Why I Need to Breathe Now More Than Ever

Why I Need to Breathe Now More Than Ever

This post is going up a little later in the day than my usual time. I pushed it off for as long as I could. Actually, I tried to convince myself I didn’t need to write it at all. I looked at my list of the different slow living experiments I want to do this year, and tried to convince myself to tackle something else; something easier. This one could wait. I told myself I didn’t know enough about the subject. Then I told myself the truth, which is that this one would be hard. I would have to be alone with myself and my thoughts, and it would be hard. I didn’t want hard. March was hard enough. So, I chose a different topic. I chose an easier experiment to tackle in April. I wrote the first post, including a list of all the things I wanted to work on. And I almost hit publish – until I realized I was holding my breath.

I’ve been holding my breath for a while now. My first vivid memories of doing so started shortly after my car accident in 2013. I would be driving along then suddenly gasp for air, as though I had just resurfaced from swimming a lap across the pool underwater. Back then, I realized I would subconsciously start to hold my breath right before I entered an intersection. I was hit by another driver, while going through an intersection in 2013. There are a lot of intersections in the Lower Mainland. I’m (almost) grateful for that, or else I might never have figured out why I was always gasping for air. And once you see the truth, you can’t unsee it – so from there, I entered my car with a heightened awareness, and practiced breathing through intersections until that became natural again.

That’s a success story. I did something subconsciously for a while, it eventually surfaced, I figured out what was going on and consciously changed my reaction. It was a slow process, but it worked. Other times, the process has not been so slow. In fact, by the time I gasped for air, it was too late and I was already in the middle of a panic attack. I’ve had panic attacks at a job, on a train, in a parking lot – and the worst was while I was driving by myself on a single-lane highway. Each time, gasping for air only served as one of the signs that I was in trouble. My mind and body couldn’t continue to manage everything I had taken on. They needed help. Something needed to change. But first, I had to put my head between my knees and remember to breathe deeply. I had to breathe my way through it.

It’s been a couple years, since my last panic attack. They had almost become distant memories. In fact, I had a conversation with a friend just two weeks ago where she shared some of the anxiety she’s been living with, and I actually said that I couldn’t quite relate to what she was going through. Yes, I’d had a few panic attacks in my lifetime… but anxiety on a daily basis? Nope, not me.

Who do you think I texted first, when I finally figured out that I am actually dealing with some very intense anxiety on a daily basis, right now?

Along with her, I have only shared these intimate details with a few friends. It has gone beyond having trouble sleeping and noticing that I’m having heart palpitations. For the past week or so, I have been filled with a general sense of fear and panic almost 24/7. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially when you know it’s irrational. Yet, I can’t seem to talk my way out of it.

The phone calls with friends do help. Sharing stories of the ridiculous things I’m finding myself doing makes us laugh, and that does help. But when the laughter subsides, and my friends suggest ways I could deal with my anxiety, I get uncomfortable. Yoga? I know I should do that. My yoga mat is already setup on my floor, and I have this short and simple practice bookmarked, ready and waiting for me. It would be so easy – almost too easy. But I can’t seem to make my way down onto the mat. Meditation? I know I should do that, too… but again, I just can’t. It would be even easier than yoga, but I can’t do it. The thought of it makes me want to run laps, which was one of my least-favourite activities in my high school gym class. And yet, the thought of even trying to do yoga or meditate makes me want to lace up.

When I share this with my friends, they say they understand. It seems it is perfectly normal to experience this, before getting more comfortable with your yoga or meditation practice. I’m finding that I don’t have a fear of “doing it wrong”, like I might if this were another sport or skill I thought I should learn. I am genuinely afraid of sitting still and being alone with my thoughts. I know I need to get past this, though. I don’t want to live with this anxiety forever. I also don’t want it to get worse and eventually turn into a panic attack. I think I’m more afraid of having another one of those than I am of all the irrational things I am currently worried could happen to me on a daily basis. I want to feel better. I want to go back to feeling like myself. In order to do that, I think I’m going to have to breathe…

I have made every excuse not to start doing yoga and/or meditating. I’m too busy, I don’t have the time, I don’t need it. It is true that I have survived this long without it… but that doesn’t mean I don’t need it now. And there’s nothing wrong with needing something like this to help you get through each day. I have often wondered if I have some sort of hangup about that, in particular; like I should be able to push through on my own. Now, I’m starting to see that trying to do everything on my own might be part of the problem – and that pushing through is definitely not the solution, but could actually be making things worse. And once you see the truth, you can’t unsee it – so now, it’s time to breathe my way through it. Here are my intentions for April.

Experiment #4: Slow Breathing

  • have slow mornings
  • do yoga 10x (short practices are fine)
  • meditate for 7 days in a row
  • listen to audiobooks/podcasts on this subject*
  • go floating at the end of the month

You might notice the numbers are much smaller than what you usually see in a monthlong experiment; that’s intentional. If I wrote that I wanted to meditate or do yoga every day for a month, I can already tell you I would fail. I need to start this slowly (go figure, eh?). My plan is to do yoga every few days, or as I feel I need it. I’ll know I need it because I won’t want to do it. That’s when I’ll open a new tab, turn on a short practice video and get down on the floor. I’ll do the same with meditation, but then I do want to attempt a weeklong challenge by the end of the month. Finally, I have a few coupons for free floats in Victoria. I’m heading back there on April 27th, so I’ll book a session that weekend. By that time, I hope my anxiety will have calmed itself enough that I can handle meditating for 90 minutes.

*As for this point, I would love any recommendations you have – particularly podcasts, as I love hearing other people’s stories about how/why they finally started practicing yoga and meditation. I’m not really looking for how-to’s. I learn more through stories and shared experiences.

Believe me when I say that I am more nervous about this experiment than probably all the others I have shared on this blog. But like all the others, I also think you make big changes in your life, whenever you reach a breaking point – and I have reached mine, with this. I’m waving my white flag and welcoming the help. I know I need to do this one on my own, but I also know I’m never really alone.

Thanks for helping me breathe through this, friends. <3

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    • I’ll agree! I’ve read the book and listened to the podcasts. They have a few *bonus* podcasts that are guided meditations. I find that doing a guided meditation can be quite helpful in that it gives you something to focus on. Sort of like a distraction from your own thoughts in away. Not sure that I explained that very well, but it is useful!

      • And because I thought of this after the fact… I find that it can be beneficial to do a selective yoga. For example because of 2 car accidents (10 years apart) I have some back and neck issues on top of holding ALL of my stress in my neck and shoulders. So I’ll do this one https://tinyurl.com/m6adyvs The lady’s name is Jen Hilman. She talks a bit before hand but it’s not a bad thing to listen to at least the first time. I find that if I can relax the tension/stress there I feel better everywhere.

    • I second 10% Happier by Dan Harris. I was curious about meditation and that was the book that finally gave me the push that I needed. Wonderful read!

      I also recommend Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg. She has exercises to help ease you into meditation, and to help you understand what to expect. And there are audio clips for guided meditations included.

      I too was afraid of being alone with my thoughts, because then I might have to deal with them, right? These two books really helped, and I have been meditating daily for almost three months now. I actually look forward to it every day!

