone who knows me, this is highly unlikely).  I get ready in a specific order.  I go to bed in a specific order. Odd numbers are scary.  I frequently ask “are you alright?” or “what’s wrong?”  I am often afraid I have “harmed” people around me through germ contamination or hurtful words.  

BUT I am here to say, I am NOT any of those things.  I experience them and I manage them (some days much better than others.)  I am not OCD.  OCD is a part of me.  Some days are wonderful.  Some days are difficult.  Some days I don’t go anywhere (most days in a pandemic).  But, I am a very clean and thorough nurse.  I wouldn’t hurt a fly.  I am very empathetic.  Consistency is guaranteed with me. And I see detail most people would miss.  It is a roller coaster.  It is a balance. 

I am currently in the process of managing OCD.  Healing and reduction in debilitation for me has been learning about OCD and what I am experiencing is real and I am not alone in my experiences.  I have opened up to my family, my work family, and my friends, they know I might do things or see things differently.  They might not always understand but they know that I experience my world a little differently.  They stand by with a strength and comfort that no compulsion can ever provide me.  I go to therapy.  I have two of the best jobs ever.  I do yoga.  I write these blogs.  I meditate.  

I fall.  A lot.  But I keep getting up.

You may know someone that experiences OCD.  Or you may know someone that you would never think has experienced OCD that does.  Or you may experience OCD yourself.  Whatever the case, it is not always easy to see.  Know that OCD is not something that someone can be.  Know that tasks, days, experiences may look differently with OCD.  Know that you are not alone.  Find your community.  Know that you are incredibly strong and beautiful.  I know you can’t always see that, but, trust me, others can! 

Meditation
Breath awareness and mindfulness can be a very beneficial practice for individuals that experience OCD.  In OCD, the mind is often racing or constantly “thinking.”  This is normal and this is OK when you are meditating, you are not a failure at meditation if you have thoughts.  Breath awareness brings a mind that is fearful, obsessing, distressed back into calm alignment.  

What meditation practice provides is a practice in noticing and acknowledging these thoughts and feelings. 
Sometimes these thoughts just need to be seen. 
After they are seen, turn your awareness to your breathing.  Slow it down. 
Send the breath deep into your belly.  Fill your belly.  Slowly.  With intention.Breathe out.  Slowly.  With intention. 
Repeat.
Just breathe.A thought might arise.  That is OK.  Notice it.  Return your attention to your breath. 

Practice on your good days.  Practice on your bad days.  When obsessions are overwhelming you, breathe.  Deepen your breath and just notice how your breath feels, looks, sounds.  Do this for a minute, five minutes, ten minutes, however long you need. 

*Thank you to my family, my friends who are family, my work family, and everyone at hOMe Holistic.  You are the lights in my journey. 

Source:

OCD: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Related Conditions. (2019, November 24). Retrieved August 23, 2020, from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)Resources:

https://www.nami.org/home

https://adaa.org/

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Meditation for Anxiety-Part 5: You Are Not Alone by Caroline Foster

***Over the next several weeks the blog will consist of a series on anxiety. These posts will feature guest writers to share their experiences and guidance. This series will promote awareness of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, acute anxiety, and phobias. None of these posts are meant to act as medical or mental health advice. They are simply a voice of empowerment for anxiety sufferers and their loved ones. I will be including how meditation can be a resource for anxiety disorders. Thank you for reading! ***

Caroline is a dear friend and a bright light in this world. I met Caroline at work and we connected through many shared experiences and feelings. Caroline was one of the first people, outside of relatives, that I realized understood me and what anxiety really felt like. It was healing for me to find connection with someone that I fully trusted understood what the day in the life of anxiety felt like. Caroline lights up the room and brings a sense of comfort to all she meets. She has shared her beautiful experience with me and I am so honored to share it with all of you. She shares that when we experience our world differently it is common to feel like a burden to others. However, when we practice sharing with others, we find that we are loved and are never a burden in anyone’s journey.

Hi, friends! My name is Caroline. I thought I would give you a few fun facts about myself to start off this post in hopes of making it a bit more personable. I am twenty-three years old, I live in Kansas City with my husband and our two fur babies, and I am currently working on my Master’s in Elementary Education through Kansas State University. My favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip and I am a lover of all things Disney. I have been on a journey with anxiety for quite some time now, some seasons being easier than others. I don’t know that I have much credibility, but I thought I would offer a little snippet of my experience with anxiety to help shed some light on the topic and to show that we are not alone in our journeys.

