After a long week in my new group business program – rearranging mostly my whole life to find more structure and opportunity for the things I REALLY want to do, I found myself on the floor in the fetal position unable to breathe or even move.
I was paralyzed with panic. The world was dark and even though I was safe in my home with people who love me, it was all too much for my emotions. I was exhausted, my son had decided that he wanted to be awake and play in the middle of the night and I finally broke.
I used to have panic attacks regularly but it had been several years since then, and now I have a tool belt full of resources to use when I start feeling overwhelmed or too stressed out. From grounding exercises to breathing techniques – you would think someone who has been working on mindset for upwards of a decade would have a handle on her emotions and thoughts by now.
In the thick of it, I lost my most important connection – the one with myself. I was out of touch with my emotions and pushing through these changes without stepping back to check in and see where I was feeling uncertain or hesitating. It is those areas of uncertainty that show us where we are feeling insecure about our environments – or more importantly our ability to do the things we set out to do. If we ignore them, they will choose WHEN and HOW to get our attention. For me, it was the middle of the night on my bedroom floor.
My tapping coach, Anita tells me (so gently) that I try to rush through uncomfortable emotions or thoughts, because I just want to get past them, right? I just want to feel better – I want to be on my “A” game, I don’t want to spend downtime in my feelings, especially if they are holding me back. Through my work with her I am more mindful of slowing down to feel the feels, rather than slap a bandaid of an excuse on their appearance and keep barreling through with my big plans for this wide world.
We are living in a time of absolute overwhelm right now. Our nervous systems are shot, we are just trying to navigate the twists and turns each new day brings.
How do we grow when our physical bodies are literally in survival mode?
Short answer: We Don’t.
Long (optimistic) answer: The autonomic nervous system is an intrinsic response to stress or perceived threat. What can we do if our stress stimuluses are ongoing and we are constantly triggering that fight or flight response? We control our response to stress. We start to pay attention. We address stress – mindfully.
When we are disconnected from ourselves, our minds start to run the show – and holy shit do our minds like to tell some freaking stories. On and on they go: from discomfort to full blown catastrophe in a matter of seconds.
Here’s the thing, our minds don’t know what’s real and what’s not real. If our mind is telling us we are spiraling into darkness and it’s getting harder and harder to breathe, our bodies will respond to that – even when we are safe on our bedroom floors. If our minds are constantly running a narrative about how uncertain, unsafe, and unstable our lives are – the body will continue to respond to that story.
The first step of mindful stress management is to get familiar with the stories our minds are telling right now. See if you can relate to any of these common 2020 narratives:
- Our health is under attack
- Our freedoms are under attack
- There is not enough time
- There is not enough money
- I am not safe, my family is not safe
- Everything is messed up
- If “group X” would just….
Just like emotions, we have to check in with our thoughts and SEE the stories that are being told on autopilot, before we can seek to change them.
What emotions are tied to these thoughts?
What is your body’s response to these thoughts – do you feel tense, tight, nervous?
What does your breathing do when you are caught up in mind drama?
Identify where your thoughts and body are RIGHT NOW, and give yourself some grace because we are experiencing a total shift in normalcy right now and it’s ok to feel a little discombobulated – or a lot discombobulated.
And if you happen to panic – that’s ok, too. There was nothing I could do about my panic attack, every one of my tools were unavailable to me for those five or ten minutes. (Truly felt like I was there for hours and hours, though!!)
Reigning in our minds can be done with intention, stillness, and mindfulness, but that doesn’t mean we won’t ever experience distress or overwhelm again – that’s quite unlikely for every single person on this planet.
The point of mindful stress management isn’t to never feel stressed again, it’s to handle stress well – with a perspective that gets us out of the fires of panic and into a space of compassionate observation.
Compassionate observation allows for ebbs and flows of life without attaching ourselves, our thoughts, and our feelings to the circumstance. Compassionate observations says “This is happening, and I am still me.”
Overwhelm and stress does not define who we are, it is simply an experience just like grief, joy, excitement, or fear. It is how we to choose to compassionately observe ourselves in ALL of these experiences that defines who we are.
And so you know, the narrative can always be changed – it starts with a single decision to practice mindful navigation through life.
If you want more help getting started on connecting to self and practicing compassionate observation of self, shoot me a message, I’d love a virtual chai date with you.
You’re wild, worthy, and worth it. (Even as a panicked ball of flesh.)