    • Totally! I came over to comment for the first time just to leave that recommendation. Glad I’m not the only one :) I’ve had the audiobook on hold at the library for ages because it’s read by the author. He’s a news anchor so I’m sure it will be very soothing to listen to :)

    • Hi Cait! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, in Germany we say “a problem shared is a problem halved”, I don’t know if there’s such an English phrase? Either way, I recommend the Secular Buddhism podcast by Noah Rasheta. It’s all about intentional living and has some amazing stories/fables to learn from. Let me know how you get on. Lots of good vibes as always, Anja

    • Yep, was going to recommend 10% Happier as well! Glad to see so many loved it as I did! Good luck, Cait. I am excited to follow along with you this month.

  • Hey Cait!
    Just saw an email pop in from you – so I came straight here to read your post! I only have a few minutes but I’d be happy to chat about this more over text or email – just drop me a line if you like!
    As far as my meditation experience, what has worked for me….
    In January 2016 I decided that meditating was a daily habit I should start doing. I think I tried it for a whole month. A lot of the days I would be in bed and exclaim “crap, I forgot to meditate” and then get out of bed and go in the other room to sit in silence for 5 minutes – trust me it was as pointless as it sounds.
    Since then, I had read a lot about it, more about the benefits, the “whys” and things that work/don’t work for others, then I decided to give it another go.
    I started Feb 1st, 2017 and have been working on making it a daily habit. I think I did every day in Feb, and every day except for 3 or 4 in March (usually Thursdays, I noticed a pattern ha)
    Anyways – this is what worked for me:
    I started with headspace, I did the 7 day free trial. That might be a good place for you to start.
    Then I went to the Calm app, and did their 7 day free trial called “7 days of calm”.
    So at that point I had established a 14 day habit, and my plan was to decide which one I liked best, and decide if I think I need it to keep going, and then purchase the app.
    I ended up using a free portion of the calm app after that, I am still using it. It is mostly silent, slight guidance at the beginning and end, and in the middle it is just calming outdoor type sounds. I wear my ear buds. I sit in our spare room, on the floor on a pillow, against the wall, with a blanket over my lap. In the beginning I found I would be thinking about how I was cold.
    Anyway, using that calm light, you can choose, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 minutes or more. I started doing 10. I have done 15 minutes a few times in the last week and have enjoyed it. I have also made myself a deal that on the days I am “too busy” or I forget or don’t get around to it, that I will still do 3 or 5 minutes just to keep my habit going. Giving myself that permission seems to have helped.
    I can talk more about the benefits from my perspective at another time if you’re interested to hear that.
    I wish you all the best and I sincerely hope you feel better soon. I do think this will help! But that is just my humble opinion. Talk to you soon!
    Dayle

    • I second the use of the app Calm! I love it! I have the premium app (I found out it’s free for teachers!) which is really great, but before that I was also just using the free stuff and found it so helpful. I realized I couldn’t just sit silently with my own thoughts because I would go crazy (or just not do it). But the app really helps, and I’ve started slightly looking forward to it.

    • Hi Cait! I also highly recommend the app Calm. I pay for the premium subscription, and very much look forward to each Daily Calm. It makes meditation so approachable—just hit play, close your eyes, and do what Tamara says. :)

      And if you haven’t read it already, I recommend “Wherever You Go There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

      Best of luck this month! It looks like you have a huge crowd of support—that’s fantastic!

  • I highly recommend a book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It’s about bringing your mind into the present moment and how doing so can make anxiety fade away. I tend to be a skeptic, so I understand if my description makes the book sound fantastical. I had my own reservations when I initially began reading. However, I must say it was truly eye opening.

    • I’m with Ansley. Eckhart Tolle’s book (audio book was better for me) was a life line thrown to me when I raised my white flag. It was life changing for me, not instantly, by any means, but definitely over time. He explains how and why our minds seem to have a life of their own and force us to places we don’t want to go. He also explains, very simply, how to free ourselves from our incessant thinking and stress. It’s a simple concept, but not easy, as seems to be true of most things that are worthwhile. It also dovetails beautifully with your intentional living theme. There are countless videos of his on YouTube and on his YouTube channel, but the book really provides the necessary background required to grasp his talks. At least that was my experience.

  • I hear your challenges on starting a yoga practice. While I appreciate that it isn’t the cheapest approach, I personally found it was easier to get into the habit of yoga and work up to a comfort with the meditation aspect by participating in a yoga class. Preferably something pre-registered rather than a drop in class. I liked the accountability of having it scheduled into my routine and a group of people who may expect my attendance. I liked that I didn’t feel so alone with my thoughts when I wasn’t physically alone in the room and had an instructor’s voice to focus on. I liked that I didn’t feel guilty if I wasn’t really in a place where I wanted to let go today, that showing up anyway and doing as much as I was comfortable doing was better than nothing. I liked the encouragement of an instructor to remind me to breath or tell me to back off of a pose if I was trying to hard. Particularly during my pregnancy, the benefit of the guidance and reassurance for the meditation aspect of the practice was invaluable.

    You are under no obligation to learn how to do this alone. As a person who has a hard time making my thoughts quiet and letting go of worry and anxiety, I took great comfort from the support of that personal guidance. It may improve the experience of using videos or podcasts.

    • I agree with K. I had played with the idea of doing Yoga for years, but actually started doing it when I moved into an office with a Yoga Studio next door. I signed up for a beginners class and then the next class on the list. It was only one evening a week, but I had to go, because I had paid for it. I learned the proper way to do the poses, learned balance and became comfortable with the rhythm of the movements as we moved from pose to pose. It also forced me out of the office early one night a week, as I have always worked an 11-12 hour day.

      When I moved on from that office I purchased some DVD’s to continue the practice at home. I will say that I actually felt better and more relaxed after the class. One might think that concentrating in a room full of people would be more difficult than concentrating alone in my home, but that isn’t the case for me. I’m worried about how well I’m doing the pose and what pose is coming next. In the class, I just focused on the instructor’s voice and didn’t think about much of anything else. A room full of people focused on the same quiet activity is quite relaxing.

  • My goodness I have been so anxious & fearful lately that I’m considering going on anti anxiety medication for the first time. I’m trying to stay away from the news & think positive thoughts, but its not really working.

    • Sharon, you are in very good company. I have a dear friend who is a Psychiatrist at a major University Hospital. She said their department has been overwhelmed with calls from both new/old patients,
      struggling with anxiety they identify with the new Administration in D.C. I have heard the same from
      other friends in counseling and medicine.

  • Headspace and Calm are great apps for meditation. I love listening to AudioDharma (Buddhist and zen philosophy) and the arich Roll Podcast (it’s Health, fitness and mindfulness related. He does incredible long form interviews). I started by listening to those podcast when I got ready in the morning, then slowly incorporating 10 minutes of meditation before bed with Headspace after hearing the founder on the Rich Roll podcast and spent the better part of a year going deeper until I came to some kind of peace with myself and everything going on. I haven’t meditated since but haven’t felt the need for it. I know it’s there if I do though :) Good luck!