Anxiety is a daily battle. Each day is different. Some days the anxiety goes completely unnoticed, like it was never even a thing. Other days, it is the only thing you can pay attention to, making it excruciatingly hard to focus on anything else. Most days, at least in my experience, the anxiety is just a subtle constant that, with the right tools and techniques, can be managed and kept under control.

I have battled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory is from the fourth grade. At the time I thought I had a stomach ache, but as I reflect back on that moment I was experiencing one of my first panic attacks. Heart palpitations, nausea, sweaty palms, heat flashes, legs shaking; these are all symptoms I experience during a panic attack. But anxiety can also look like random bursts of irritability, obsessive behavior and nit picking, hypersensitivity, pacing, silence, and zoning out. The latter symptoms tend to be the symptoms I experience on a more regular basis.

While these physical symptoms and anxiety attacks are challenging, they have not been the most challenge aspect of anxiety for me. Anxiety can make one feel so lonely. It can make you believe that you are too much for those around you because you can’t always function normally. It can make you forget that you are surrounded by people who love you and who know you and who see you. I often feel like a burden to those around me.

In the moments where I face these overwhelming thoughts, I have learned it is important to show myself patience. When these irrational thoughts arise, my first instinct tends to be to push  and move forward. They aren’t true, so why give them the time of day? I have noticed that when I choose to ignore these feelings, they eventually bubble up and overflow in some sort of emotional breakdown. So then how does one handle these thoughts and feelings? There are a few techniques/tools I have come to find helpful.

  1. Journaling – Journaling has been beneficial for me because it allows me to get all of my thoughts and feelings out of my head. There is no “right way” to journal, so there is freedom for creativity and personalization. Find what works for you! I personally start by writing down the most pressing thought on my mind and letting whatever thoughts come from that flow out onto the page letting it all go.
  2. Voicing my needs – This one has been a game changer for me. I learned recently that in order to avoid triggers for these thoughts (feeling like a burden, like I am too much, etc) I have to explain to those closest to me 1) what I need from them in our relationship and 2) what my anxiety looks like so they understand why I all of a sudden grow quite, or irritable, or distant. For example, I have learned that in my friendships I need my friends to initiate outings and getting together. When I feel like I am the only one who initiates meeting up, these negative thoughts cloud my head. Don’t be afraid to tell others what you need. Though it may feel intimidating at first, the freedom that comes from letting your voice be heard and the vulnerability makes it all worth it.

If there is one thing you take away from this post let it be this: Your anxiety does not make you a burden to those around you. You are not too much to handle because of your anxiety. You are known and you are loved. Invite those closest to you into your journey. You are not alone and you do not have to fight this battle alone.

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Meditation for Anxiety-Part 4: Postpartum Support by guest writer Victoria Weber

***Over the next several weeks the blog will consist of a series on anxiety. These posts will feature guest writers to share their experiences and guidance. This series will promote awareness of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, acute anxiety, and phobias. None of these posts are meant to act as medical or mental health advice. They are simply a voice of empowerment for anxiety sufferers and their loved ones. I will be including how meditation can be a resource for anxiety disorders. Thank you for reading! ***

Victoria Weber is a birth and postpartum doula as well as an Ayurvedic chef. I am honored to have her share her experience as a mom to two beautiful boys as well as her professional experience. The journey into motherhood allows opportunity for fear, anxiety, and loneliness to arise. It is a beautiful journey, but without a solid support, it can be overwhelming to so many. Tori provides insight on what eastern culture can teach us on the power of community so that no mother becomes a mother alone. To all mothers, may we walk this journey together in strength.

Postpartum is a Dirty Word

Just the word postpartum in western culture has a stigma of mental illness, hardship, instability, anxiety, pressure, the list goes on. There is an immense silence and a lack of support for families bringing a baby into the world. In eastern cultures, even still today, the mother is cared for completely throughout the fourth trimester: the first 3 months or forty days after giving birth. 

