Meditation: Calm, 7 Days of Calming Anxiety: Noting Length: 13 minutes Where: Office/Guest Room, Los Angeles How It Felt: Great!
Now that I’ve let go of my little phone game and identified a few other time-wasters, I feel like I have a lot more control over my day, which is really nice. Some of you may recall I was determined to start a strong morning routine and stick with it, which hasn’t really been happening. I was letting my mornings slip by, probably out of an awareness that this lazy, indulgent pace is right on the cusp of ending, and I wanted to really suck the marrow out of this time.
Today, rather than linger over my tea and get lost in my phone, I got going. (Ok, I lay in bed for a while reading news and Facebook and Reddit, actually, but I didn’t become a Type A go-getter overnight! I like my mornings a little slow.) Once I was up, I got organized, did some writing, email, yoga, and meditation all within the first couple hours of being awake. I would have kept powering through this blog and some language study (which I also try to do daily), but I had to run errands.
Later in the day, I felt myself getting a bit tired and sad, a little bout of depression that circles around for me here and there, and I was so glad I used the first half of my day so well. I could stop and rest without beating myself up over a wasted day. It allowed me to be gentler with myself, and that, along with my husband being unbelievably loving when I told him how I was feeling, actually made me feel a little better.
It’s a relief to stop a shame spiral in its tracks.
The meditation from this morning was lovely. It was a “noting” exercise, which I’ve done before with Headspace’s anxiety course (which I should also finish!). It’s something I find helpful and would truly like to get into the habit of doing. It’s basically a practice of labeling your feelings (“fear”, “sadness”) rather than identifying as those feelings, taking them personally. It’s a way to detach and stay in a state of equanimity.
I know I have my guard up a lot. It’s just a side effect of my life: being so different from everyone around me growing up, having family in constant battle mode, having to be prepared for whatever state my parents would be in when I got home that day, needing to always be ready to protect all my younger siblings (and always ready to protect myself– who else was going to?), and, even as an adult, just being a woman means you have to pay attention, read between the lines, never get too comfortable in most situations, lest you get steamrolled or casually disrespected or, frankly, raped.
I don’t believe the Universe is unkind, and I know there is more good in the world than bad. I would like to be able to trust that more on a cellular level.
That’s why I know most of my anxiety simply comes from a lifetime of having to be prepared at all times. I will play out every possible scenario in my head, will prepare for every single thing a person could say or do. For example, people who know me well will tell you I’m excellent in conflict. I can make ten good points before the other guy can get a sentence together. I am ready for whatever is coming at me. No lie or manipulation of the truth gets past me, not ever.
Just ask the high school boyfriend that came back from a trip, kissed me, and was immediately hit with my, “Did you cheat on me??” (Spoiler: Of course he did. I never questioned my gut again, and I have never been wrong about those things. Not one time.)
This is not to say I like to fight or even participate in conflict. I don’t, I hate it. That’s part of why I’m so good at it. I would rather get through it and get to the part where we’ve reached an understanding than sit in the discomfort of whatever we aren’t saying or addressing. I hate the conflict part, but I live for the resolution. And I don’t fight dirty unless I’m really, really backed into a corner. I try my best to be civil and clear.
This approach works for my life in a lot of ways. I am really good at setting boundaries, I have a deep trust in my gut and it has never lead me astray, and I tend to have much better relationships with the people I truly care about because they know exactly where I stand and they know I want the same treatment. We don’t have to guess and mind-read and tiptoe around each other. We can just… say the thing.
Still, this way of living can certainly cause anxiety! If anxiety is worrying about things that haven’t even happened, then I’m basically inviting it when I imagine every single scenario of every hard situation from the absolute best to the terrifying worst.
Why not just visualize the best outcome and keep my focus on that? It could still go wrong, but I wouldn’t waste more time stressing about it than necessary. What is the point?
I should trust myself more at this point in my life. I’m good in the moment. I know who I am and what I stand for. I’m not afraid to ask questions if I need more information or don’t understand something. There is no more need for me to “get prepared” for every tiny possible thing.
I’ve spent more whole life “preparing” just by being me and living this way.
I am prepared.
So, when I have those thoughts, I can label them. “Fear” and “unnecessary.” I can deflate their power by believing in my own.
It’s just like my depression today. I didn’t fight it or stress about it or shame spiral, I just let it flow gently, and it released a bit.
We want to feel GOOD and HAPPY and POSITIVE all the time, and we freak out when we don’t, then beat ourselves up and make it so much worse. This idea of just saying to myself, “Oh, I feel sad.” or “Oh. That feeling is fear. What’s that about?” sounds so much nicer than letting my brain get hijacked by whatever it feels like holding onto that day.
Equanimity, dude. It all comes back to equanimity. Amazing.