  • Hi Cait! Thanks for your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable. I can identify with much of what you’ve shared here.
    I want to let you know about a totally awesome free app that I learned about from my yoga instructor. It is called Insight Timer. It is a meditation app that is also a worldwide community of like minded souls. You can find whatever you need in the way of meditation aids. Guided meditations, with and without words, music, singing bowls, drumming, nature sounds, or just a simple timer to get you started and tell you when to stop. If the the community aspect is not attractive, there is no need to be involved.
    I have been using it daily for months now, with no self-imposed pressure to “do it right” and it has been an enormous help to me. I’ve even used some of the meditations as an accompaniment to yoga and even walking.
    I really cannot recommend it highly enough and I wish you all manner of success in dealing with your anxiety. I can relate, deeply.
    Namasté

    • I can second the recommendation re: Insight Timer. Great free app with hundreds of meditations by all sorts of practitioners. The guided meditations are so varied, you can always find a new one to try, and they offer short 3-4 minute practices as well as longer times. I learned about this through Oprah’s magazine.

      Also, don’t exclude the possibility of a medical cause to your anxiety. I have been on an antidepressant for 20 years, and I can’t say enough about how it has helped me be the person I always wanted to be. I had tried talk therapy and exercise for years without any relief, and so when my therapist suggested I seek medical help, I knew I needed to be open to this. Good luck in your quest. I know peace of mind is the most valuable element of life.

  • A year ago I was dealing with some generalized anxiety that cropped up sporadically triggered by a handful of things. Although I am still supposed to be doing more exercise and yoga the best solution was to simply breathe. My therapist suggested I take a couple breaks throughout the day to sit in a chair or on the floor and take 5 deep breaths with one hand on my belly and one on my heart. It was like mini meditation because rather than thinking I was supposed to focus on letting go of my thoughts (which typically made me obsess over whether I letting go enough) I could just breath in and focus on feeling my heartbeat and my belly moving with each breath. I do this still even while i am at work in an office since it is so unobtrusive.

  • You are a master of planning projects but this move is not a project, it’s your new life. You are scared to death because you are choosing to lay down roots and you don’t have everything figured out. All of these feelings are completely normal and you need to take your time to sort them out. Journal, talk into a voice recorder, doodle or do whatever it takes to get these feelings out. You will be fine but it will take time to completely settle into your new life.

  • I sympathise as I feel the same way. I read all the time. I always have since being a child because it was better than listening to the screaming and shouting. But now I read constantly, even when really impractical. I am afraid to be alone in my own head. I fantasise and catatrophise and it is all so draining. I read on the loo, brushing my teeth, whilst eating and even whilst watching tv. People keep telling me to meditate but the thought seems rather scary and so tiring.
    I have been practising breathing, which helps. Even just one concentrated deep breath at a time.
    Have you thought about acupuncture? They play peaceful music so it can be a type of meditation practice, but also with the benefit the needles are giving you.i used to think depression was the worst thing in the world but suffering anxiety now as well, that awful feeling in your stomach…hate it.
    Good luck for your month. Just recognising this as an issue for you is so important and brave. Look forward to hearing your results.

  • I began having almost daily anxiety attacks a couple of years ago any didn’t want to take meds so I changed a few things. I had modified my eating habits due to acid reflux and that worked so well that I tried reducing my sugar intake and drinking less caffeine. I also tried meditation through a class and on my own with an app called Calm. Calm is really good but the teacher helped a bit more by providing more specific feedback. I also studied some breathing techniques taught by Dr. Andrew Weil. He has one called the 4-7-8 breath specifically for anxiety. It’s easy and takes two minutes twice a day. It really helps calm and center me.

    All of these changes began part of my routine and although I haven’t completely eliminated all anxiety attacks they have dramatically lessened. I can sit in meditation for longer periods now and am no longer afraid to face my thoughts. I simply accept them as they come up without judging myself for them. Then I approach the ones I want to change with an open curiosity. I study what triggers them and how I can change my thinking patterns to better more productive ones. You have to learn to face them as you can’t change what you are not aware of.

    Wishing you much calm and peace.

    • 4-7-8 is a great technique, i’ve used it myself to get off to sleep and it is also good for kids to use, just take a little care the first time with breath holding in case its not right for you.

  • Thank you for sharing what is going on right now for you. I know I struggle with this too and have to slow down and breathe and talk myself through many daily situations. I understand and just know you are not alone. We are here and so are your friends and family. Just take things one step at a time, be good to yourself and make yourself priority #1. Do not stray from your values and what is important and use that to be your strength. I wish you peace and joy in this journey and this too shall pass! Peace

  • Hi Cait!

    This post hits really close to home! Thank you so much for sharing.

    If you’re wanting to do yoga from home, I would HIGHLY recommend Yoga with Adriene! She has an incredible youtube channel full of content, and the community’s mantra is all about “Find What Feels Good!” Her videos range from beginners to advanced, but what’s really great is most of her practices are in the 15-20 minute range. For me, it seems much more manageable to actually practice, or at least start the habit, when it’s not a huge time commitment.

    https://www.youtube.com/yogawithadriene

    Let me know if you try it out and how ya like! Hope it helps:)

    • Yoga with Adrienne is the best!! I’ve only been able to do yoga in a studio before I found her. She just did a 30-day revolution with one video each day and I never missed a day because it was so amazing. Completely changed my day each day. I have zero willpower so I always start out with things and then fizzle, but I honestly looked forward to her video each day!

  • Coming to the realization that you deal with daily anxiety is a hard one. I totally understand. In late 2012 I was going through MANY life changes (move, wedding, house selling, grad school, job changes); all were positive, but each change required a large commitment of time and energy. For almost two years straight, I ended up with chronic hives all over my body. Every damn day. This soon spiraled into what I realize now were anxiety attacks on a fairly regular basis. For some reason, it took me over two years of this long transition to a new city/new job/marriage/grad school to put two and two together – this is my body reacting to intense stress and anxiety and hives were a byproduct of that.

    in August 2014, almost two years after the life transition began in Summer 2012, I bought a FitBit and started walking on a treadmill each day. It’s like a switch flipped one morning; I knew I had to do something different because my life wasn’t working. Walking each day led me to believe I could run a bit. Which led me to believe that I could run a bit more. Which led me to feel this amazing release in my brain space. I felt less shackled by my self-created bubble of anxiety. I could finally see a way around it, or through it, or something; I feel like I could deal with it better.

    Now, after two years of running, I knew I *should* try yoga. “They” say it does wonders for mind, body, and soul. BUT- much like therapy, if you don’t have buy-in on it’s benefits, it won’t work. So, as a person with a busy anxious mind, I never did it. “I’m not a person who can calm their mind! Who does that?!”, I’d say to talk myself out of it. But after this exercise self-discovery and having that time to be in your own mind while running, I was curious about yoga and what it could do. So I signed up in December 2016 and have been going diligently 2x a week to a studio. And. I. Love. It. Focusing your breath on just breathing into and out of the poses is incredibly satisfying and peaceful. What I’m still trying to work on is transitioning out of yoga-mind and back into real life-mind after I’m home (meal making, clean up, animal care, planning for the next day kind of junk). The anxiety is still there, but I can see it more clearly now than I ever could before and that’s been helpful to pinpoint and manage. I still really don’t want to go down the path of meds for management of anxiety; that’s not for me. I think giving it a try, and really knowing if you’re buying into the benefits will be the big part of whether or not you’re successful in reducing your anxiety. I actually hear meditation is harder than yoga since there’s no motion and you’re still with your breath. Yoga you at least get to think about how your body feels in the pose, what you can do to differently, etc etc.