It is thought in these cultures that postpartum is actually an OPPORTUNITY to build health and strength that will last for the next forty years. After birth, the mother’s body is struck bare and left a clean slate to rebuild the gut, energy life source, and foundational nutrition. And not just the mother. That health and strength is built into the baby and trickles through the entire family. It is a family’s duty to their ancestors and lineage to provide this care.

The term “It Takes a Village” is thousands of years old. In fact in tribal communities, it is documented an average of 14 adults to each baby born! The child is raised by the entire community. The men go off to hunt and provide. The women gather around the mother to nourish with healing meals, prepare proper sleep conditions, bathe the mother, care for the home and other children. 

This practice continues on in many countries throughout the world. Some of these practices have been modernized, for example, many European and Asian countries send a postpartum nurse to the home to care for the mother PAID FOR BY THE GOVERNMENT. Many governments require a 1 year leave of absence from work to stay home with the baby and properly heal. 

Postpartum continues far beyond 12 weeks if you are “lucky” to get that from your American employer. Mothers are often left with the decision to quit their jobs or leave their babies much too soon. The lack of postpartum care in the United States is actually sickening. We are not caring for our mothers and the future of our world.

It is no wonder so many experience depression, anxiety, and so much overwhelm. In fact, I expect it. I thought I had prepared a lot for postpartum with my first child. And yet I was still completely taken aback with the enormity of it. The transformation of woman to mother is an enormous experience emotionally and physically. 

Birth can be a traumatic experience for so many women. Our culture, again, does not support a healthy birth process. Prenatal care leaves much to be desired. And even if you did everything “right” (there is no right), you can still be left to navigate  a l o n e .

The birth of my first son brought me into the work of my life. I often say I wish I didn’t have this job. I wish I didn’t make money because our culture doesn’t support each other enough. But there is so much more to it than that. I grieved my son’s birth for three years. I couldn’t talk about it without sobbing for at least the first year. I felt like absolutely no one understood it. I didn’t understand it. It sent me down a rabbit hole chasing to find “what happened to me”. I took a doula course not to become a doula, but to find answers. I found sanctuary in yoga and meditation. I became a yoga teacher. I became a child birth educator.  I am healed through each experience I am part of. Each mother I support. Each birth I witness.

The home birth VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) of my second son instantly healed all wounds of the first. It was amazing. I instantly felt, “Gosh what was the big deal anyway?!” Everything was different and so was this past year postpartum. There are so many things I did differently to support myself physically and emotionally.

Here’s my laundry list of necessities:

This now sounds cliche to me but it is SO TRUE. 

FIND YOUR VILLAGE! You just have to create one. Meal trains. Babysitters. Birth doula. Postpartum doula. Make a plan and post it on your refrigerator. Delegate to family members and friends.

HIRE out the help. Housekeepers, chefs, physical therapists, talk therapy, laundry service. A postpartum doula can do SO MUCH in just 1 session per week. I will often send mom off for a shower and a nap, while I take baby and older siblings out for a walk, do the dishes, throw in a load of laundry, prep out dinner, make mom a snack, or sometimes we just talk for four straight hours. 

EAT + HYDRATE. Eat a simple yet nutrient dense diet. There are many healing foods that help to sustain and support the body. Bone broth is a staple. Water, coconut water, easy one-handed, healthy snacks. Soups + stews. Nothing raw. All food should be easily digested. Let the body concentrate its energy on healing.  Healing spices like turmeric + ginger. Teas. Nettle is chock full of nutrients, supports the blood, reduces fatigue. 

LEAN IN TO IT. Motherhood is tough. Throw away the notion that you need to “bounce back” or get back into your skinny jeans. If you can begin to accept that this is crazy hard (and beautiful) and that emotion is simply the unfolding of experience and transformation, I hope you also will know that feeling overwhelmed is a perfectly legitimate feeling to have and likely something you WILL feel. That’s ok just as it is. 