    I think you’ll find your story resembles many of us who have followed your journey for years. It’s either super-comforting or really-scary that so many of our generation are dealing with the same struggles not just with money, but anxiety, and other challenges. But either way, many of us are in this together. THANK YOU for sharing. :D

  • Hi Cait,

    I totally get what you are saying. You have been through a lot of change in the last month or so. The thing that helped me get to a place where I meditated regularly was this: start small — sit for 5 maybe 10 minutes at the most. AND link your sitting to something that you do every single day … For me, I meditate “after breakfast” which can be at 7:30 or 9:30 in the am…I like that link because I always notice when “after breakfast” is :)

    You also might like some of Eric Klein’s stuff, he is my teacher. Check out http://www.wisdomheart.com

    You will get through this and back to yourself. Above all, just be kind to Cait.

    XO,
    Carol

  • I have been misdiagnosing my anxiety since I miscarried a month ago. I have been obsessed with getting pregnant again, with fertility information.. but also terrified at the thought of conceiving and miscarrying again. I have also been in a fog, feeling slow and unable to focus. Sometimes my thoughts get so frenzied the only thing I can think to do is turn the TV on or read a book to distract myself. My work has suffered, my marriage has suffered, I have suffered. Thank you for the reminder to face the thoughts, to work through the hard things. I wish you success with your experiment this month.

  • Cait, I’d love to talk about this more if you want to.

    I don’t do well with meditating, but hiking serves the same purpose for me. I’ll take off with a podcast and enjoy the scenery, then find myself lost in my thoughts miles down the trail with no idea what the podcast was about. It occurs naturally and comfortably, whereas sitting still for meditation seems like torture.

    Hang in there- it gets better. And have you considered talking with your doctor? Thyroid and other health issues can make this so much worse.

    Hugs!

  • At different points in life I have delt with anxiety. For me, I find weight lifting to be the most effective exercise to deal with it. It sounds strange. But it’s slow, challenging movements that require counting and steady in and out breathing. It’s my go to. :) Just in case yoga isn’t your jam.

  • Hi Cait, you asked for podcast recommendations – I’m a podcast fan, and have a few to recommend that always brighten my day. The first that came to mind is Happier (Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft), a few other I like are Meditation Minis (Chel Hamilton – nice short meditations you can do anywhere), Optimal Living Daily (Justin Malik), Kind World (short podcasts with uplifting human interest stories), the Dr. Wayne Dyer podcast, and Zen Habit s podcast. I have a few fictional ones I like too, including the Bright Sessions. I use the free Overcast app on my phone to subscribe, download and listen to podcasts whenever I have a few minutes in my day. Take care!

  • Do not rule out a physical cause. Have your blood pressure checked. And check your caffeine intake. I speak from experience! Sometimes the simplest explanation is correct.

  • great post, good luck and yes it’s so funny (or not!) how much we shy away from actions that would do us good but somehow scare us – I was totally the same with meditation but slowly overtime it’s easier and frankly super comfortable. but it wasn’t at the beginning at all! there’s actually a breathing mediation that you might like called Tonglen. as i understand it, you breathe in whatever emotion you are feeling (say anxiety), accept it and breathe it out as love (or peace or whatever appeals). you could think of it a bit like photosynthesis – a plant takes in carbon dioxide and lets out oxygen. it’s very calming. it takes a while but i find it has me focusing on what emotions i am actually feeling! since that can be a mystery for me. so i might work through; anxiety, frustration, anger, fear etc over the course of 10 minutes for instance. i learned about this through tosha silver who has a pretty funny book – outrageous openness – but it’s definitely beyond meditation and more into spiritual connection. have fun!

  • Thanks for sharing your struggle Cait! Even speaking your anxiety fears out loud can help diffuse them – it helps to remove their power and get them out of your head. As a practitioner and teacher or yoga, don’t be surprised if your anxiety gets worse when you first start meditating and practising (it did for me). You will be bringing all of your attention to it, so how could it not get worse? After you start to unwind your mental patterns and identify what is triggering the anxiety, your meditation or yoga practice can start helping fully. If you are looking for a meditation app, I really liked Headspace’s trial. It is just guided enough to keep you present, but not enough to annoy you! Good luck!

  • Hi Cait. Someone commented earlier about the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris and I totally agree. His journey to meditation after having a panic attack on live TV, was just such a refreshing read. I too, suffer from anxiety and also hold my breath subconsciously. I have to make a point to stop what I am doing literally at that moment when that happens, and just take some deep breaths. I downloaded the Calm app which helps at times, but also cleaning, or good old-fashioned baking, helps me get out of my own head for awhile. Hugs, my friend! :)

  • Hey Cait! I highly recommend listening to Tara Brach’s podcast. She has several guided meditations and talks on various subjects such as healing trauma, being truthful, mindfulness/awareness, suffering, compassion, etc etc. Listening to her speak gave me some great insights into my own struggles, giving me tools that I still refer to months later for anxiety/negative thought management. She’s a very lovely woman with a kind and loving presence you can feel through her voice. I can’t say enough about how much she has helped me. I recommend her to all my friends who also struggle with anxiety. I hope she does wonders for you!

  • Hey Cait, yes I’ve noticed that you haven’t been yourself over the last few years, it’s been creeping up slowly bit by bit, or rather, you’ve been dropping bit by bit from your previously angelic joy-full self … although you are ALWAYS angelic.

    Here’s a great article which may assist, called “Anxious Much?” …

    http://www.unimedliving.com/meditation/benefits/anxious-much.html

    and a short meditation about Beating Anxiety:

    http://www.unimedliving.com/meditation/free/meditation-for-anxiety-and-stress/beating-anxiety-gentle-breath-meditation.html

    Highly recommended and definitely worth trying!

    I’m also practicing yoga at home (for free) with the Canadian site called DoYogaWithMe, they are in Victoria! Moksana Yoga Studio, heard of them? I love the yoga with Melissa Krieger in particular, under the Beginners tab, my fave is Hatha Yoga For Grounding.

    Hope these are verrry useful for you, enjoy exploring!

    with much love, Marian (Australia)

  • A book that’s helped me is called Meditations On the Mat. It’s a daily reading (like a paragraph) that explores the philosphy of yoga and really sets my mood for the day. If you’re interested too, Omvana has some free tracks you can try out. The envisioning series (I think it’s 6 days) is less than 10 minutes and so delicious (yes I’m saying delicious in regards to meditation lol).