Victoria Weber

Birth + Postpartum Doula

Ayurvedic Chef + Nutrition

www.nettleandhoney.com

IG: @nettle.honey

Meditation for Anxiety-Part 3: Anxiety in Children

***Over the next several weeks the blog will consist of a series on anxiety. These posts will feature guest writers to share their experiences and guidance. This series will promote awareness of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, acute anxiety, and phobias. None of these posts are meant to act as medical or mental health advice. They are simply a voice of empowerment for anxiety sufferers and their loved ones. I will be including how meditation can be a resource for anxiety disorders. Thank you for reading! ***

Childhood can be filled with joy, wonder, play, and laughter.  However, any parent knows stress and anxiety can also affect children, which can disrupt the fun aspects of being a kid.  It is normal for all children to experience anxiety at some point in their life.  For 1 out of 8 children, anxiety is experienced in the form of an anxiety disorder.  This post offers guidance for parents and kids and offers tips on how mindfulness can play a healing role in anxiety experiences. 

As previously discussed, anxiety is a normal part of life.  Anxiety before the first day of school, before a big test, before a championship game, etc. is to be expected.  This anxiety is real but it goes away; it is not debilitating.  It may not feel good, but experiencing it and learning with it allows us to move past it.  It is the body’s way of alerting us to something new and different making sure we are ready to tackle it and defend ourselves.  In an anxiety disorder, the anxiety often presents itself in response to triggers or when there is no actual danger or concern.  It is much harder and sometimes impossible to move past or alleviate.

For children, it can be especially difficult to acknowledge, recognize, or even speak out when they experience anxiety.  It just does not feel good and makes everyday life very difficult, sometimes absent of that joy, wonder, play, and laughter.  It often can present itself in ways that are difficult to recognize as being an anxiety response.  This only adds to family member frustration and misunderstanding when trying to navigate typical developmental behaviors combined with anxiety.  Some ways anxiety might present in children that you might not realize are anxiety include (but are not limited to): 

~Avoidance of activities (activities involving whatever their fear is, practices, school, friend groups, camps, etc.)

~Physical complaints most often in the form of headaches, stomachaches, and nausea

~Elevated emotional responses or emotions (crying, anger, etc.) that may appear out of nowhere

~Set routines and/or difficulty with changing these routines

~Difficulty making decisions; frequent request for validation or approval in making a decision

~Avoids talking to others (teachers, friends, classmates)

~Frequent worry about the future; worry of “something bad happening;” difficulty separating from parents/worry about parents returning home from work, errands, etc.

~Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep

~Short rapid breathing/holding the breath

~Shaking of the hands or body shivering

~Staring or being overly quiet in social situations

There is hope to make sure that joy, wonder, play, and laughter does not get lost in the face of anxiety.   First and foremost, talk to your child’s physical and mental health providers to find a plan that is best for your child.  Also, this list provides a great guide for providing support to your child:

https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/tips-parents-and-caregivers

Mindfulness can be a helpful way to manage anxiety and provide comfort and stability for kids and their family members.  Mindfulness, put simply, is focus on the present moment with full awareness. A child experiencing an anxiety disorder is experiencing a nervous system that is overreacting, not reacting at the right times, or reacting too frequently to triggers or occurring at some level all of the time.  Mindfulness practice allows the nervous system to be balanced so that the calm aspect of the nervous system can act just as much or more than the anxiety aspect creating a more manageable balance. 

Mindfulness can be practiced every day by children and their parents. You can mindfully do almost anything. Focus on exactly what you are doing. Noticing what you feel, see, smell, taste, and hear. Noticing each moment in complete awareness.

Each day, start the day with breathing.  Fill the day with mindfulness.  Conclude the day with gratitude.  With practice, calm can return.  With practice, children will have tools they can rely on whenever anxiety arises, in whatever way it arises.  Practice together.  Be together.  To all the parents and families, your child is not anxiety.  Your family is not anxiety.  To all the kids out there that experience anxiety, know you are never alone.  You are not anxiety.  Anxiety is a piece of your story but not your whole adventure.  You are strong, creative, beautiful, handsome, hilarious, stylish, sweet, caring, silly, smart, clever, enjoyable YOU.     

To practice: 

Remember these three things: breathe, mindfulness, gratitude

Breathe:

Begin each day by waking up and breathing calming clarifying breath.

  1. Belly balloon breath-Breathe in through your nose imagine a balloon of your favorite color is in your belly.  Fill the balloon noticing that your belly expands slowly.  Exhale through your mouth allowing your balloon to flatten back to a soft stretchy balloon ready to be filled with air again.
  2. Bubble breath (materials needed: bubbles-the kind you blow with a bubble wand)- take a deep inhale, slow and steady, through the nose filling your belly balloon with air.  Breathe out through the mouth slowly blowing out bubbles through the bubble wand.  Watch as the bubbles slowly form and drift effortlessly through the air.  If you blow too fast, your bubbles will not form.  Notice and watch how they float, notice their color(s), notice if they smell good, notice if you can hear them pop.  Repeat as many breaths as you need, fill your sight with these beautiful bubbles made by your slow calming breath.
  3. Pinwheel breath (materials needed: pinwheel)- take a deep breath through the nose filling your belly balloon with air.  Breathe out slowly through the mouth to allow the pinwheel to turn.  Notice which direction the pinwheel turns. Notice what color it is.  Notice if any light reflects off of the pinwheel.  Notice the sound it makes as it turns. 
  4. Arm breathing-*this one is great to do in the morning to energize and start the day*-pretend our arms are powered by our breathing.  When we breathe in, our arms rise up from our sides.  When we breathe out, they float back down to our sides. If we are breathing too fast, they will flap too fast like a bird. That is too much work.  If we hold our breath, they will stay tight at our sides. That is also too much work.  Allow your breath to make them float up slowly and down slowly like they are floating through water. 

Mindfulness:

There are so many mindfulness activities that you can do together.  Mindfulness is noticing, experiencing, being aware, right now, in this very moment. Pick one thing you do each day and do it mindfully.  Then, pick one extra mindfulness activity to do at the very least one day each week. 

~Body scan:

Close your eyes if that feels calming to you.  Breathe into your belly balloon; breathe out.  Slowly breathe.  Notice your toes. Wiggle them, move them around.  Notice how they feel.  Turn your attention to your lower leg.  Squeeze your leg muscles; now let them release.  Move your focus to where you sit; your hips.  Let yourself relax deeper into your chair.  Focus now on your belly; do you feel your belly balloon rise and fall?  Move your focus to your chest and your heart.  How does your heart beat feel?  Can you feel it?  Move your attention to your neck; look side to side an up and down.  Relax all your neck muscles.  How does your face feel?  Feel your teeth with your tongue; swallow; do you taste anything?  Notice how your head feels and how your mind feels.  Do you have any thoughts?  Notice them and let them move on.  Breathe sending the air you breathe in to your head all the way down into the toes. Breathe out.  Breathe sending air from your toes all the way up to your head.  Breathe out. 

~Mindfulness walk:

Anytime you go for a walk you can do this out loud with your family, your pet, or silently to yourself. As you go on a walk simply go through your 5 senses. What do you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste? Notice with full awareness each sense and what it has to offer. Notice how the air feels around you. Notice how your feet feel as they connect with the ground. Notice how fast or slow you are moving. Notice how your breath feels when you walk. Just notice individually or as a family and enjoy all the senses you experience. Notice any differences and similarities in your sensual experience with others. For instance, when I walk with my dog I don’t usually have a lot of scent experience where as she spends most of the walk sniffing everything she finds.

Find more mindfulness activities here:

~https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-for-children-kids-activities/

~https://omiswherethecalmis.com/mindfulness-for-the-whole-family/

~Check out “Just Breathe” by Mallika Chopra-this book provides a great guide for children on learning breathing, meditation, movement and mindfulness.

Gratitude:

At the end of each day, share one thing you are thankful for.  You can also write it down in a journal, on a sticky note to hang on your wall, or on a piece of paper to keep in a treasure box. 

End the day with gratitude.  Always remember to breathe. Stay mindful in each moment. And know you are wonderful. 

Meditation for Anxiety-Part 2: Understanding for Loved Ones

***Over the next several weeks the blog will consist of a series on anxiety. These posts will feature guest writers to share their experiences and guidance. This series will promote awareness of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, acute anxiety, and phobias. None of these posts are meant to act as medical or mental health advice. They are simply a voice of empowerment for anxiety sufferers and their loved ones. I will be including how meditation can be a resource for anxiety disorders. Thank you for reading! ***

Human connection and relationships are so vital and important to our well-being. When we experience a relationship with someone whether it be a family member, friend, client, romantic partner, etc., we embark on a journey with them. Each relationship has a beginning, middle, and end with each chapter looking a little bit different for everyone. Most relationships have bumps or barriers along the way, some bigger and more frequent than others. When anxiety enters or occurs in the relationship, the journey might take a new path altogether.