    As someone who used to practice an hour a day and just getting back into doing 20 minutes it’s dang hard! It’s not meant to be fun most of the time but it’s helped me navigate through tough times. Good luck :)

  • Cait, I know this is a deeply personal post for you and a hard one to press enter for – but I really applaud you. It’s something very difficult to talk about and to even describe to people. I second choosebetterlife and would get a check up with your doctor though – even with the stress of the move and all, there could still be a biological component. I know that all too well myself and sometimes it’s hard to tease out what is what. I’m personally all for mindfulness and yoga. But it can be difficult to start off by yourself when stuff is heightened. I know when I first tried meditation years ago I hadn’t an idea what I was doing. So I would recommend if you have the spare funds and there is a class close by, to perhaps try an 8 week MSBR course. I did mine almost 3 years ago and it was brilliant to have the guidance of a teacher and a class of people all coming for their own reasons. It felt reassuring. Also, always good to have someone to touch base with – cause sitting with your own thoughts is not always pleasant. I then got the Headspace app, which is brilliant – it guides you through numerous different practices for whatever crops up in life. Also Tara Brach’s website has a ton of free guided meditations, which are super helpful. I guess it is choosing whatever feels relevant that day. Also I noticed some people above mentioned the 10% Happier podcast by Dan Harris – it’s really good and his own backstory is very interesting. And the Rich Roll podcast and Dr. Michael Gervais podcast. Yoga with Adriene is brilliant for a home yoga practice. But don’t get discouraged if you don’t see any effects initially with the meditation and yoga – it takes time, just like your simplifying journey. You become more aware of the thoughts and behaviours that don’t serve you over time – but old habits die hard. I notice that resistance within myself when things get hard, but I’m guessing its all part of the process. I would be happy to help if you want to know anything else or just chat about starting the journey. Big hugs because I know how hard it is.

  • Hi Cait! When I first started doing yoga, I found it really helpful to take a weekly yoga class at the local rec centre. Much cheaper than a studio and they have beginner classes for total newbies so it isn’t as intimidating. I signed up for a weekly class with a friend who had never done yoga before and we kept each other accountable. It was really helpful to learn the basics from an actual instructor who could help correct my form. Now I feel much more confident that I’m performing the moves correctly when I do a video on my own at home. I also started using the Insight Timer app to meditate recently. I was pretty skeptical about meditation and have struggled to maintain a regular practice. But I do find the guided meditations help keep me focused. I started slowly with ~10 min guided meditations. Good luck!

  • Great Post!! I’m doing monthly experiments myself. This month is to run everyday!! eck!! Yoga and meditation are on my list for another month long experiment. I was just curious what podcasts you have found on the subject?

  • I’m so sorry to hear that you’re suffering—anxiety has weighed on my life for years, so I know how hard it can be. Way to be courageous and put yourself out there! The more we talk about mental health issues the more we can all find solace in community.

    There seem to be lots of good yoga and meditation recs upthread, so I’d like to offer a different piece of advice: if your body wants to run, maybe running is what you need? 20 minutes of cardio, whether that’s a run or an intense yoga class, truly works for me in lessening the physical symptoms of my anxiety. It’s like my breath and all my muscles are finally able to release. On the mental side, I find that my racing thoughts can sometimes be stopped if I write through them. I usually start out with stream-of-consciousness and am then able to pin down one aspect of my worry and explore it more thoughtfully. Obviously it’s your mind and your body, so what works for me might not work for you, but those are my two cents!

    I’m excited to hear about the results of your April experiment—maybe meditation will wind up in my anti-anxiety arsenal too! Good luck :)

  • I echo the comments from all of the previous posters, especially re: Yoga with Adriene and the Happier podcast. Two other things that have helped me: specifically seeking out Yoga Nidra guided practices (I’ve only done these in person, but I’m sure there are online resources); and supplementing my diet with vitamins (magnesium and B complex) and Tulsi tea. I’ve been recommended these products by a variety of sources – Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, massage therapists – and found they really helped in my case. Good luck and thanks for your openness.

    • I was looking for someone who mentioned Magnesium. Taking Magnesium regularly has helped deal with anxiety. Research indicates that Magnesium is not as present in foods as we would like due to soil and farming practices.

  • I’m going to go a different way: I cope with anxiety — just a low lying under the scenes hum that busts out sometimes. I’ve found that if I consistently put Natural Calm in my drinking water, take Epsom salt baths, and use hemp CBD oil my anxiety almost vanishes. Only then can I tackle meditating and yoga. I don’t know if this would work for you but it has worked for me and I thought I’d pass it on.

  • Cait, I concur with all who’ve mentioned guided meditation. Also, I particularly like the Sonicaid CDs; just went on Amazon.ca and only found one (expensive!). These have subliminal messages for relaxation, sleep, concentration, creativity, etc. I also like Holosync by Bill Harris; also pricey, but good (for me, anyway). Maybe you can find these used. Take care; you are a wonderful person and change/growth is challenging. Thanks for all you do for us (your loyal followers).

  • First, I want to thank you for your post. I really appreciate your sharing this. I had a terrible car accident a few years ago and because it was at a difficult period of my life, I began to have panic attacks as well. I didn’t, however, share this info with friends and only a bit with my husband. I have noted that as I’ve gotten older, anxiety has really increased, day and night. I struggle with meditation but have found a super simple app (Aura) that is free for daily 3 minute meditations (there is a fee if you bump up to 7 minutes!). But, for now, 3 minutes a day of mindfulness and breathing – or more if I want to get a few sessions in – are enough to see tangible benefits. I don’t grind my teeth anymore. This is a nice way to give yourself an easy win. Keep speaking up!!

  • I very much enjoy your financial advice. I also get a kick out of your lifestyle advice, for want of a better term, and your podcast. But above all, I mostly enjoy, and appreciate, your HONESTY.
    Keep doing you Cait!

  • So many great recommendations. Try checking out Yoga Nidra. It is a wonderful relaxation technique that is done while you are lying on your back cozied up under a blanket. All you have to do is breathe and visualize and you can’t help but sink into a state of deep relaxation. It is awesome! It was my first introduction to meditation; I know that it is used frequently here in the U.S. to work with veterans suffering from PTSD and victims of depression, anxiety, abuse, etc. I took a “Yoga for Stress and Anxiety” class at my local studio and that’s how I learned about it. I know you like the on-line DIY route, but a splurge on a class will give you “the full meal deal” with all the blankets, bolsters, weights for your ankles, etc. that helps you to fully experience this great meditation technique.

  • Hi! Never commented, but really enjoy your posts! I went through some intense anxiety over a year ago. I second what a few people mentioned. Get a health check up. My vitamin D level was extremely low (11) and I had the same feeling of dread and fear (completely irrational, I was so mad at myself because there was no real reason for it). I also wasn’t sleeping well at all. Never had a problem with sleep before this. I started taking magnesium (Natural Calm) in the evening with cherry juice (helps with melatonin production). I also take 4,000 IU’s of D daily, but check with Dr. for optimal level. It took months, but my sleep improved and my anxiety lessened greatly. My vitamin D level is now 36. I think that people underestimate how much imbalances in the physical body can affect mental state.

  • Hi Cait,
    I have panic attacks too so I can empathize with your situation. My physician referred me to this program: http://www.selfregulationskills.ca/programs/relaxation-skills/ Perhaps if you looked online or contacted the instructor, she could suggest a class closer to you if this interests you as I found these classes quite valuable. With the skills that I learned in these sessions to release the tension from my body and with my own learning, I’ve developed what works for me to manage my attacks (BTW, I don’t meditate or do yoga per se, unless the calming techniques would be considered meditation; everyone develops their own coping strategies to manage the attacks, just depends what works for you). I rarely have attacks now. Stay positive, you will get through this.

  • Hi Cait!

    Well I carefully read your blog post and all of the other comments posted up to now and here are my thoughts. First an observation. For as long as I’ve been reading your blog (which has been quite awhile) I’ve noticed you’ve (often successfully) tackled issues based on your own ideas, as well as ideas that you’ve received from your friends and from this blog. All well and good – up until now. However, I’m agreeing with Sharon in her above comment. I strongly suggest that, just to be on the safe side, you should seek out professional medical help. Get a full physical / emotional checkup, especially since you went through a lot in the past (both physical as well as emotional, and I won’t revisit the details because you know what I’m referring to). In the end, you may receive the same remedial suggestions that you are seeing here in your blog (egs., yoga, meditation, etc.). However you may receive more in-depth professional recommendations, recommendations provided by experienced skilled people. We enjoy a great health care system here in Canada. It should be used when we most need it. No half measures, thinking that time and persistence can help you “bull through” this challenge successfully. It sounds like this is too important an issue to experiment in finding the “right solution” on your own. Especially when I read about it striking when you’ve been driving. Not good, Cait. Not good to yourself, nor to others around you on the road. Just my personal opinions here, my friend. Just trying to help you if I honestly can.

  • Hi Cait,
    thankyou for this post. I have always lived with a low level of anxiety which i manage in various ways – yoga, meditation, reading, different breathing techniques. It depends on what is happening and how strong the feelings are like at the time. It also ramps up when i have to do some public speaking, which i often have to do as an educator, and i have found various visualisations pre-speaking seems to be a useful tool. One thing i have decided is i am not going to let my anxiety stop me from doing things that challenge me, so instead i have had to find ways to deal with it.
    A lovely book i am reading at the moment, which is a recent release, is “First, we make the beast beautiful” by Sarah Wilson.

  • Brooke Mcalary has a new podcast up about meditating plus a,few others.
    http://Www.slowyourhome.com
    I know I need to do yoga and meditate. I leave for work very early and don’t know when to fit it in. I like your idea of slow breathing. I wish you peace and a quiet mind.

    • I’m happy to see that Joanna recommended this podcast already, this was the first thing I thought of when I read this blogpost. Brooke did a similar “experiment” with meditation for a month last year and I know that you were a guest on her podcast once so I know that you are already familiar with her work. Today when I listened to her podcast on “how to meditate”, I wanted to leave a comment suggesting that you give it a listen. It is a great episode that I think you would find very helpful.

  • I don’t have any suggestions for you, but I’m still commenting to thank you, once again, for your openness and honesty.
    I’ve dealt with major anxiety and panic attacks for years. At some point, after giving birth, it became delibitating to the point that I had to be hospitalized for a month. The only thing that put a stop to it back then was a strong medication. So no answer for you, but I relate. And in my case I don’t really know what that medication did to me but it stopped the panic attacks almost automatically and I have not had another one since (It’s been 7 years, and I only took the meds for 6 months. Maybe it altered my brain…?). Anyhow, I guess I’m sharing this to give hope that things can improve, and sometimes it can improve fast. Just need to find what works for you, whatever what that might be (meds, diet, yoga, running, therapy, etc..)
    I also relate with having trouble just “being with yourself”. To me, meditation is like pulling teeth. I hate it! Yoga is much better because it involves movement. For years I felt like I “should/ had to” meditate, but I’m coming to terms with the fact that it’s just not my thing and it’s perfectly fine. I find my peace in movement. I hope it gets better soon for you!

  • You’ve been so incredibly generous with your giving and sharing. I wish for you Turning the Wheel in the Other Direction. I don’t want you to meditate or do yoga. I don’t want you to force yourself. I wish for you pleasure and floating and taking leave of the pressure to do anything. Intuitively, I just feel there is a speck of value, truth in the size of a grain of sand waiting to be discovered. I have no advice. But I did want to share a poem by Mary Oliver called Wild Geese. And again to thank you.
    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.

  • Hi Cait, so glad you write, it’s always a good morning when you have posted. I have some ‘out of the box’ ideas. I’m not a yoga or meditation type person, if you aren’t either don’t try to force yourself into it.

    I don’t get as anxious as I used to when I was younger, I find caring for others has helped me. First children then I got a job in community services and now I help out more and more at school. Have you thought about, or do you, volunteer? When you hit the right ‘work’ that makes you happy there are all these goals, and you don’t have all that pressure to think up the goal. You can do it with a team too. For me less stress and less anxiety.

    Maybe some of us are reverse zen? When left to our own devices it’s stressful going alone, having to always be the one to make decisions, to be the creative one and sit/stretch while quietly stewing.

    Best of luck

    • but be aware that volunteering can also cause you even more anxiety. i volunteered for a year at a hospital. my role was to entertain children with cancer. it was very hard for me to see babies and young people dealing with such a destructive disease. {one of them died, and it broke my heart to see so many people crying around that child. and knowing that it could happen to others}

      they were very joyful and i felt good while i was there, but once i got out i felt very sad. and it became more and more difficult to deal with those feelings. {though, i only left when i got a job because i knew i was doing something good for them}

      so, as with everything think carefully before you take that decision. volunteering can be overwhelming.as much as it is fulfilling.

  • I’ve been dealing with anxiety on a daily basis this year, too—we’ve gone through some tough things the past few months, and it’s caused me to feel like I’m in constant panic mode about what terrible thing might be lurking around the corner.

    In the past few weeks, I’ve been adopting a few practices that have helped to ease the anxiety, and I wrote a post about it. I don’t know if you’re religious, and one of the things I’ve tried is praying, but you could replace that with meditation. Anyway, if you’re interested, the link is here:

    http://autodidacticambitions.blogspot.com/2017/04/how-im-retraining-my-inner-weather.html

    I’m hoping that this next month is one of a lot of personal growth for you, as well as some of those answers and peace that you seek.

  • Hi Cait,

    I just wanted to recommend prayer as well. You don’t have to be religious, you just need to believe you’re not the center of the universe. It’s quite a relief to acknowledge this actually. It takes away a lot of pressure knowing it’s not your job to fix everything and that you can turn over your fears and ask for strength whenever you need it! I usually start by saying thanks for everything I’m grateful for, then I ask for help with what I need. These days I’ve been asking a lot for the strength to be disciplined and committed to achieving my goals. I hope you find something that works for you!

  • Hey Cait, I suffered severe anxiety and panic attacks in my past. I know that there is a lot of science behind meditation and neuroplasticity, but the fact is, it is still not something that everyone can force themselves to do. I much prefer ‘active’ meditation… walking and counting steps is great because you can’t think about much more when you are counting. Learning a musical instrument or language is another great form of isolating your thoughts.