For those that do not experience an anxiety disorder, it can be frustrating and confusing having someone you love that does. It is common to feel helpless and isolated wanting so bad to “fix” or take the anxiety away. It can be frustrating to want to experience a social life or home life without anxiety influencing the day to day. It can be confusing to experience something along your journey that does not scare you at all only to see your loved one avoiding it or reacting to it with debilitating fear, anxiety, or panic. The route you find yourself on in your journey may feel like a never-ending maze.

You are not alone. There are tools to gather along your journey for you and the one you love. The tool I have found in my personal experience to be of the greatest use is understanding. Understanding the self, nurturing the self, and loving the self allows you to stand up and face that journey with strength. Understanding your loved one(s), nurturing your loved one(s), and loving your loved one(s) allows you to take that personal strength and embrace their hand. Doing this together, with strength and confidence, allows you to walk that journey together.

For those that do not experience an anxiety disorder it is important to understand you and what you need. You are not anxiety and you are not your loved one’s anxiety. It is apart of your relationship but it is not the relationship. Learn what roles you have, what you need to fulfill these roles, and what brings you joy. Understand when you are happy and understand where you are unbalanced. Maintain your joys, your friendships, your health. Remember, to always take care of you. For when you let yourself become low on your priority list, you will not have the understanding or love to share with those around you.

For those that do not experience an anxiety disorder, it is also important to understand what your partner needs. An anxiety disorder is very difficult to empathize with when you do not have one. Although there are physical manifestations, those with anxiety are often experiencing an exhausting marathon in their minds that someone without a similar disorder does not experience.

To understand someone running this mental marathon try the following:

~It can be helpful to understand and learn about their disorder. Read stories or listen to their experiences and how they experience their world.

~It is important to not blame them for their behaviors or dismiss them. To tell someone with anxiety to “stop” or “calm down” may be what you want them to be able to do, but know it is not a switch they can just turn off. Learn what helps them to calm, deep breathing, imagery, aromatherapy, etc and help remind them of what works for them with respect and grace.

~Learn what treatment they are participating in and what helps them be comforted in anxiety moments. Help them set goals for their personal health. Do not assume that treatment for anxiety is one size fits all and will work every time for everyone. Some might thrive with medication while others may try other options, provide support in where their healing path leads them. Know that healing takes time and will not work at the same rate every single time.

~Celebrate moments of progress with your loved one.

~Balance and learn when they need support and when they need time to themselves. Avoid doing whatever behavior they want you to do just to make them calm down. It is important to empower your loved one on their own path to healing.

~Accept that you do not understand exactly what they experience and accept that you cannot “fix” their experience. It is never about fixing, it is about moving forward with healing, strength, and empowerment. You are not responsible for fixing or changing someone else. And they are not broken. They are experiencing life differently with a different path. It can be easy to become frustrated when you feel like you want to “fix” their experience which can ultimately lead to failure, resentment, and isolation. Stand tall with strength and understanding so they know you are there next to them and they can stand up with their own strength and understanding.

~Find a a support group or community for loved ones with anxiety. Maintain your own friendships and relationships with all of those in your life. Remember to nurture yourself so you can nurture others.

For those in the relationship that do experience anxiety disorder it is just as important to nurture your own understanding of you. Find a healing path whether that be a doctor, counselor, and/or other healing provider(s) to help you understand your experience and what works for you. Build an understanding of things that help you and things that do not work as well. Build an understanding that you are not broken, you are not your anxiety, and it is ok that your journey looks different. Embrace honesty of your experience with your loved ones, allow them to learn and hear your experience. Honor when you need time for you. Honor that some days, some moments, may go better than others. Celebrate healing and take time for you.

Your journey with your loved one with anxiety may twist, turn, move up, move down. It might offer different scenery and different stops along the way. You might not see or meet the same people or experience the same sights on this path. However, your path also has scenery, also has stops, also has people, also has experiences capable of just as much beauty. It might look and feel different, but it is still beautiful. When you look inward to understand yourselves and understand each other, you can with more clarity and strength step forward on your path. Neither one of you is broken. Neither one of you are anxiety. May you find love and understanding on your path together. Namaste.