    Additionally, bursting activities and getting out of physical comfort zones does wonders…. lifting heavy things and plyometrics are great. Try this for 4 minutes: 20 seconds all out, 10 seconds rest, repeat 8 times. You should be hurting by the end, but it works wonders for the body and mind. We have a complex fight or flight system that needs to be ‘exercised’. I know I’m a bit more of an adventurer than many people, but things like skydiving, flying airplanes and solo travel did more for my anxiety than any drug or meditation could do for me. I find that being too comfortable on a regular basis, actually makes me really uncomfortable.

    There are other concepts that I think are important for people with anxiety to understand: one concept is the difference between our hunter/gather evolutionary genes and our modern agrarian society. Do you think hunters meditated for stress? Probably not, but they did have a ton of time to ponder, wonder, think, tinker, create, play, rest, etc… Modern tribal societies still only “work” about 15 hours a week to meet their basic physiological needs. Now, we live in a society that promotes doing more, more, more…. this doesn’t work for many of us.

    The other concept is called being a ‘scanner’…. these are people, who again, are like our hunter ancestors where they have a diversity in tasks and had to ‘scan’ their surroundings and were forced to be present. Google Barbara Sher.

    Good luck!

  • I have never been able to medidate!
    The Hospital I work for realised last year how our new system was stressing people out and offered its employees 1 years free subscription to an app called Headspace. It teaches you to meditate 10 mins at a time and when youve done the basics ( 3 levels, 10 modules for each one) there are subjects you can dip into as and when you need them.
    Ive recently made a point of getting up 30 mins earlier in the morning ( a decision made after reading about your mornings and the fabulous Cortenay Carvers morning rythym) and spend this half hour listening to a Headspace meditiation and then practising my handwriting. Im 3 weeks in and can feel myself being much calmer and more tolerant throughout my day.
    Id recommend Headspace to anyone.
    I think this months challenge may seem daunting for you, but reading your blog I can see you have dealt with far scarier. Looking forward to hearing how you get on. You go girl! x

  • I would highly recommend that you find a yoga class somewhere and do it with a group. My yoga ‘group’ has been together for over 10 years now and we support each other in so many ways, not the least of which is our practice together. It’s difficult to do yoga by yourself – much easier with a group and with a teacher. My teacher always comments on how the feeling in the room is so different when we are doing yoga together and I think he’s right. Even if you don’t know anyone there, those people are supporting your practice and you are supporting theirs. And the teacher is there to adjust, support and push you just a little farther – things you can’t get from a video. I was skeptical at first – now I wouldn’t do it any other way.

  • Can i just say that you have instinctively treated your anxiety at intersections and now thats a thing of the past. General anxiety, that constant worry and wondering what if …? all the time can be overcome in the same way. By facing those worries and thoughts rather than avoiding them they will rise and then fall and then subside, you are definitely heading in the right direction. Adding meditation or mindfulness and yoga to the things that you are already doing should only help. Thanks for sharing, its brave to put that out into a public space. Anxiety feels so bad when we are in the midst of it, but there definitely hope that it will once again become a thing of the past. All the best

  • Have you checked with a medical doctor? I used to get panic attacks where I’d be gasping for breath — I eventually discovered a link between the attacks and the painkillers I was taking for headaches. You could have blood pressure issues, a vitamin or mineral deficiency, a thyroid problem, new allergies, including adult onset asthma, etc.

    Wishing you the best!

  • Hi Cait,
    Obviously, many people can relate to the anxiety you are experiencing. As someone mentioned earlier, one solution may be a prescribed medication that addresses a chemical imbalance in your body. It’s worth looking into, I think.
    I want to give you a quotation that helps me most with my anxiety. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace that surpasses understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 in the Bible). Jesus is the “Prince of Peace,” and I invite you to seek for it in him. I hope I don’t come across as a sanctimonious religion freak, because believe me, I’m not! God is objective reality, and true hope is in him.

  • Cait, have you heard of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class? It’s an 8 week long meditation/mindfulness course based on 35 years of scientific research by Jon Kabat Zinn here in the US. Anxiety is one of the areas MBSR is shown to help with. I’m only a few months into meditation myself but once I got comfortable with my training wheels, I got a scholarship for a class and find the social accountability of a guided class structure helpful. I like to think of MBSR and meditation is another item in my toolkit; it’s not the only thing or a replacement for what I currently do, but expands my options.

    For me, it’s important to find local (free) weekly meditation groups because I love the social aspect of sharing an activity and comparing notes to improve my own practice. It helps balance out the other 6 days of the week where I would typically for 5-20 minutes depending on my mood on my own. I use Stop, Breath, and Think and Insight Timer apps on my android.

    My personal orientation with meditation was to keep experimenting a little bit everyday with different techniques, postures, practices, etc. until I found a few that worked for me. There’s as much variation as to how people meditate as there are plants in the world. Meditating in a group vs. meditating on your own. Guided meditation via an app vs. in a live social setting. Meditating in silence (I actually like this better than guided meditation via an app. Actually it wasn’t working much for me with the apps until I found the silence option with just a timer). Meditations focused on the breath vs. compassion vs. the body scan, etc.

    As for yoga, I also recommend trying many different styles and even more importantly, many different instructors until you find the one you like. When I got serious about yoga, I started with Gentle Yoga (slow hatha yoga) after a major injury and eventually migrated to Hatha Yoga (slightly more active) and has since moved on to Vinyasa (active flows) to match my need to stretch after cardio. The instructor has made the class more than the yoga style and now I just keep going back to my favorite instructor. If you have friends who are interested in trying it, that helps make exploring yoga classes more fun.

  • P.S. I wonder if you might benefit from some reading on trauma, anxiety, and panic attacks – these are typically linked and if that’s true in your case, it might help you better understand what might be causing your pain and help you manage it better in the long-term. Sometimes events like car accidents can turn into acute trauma, e.g. PTSD is an anxiety disorder. There are great new trauma treatments like EMDR (eye movement desensitizing and reprocessing) that only take a few sessions with a great therapist and you can always negotiating sliding scale rates with the right therapist. Sometimes having a name for what you are experiencing is more beneficial than not. Part of it is knowing that you aren’t alone in what you are facing, that others struggle with the same issues for similar reasons, that you’re still human and this struggle, the pain, and the anxiety – that is just part of normal human experience, despite what labels and stigma we attach to it. Take what might be helpful and ignore what you don’t like. :-)

  • P.P.S. One last comment – here’s a great podcast interview with Bessel Van Der Kolk who is doing fabulous research on bodywork in healing trauma – including yoga! and meditation!

    https://onbeing.org/programs/bessel-van-der-kolk-restoring-the-body-yoga-emdr-and-treating-trauma/

    Also meditation can also like mindful walking or mindful hiking (not just sitting or lying down) which I think you’ve written that you enjoy in previous posts. Sure there’s religious meditation thru Buddhist traditions, but MBSR (see previous comment) is secular meditation, guided meditation apps are also secular, many churches including Unitarian Universalists have meditation groups that doesn’t require church membership.