Meditate together:

Deep breathing is a very effective way to slow an anxiety attack or experience. Focusing on the breath focuses the mind to the here and now and returns the nervous system to a relaxed state. This meditation encourages deep breathing and is performed with a partner. This meditation can be used in moments of anxiety and on a regular basis to build connection and peace with each other.

Sit together. You can hold hands if physical touch is beneficial to their healing or rest your hands palms up on your own knees.

Slow your breaths. Inhale slowly, 1, 2, 3. Exhale 1, 2, 3.

With each exhale, send a wish, a quality, a hope to your loved one. You can exhale peace, clarity, calm, safety, etc. With their inhale they will envision receiving this quality from you.

With each inhale, receive the wish, quality, hope they have for you extending from their exhale.

Be still and breathe together giving and receiving healing qualities.

Walk your path with strength, for it is a beautiful path.

Resources:

https://www.nami.org/home

https://adaa.org/

https://fox4kc.com/you-matter/

Meditation for Anxiety: Part 1-What is Anxiety?

***Over the next several weeks the blog will consist of a series on anxiety. These posts will feature guest writers to share their experiences and guidance. This series will promote awareness of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, acute anxiety, and phobias. None of these posts are meant to act as medical or mental health advice. They are simply a voice of empowerment for anxiety sufferers and their loved ones. I will be including how meditation can be a resource for anxiety disorders. Thank you for reading! ***

Anxiety is a term that can carry a wide variety of experience. As humans we all have most likely experienced some sort of anxiety. Before a date, while trying bungee jumping, first day of school, etc. the list goes on. This anxiety is real and this anxiety is to be expected. It is our nervous system working to make sure we are safe before, during, sometimes even after a threatening situation.

For more than 40 million adults in our country with an anxiety disorder, however, this feeling of doom, fear, loss of control is the body working in the same way as above, but at the wrong times or in the wrong way. An anxiety disorder causes a nervous system reaction to fight off a threat when there is really no threat there. With anxiety disorders, this reaction occurs consistently, persistently, and often constantly at various levels. This anxiety is also real.

There are several anxiety disorders and an individual with anxiety disorder has an individual experience. Some have specific phobias, some experience anxiety all of the time as an underlying baseline, others experience anxiety very strongly physically and mentally in the form of anxiety attacks, some experience panic attacks, some experience obsessions, some experience anxiety around social events or situations, some experience anxiety in a combination of some or all of the above. Regardless of the way it looks or feels, it is very real to each of these individuals.

It is normal for someone that experiences anxiety AND their loved ones/those around them to be confused. With anxiety we often experience a different reality than those around us. Our fears and perceptions are irrational and it is very difficult and sometimes impossible to recognize that. For those around us who can recognize what we are experiencing is irrational, it is difficult for them to recognize that to us, it feels and is real to us and our experience. Each day and sometimes each moment it feels as if we are being forced to climb a mountain to get through the day. Full of danger, fear, and unknown. Sometimes we know when that mountain will appear, we know what our triggers are. Often times, that mountain is always there. And sometimes that mountain appears out of nowhere, for no reason.

Anxiety disorder can cause a lot of isolation. We often avoid whatever our triggers are which significantly effects our day to day functioning. Sometimes, we go to extreme lengths to avoid our triggers often leading to isolation and loneliness. Anxiety disorder can also trigger depression. Anxiety is very mentally draining and also involves physical effects including but not limited to nausea, vomiting, shaking, feeling cold/chills, heart racing or pounding, feeling like it is difficult to breathe/catch your breath, insomnia, extreme fatigue, irritability, dizziness and headaches.

Anxiety disorders are treated differently for every individual. Some may benefit from medication others may benefit from therapy. Complimentary alternatives are also a form of treatment for many. Yoga, acupressure, essential oils, and meditation are just some of the complimentary therapies available. Individuals may experience benefits from one or a combo of treatments. If you experience anxiety, please consult your medical and mental health professionals for your own personal health.