  • I gave myself a heart irregularity from internalizing anxiety. Yoga got rid of it. As you mention, breathing is key. Breathing in one way is clearly harmful to us, learning to slow the breath down and focus on it heals. Yoga for me was an affordable “medicine” with no negative side effects.

  • Have you read 10% Happier by Dan Harris? It’s about his struggles with addiction and anxiety and how he discovered mediation. It’s entertaining and inspiring. If you don’t have time to read the book, you could always see f he recommends any podcasts. He’s quite active on social media.

    Im sorry you’re going through this. I struggle with anxiety and depression and it’s rough. Yoga and meditation are part of my self-care plan and they definitely help. On the days when I feel like I’ll crawl out of my skin if I have to be still or face my thoughts, I find that either a brisk walk or a more intense yoga practice help get the jitters out a bit and then I’m able to focus on breathing.

    Good luck on your April goals. :)

    • PS. I haven’t was the comments so someone may have mentioned it, but it’s worth it to go to your doctor for a checkup. There are lots of medical causes for anxiety. Counselling may also be a good option. ❤

  • I’m so glad you shared this, even though I know it’s never easy. I actually started having anxiety attacks in the middle of the night starting about 7 months ago. They are awful.

    I’ve been doing a lot of meditating before bed, because that’s when I deal with it most. I use Buddhify, and I also use a trick my best friend taught me. I slowly tense up each body part and then release that tension when ready. It works for me, and I really hope you find methods that work for you! <3

  • Thank you for sharing your experiences! I haven’t read all the other comments, so I’m sure someone else has said this. If at the end of the month, you find working through your anxiety on your own has not gotten you where you want to go, please consider seeking professional help. I always thought “I didn’t need it” until I came to the realization that my anxiety and depression were effecting every aspect of my life. I am trained as a mental health therapist and so I knew a lot of what my therapist and I worked through already, but it’s so different having an impartial other to help you through it. The voice of reason does not always come from within… Going to see a therapist was THE BEST THING I have ever done for myself. This was what worked for me, and it may or may not be the right step for you. However, I know you are invested in yourself and your wellness, so it’s worth considering if you continue to have challenges with anxiety.

  • Hi Cait, I have no suggestions for you regarding books or podcasts (although some people have given good suggestions that I now want to look into!). However you mentioned that you are interested in hearing people’s stories so I thought I would share mine. I actually started yoga due to gym class requirements. Yep. I am not a fit or athletic person and my university required 3 gym classes for graduation. They offered a wide range, and I took yoga because I figured it would be the least physically demanding (which of course was not true haha). I ended up enjoying it so much that I have continued practicing since then. I have found that when I do yoga my mind clears. I focus on the movement of my body and breathing (and the beauty and joy in that) and not the worries of the day. It has helped me deal with stress and centers me in a way that is meaningful. Afterwards I feel completely relaxed and content. Recently, I was reminded of the benefits of yoga simply because I have not been doing it. Work has been so busy. I am working long days and have felt like I have not had time to do it. However I have been so burnt out and stressed out that I am realizing that I do not not have time for yoga. The energy and clarity I get from it helps me work better. Constanrly laboring under stress is no way to live. Making time to care for yourself is important. So Cait I join you in your journey this month as I plan to get (back) into yoga and meditation myself. I hope you get as much out of it as I did when I first started yoga. I too was reluctant but in the end I am so grateful for that gym class requirement haha. Sending positive thoughts your way!

  • I use a free meditation timer that helps me. My understanding of meditation is to just do it, notice the passing thoughts as they come up, and return to meditation. The app is called INSIGHT TIMER. Lots of guided meditations from around the world and you can reviews before trying a specific one. You can even meditate silently with a starting tone and ending tone.

  • I wish I had some advice to give but can only admit to needing both yoga and meditation myself…! (Thanks for talking about it so honestly.)
    On another note – after many experiments, I am unable to deny the connection between sugar and anxiety for me. What makes it SO hard is that I crave sugar when I am stressed and anxious…such an ugly, vicious cycle. I have fewer anxiety issues when I can cut the sugar. (easier said than done)

  • meditating can be very scaring, because it means it’s you dealing with yourself with no distractions. to make it easier i recommend to start journaling. either on the morning or at evenings. it’s the easiest way to get comfortable with your thoughts. but journaling isn’t enough, it will help you to get in touch with your thoughts but not to yourself. i don’t know if i make any sense.
    then take a walk, without your earphones and start noticing your thoughts as someone that is alone {writing can makes us feel less alone, as you surely know}. it doesn’t need to be a long walk, just until it gets a bit uncomfortable. you’ll notice that you’ll be able to walk more and more, each time.
    for last, take the next step. before you go to sleep, spend one minute meditating. or 30 seconds. and then increase the time. {if this feels that it’s too much of a change, try this app: buddhify, they have small guided meditations for every situation, it always makes me feel better and it increases my chances of not running away from meditation}

    this have worked for me. and whenever i see myself running away from meditating, i start all over again. it is slow but it works for me. :)

    wish you all the best, cait! <3

  • Things that actually helped me- meditating for only 5 minutes to get the hang of it, doing a meditation called “The five elements”, heavy exercise. Listening to chanting. Yoga, swimming, hard exercise (like spinning). And unfortunately, I had to almost give up caffeine. I can only have it once in a while.

  • This can also happen when you’re in a state of overwhelm. Myself for example: I have so many things I want to do. So many things that I want to pursue! But, I can’t do everything at once. Breathing slowly will help clear the mind so you can get your priorities in order and do one thing at a time.

  • Thanks for sharing this – it helps to know others have issues with anxiety too. Mine comes and goes – sometimes the tightness in my chest is a good reminder to breath and be grateful, other times it stresses me out more.

    I’m not going to recommend a podcast or a yoga – all are great suggestions… I want to suggest something that has worked for me: walking/hiking/being outside. Especially where you live now, there must be some amazing walking/hiking trails. I find it nearly impossible to hold my breath when I’m walking at a nice pace on a beautiful trail. Breathe in the fresh spring air and listen to all the birds, or a mountain stream – maybe that is a way to mix in the calming effect of the outdoors with indoor podcasts/yoga videos?

  • Thank you for sharing this. I see a lot of great suggestions in the comments, but most of all, I see a lot of people who are supportive and care about you. You are not alone. We are not alone. Everybody has a story.

  • Something I’ve done over the winter months to help with anxiety (& persistent ear ringing) – I found some relaxing youtube stuff…forests, birds chirping, rain, ocean/waves and I let it play for hours on my TV in the background. It’s like having relaxing nature sounds right inside your house, it calms me.

  • Hi, I enjoyed reading this article. I’ve had yoga in my life before, but recently I’ve made it a regular part of my routine. I go two to three times a week, and while I’m not totally focused or in tune with my breathing all the time it helps and takes me away from life for a few hours a week. I am however looking for any pod casts, websites or audio books that can help me learn to meditate so if any one out there has any information, I would greatly appreciate it. The floating intrigues me and I am definitely going to find out more about this and if it is available in my area.