If you experience anxiety or know someone who does, know that you are not alone. I know firsthand that anxiety can feel like the loneliest of places. Take a deep breath. Always remember to breathe. Reach out to friends, family, community, professionals. Breathe, connect, and know that YOU are NOT anxiety. You experience it, you are not it. You may see a mountain and feel the exhaustion of climbing it, but you are not that mountain, if you were they would call you mountain. You are you, beautiful wonderful strong you.

To practice:

Take a deep breath. Inhale deep into the belly, slow the fast paced reaction of your mind and body with slow meaningful breath. Exhale slowly blowing away anything you do not need to hold onto.

Breathe here for 5 breaths.

Do a body scan. Notice your toes, feet, legs, tailbone, hips, belly, chest, neck, face, head. Just notice, slowly moving up the body with awareness.

Repeat to yourself:

I have a body, but I am not my body.

I have a mind, but I am not my mind.

I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts.

Just notice how you feel here. And know you are strong.

*Stay tuned: The next post will offer a resource for loved ones and will discuss mindfulness for anxiety.

Resources:

https://www.nami.org/home

https://adaa.org/

https://fox4kc.com/you-matter/

*Sources:

“Anxiety Disorders.” NAMI, www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders.

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Delta Trade Paperbacks, 1990.

Eliminate Judgement, Illuminate Being

Judgement is all around us. Judgement if you distance, if you gather, if you have a certain occupation, if you are a certain color, weight, height, gender, shape, political party, etc. We spend many of our lives automatically judging and automatically being judged.

Our minds are like a library. We have shelves and sections for everyone and every experience. I like to think of individuals of having our own story. We each have a book of chapters, experiences, and stories. When we come face to face with another, we often automatically put other’s “book” on a certain shelf based on what we see on the outside. This is judgement. Whether “good” or “bad.”

When we categorize everyone’s “book” simply by the title, cover, color, shape, size, and wear and tear, judgement occurs. Mindfulness can help us with this. When we mindfully experience the “books” that come in and out of our lives, we can better view the story they have to share. When we look inside and read their chapters, we offer a non-judgemental approach. We simply experience them. We can just be.

What many do not realize, however, is that we all categorize our own “book” or our own selves with this same judgement. We see ourselves and label ourselves in certain ways. We judge how we look, how we feel, how we act, how we dress. When we do this, we bring out judgement which leads to fear, anger, depression, isolation and an increased difficulty at eliminating judgement in our outer world as well. We so often fail to open our own story and really observe and get to know ourselves and our own journey for the beautiful journey it actually is.

Mindfulness is a great way to look at ourselves with a non-judgemental attitude and truly experience our being for what it is. Imagine taking a moment to sit down and just observe your “book.” Just feel the pages, smell the history, read the words. When we learn to experience ourselves without categorizing, labeling, and judging, we are better able to lovingly be with ourselves just as we are.

When we start to practice mindfully eliminating self-judgement and illuminating our true being, we can enter our world with empowerment and strength. When we eliminate our own judgement we then start to eliminate judgement of our outer experiences and interactions. So the saying is true: never judge a book by it’s cover. The cover is not the journey, not the story, not the being. Never judge your own book by the cover you have created. Open your book and truly be with your own experience.

To practice:

Find a place of comfort. This practice is best done lying down but is also beneficial sitting in a comfortable place.

Begin by noticing your breath, without judgement. Where do you feel your breath? How deep are you breathing? Let your breath naturally deepen, experience the cleansing beauty of your breath.

Turn your focus to your toes. Really feel your toes. Every sensation. With each part of your body, just feel, don’t judge. If you have pain here, tension here, tingling here, etc. just notice. Our minds often begin judging if we feel these qualities. We worry, we get frustrated, we try to fix it or run away. Just notice what it feels like to lovingly notice. Send your breath to your toes and just breathe and be with your toes.

Do this with every part of your body moving up into the ankles.

The calves.

The knees.

The pelvis.

The sits bones.

The hips.

The belly.

The chest.

The fingertips.

The lower arm.

The elbows.

The upper arm/shoulders.

The neck.

The jaw.

The lips.

The nose.

The cheeks.

The eyes.

The forehead.

The top of the head.

The mind. Do not judge any thoughts. They are just thoughts. Notice them, acknowledge them, let them float away.

Practice every day. Remember to breathe. Remember your book is beautiful no matter what it looks like or feels like. It is your story. A wonderful one.