I woke up feeling off. The routines that usually structure my days have been a bit altered these days and I have new things going on. The weather is awesome and, as much as I love it, change and hot temperatures can also trigger my anxiety (insert shrugging shoulders emoji.) In between work assignments, social life, and planning a holiday with five other people, I see my life going back to what it was before. It feels incredibly exciting. Summer! I'm getting more copywriting jobs! I'm doing a sponsored collab for the blog with a brand I really like! There are picnics and little excursions every other day! I'm meeting new people! I'm feeling super aligned, and have been for a long time already! And then a thought pops in: What if I can't do it all? What if it gets too much? What if I get sick again? What if I lose control?
In the past, these thoughts have been self-fulfilling prophecies. It usually goes like this. I start dwelling on the variables of my life that can go wrong; I start remembering times where it *did* go wrong; I start overinterpreting *signs;* (oh, two years ago I also felt like this when so and so happened;) I start getting scared. And the more I pick on my symptoms: "why am I this nervous?" or "why is my stomach hurting?" or "why does the air feel so thick?" the more I get bothered. The more I feel resistance against my body and emotions, the more I get annoyed. The more I'm annoyed and conflicted, the less I can be present in my life. This means that I basically stop being able to enjoy the *moment unfolding* (the friends, the summer plans, the serendipitous encounters) and start having trouble with whatever workload there is on my plate. Which in turn makes me feel more unconfident and fuels more anxiety. It's a catch 22, really. And we - the people who suffer from generalized anxiety - know it. We know that our minds feed our mental loops, we notice when our worries are snowballing and growing out of proportion. We feel it, and we wonder, in horror: "why am I doing this to myself?!" And often enough we just can't avoid it. So, ON TOP OF IT ALL, we also feel guilty. Because it's our fault. We should be able to stop it. If we're aren't, we're weak, we're stupid, we're incapable. Ah, my dear birds of paradise, the mind of the anxious person is a joy forever.
Here's what I've done today. Upon waking up I did my Wim Hof breathing. I know that it consistently makes me feel good. By this point, I have an undying love for Wim Hof for the straightforward way in which he systematized tools that are so great to keep anxiety in check (won't work for everyone, obviously; for me, it's a medicine from heaven.) Wim Hof's breathing technique is very similar to Bhastrika pranayama, a type of breathing exercise yoga practitioners might be familiar with. Pranayama is one of the eight limbs of yoga and it is integral to the yogic life. It helps clear out physical and emotional blockages and calm our minds. By inviting researchers to study his "system" - which is highly influenced by yoga philosophy and practice - Wim Hof married ancient wisdom and science. And yes, science confirmed the tangible health benefits of breathwork (which is only one aspect of Hof’s method, that comprises mindful movement and exposure to cold temperatures, as well.)
After breathwork, I cleaned up and organized a bit, which is a coping mechanism for me. While I get my house in order, I order my mind. I need a clean and decluttered space to feel well. It's been that way since I'm a child. Finally, I morning-paged.
Throwing my inner-chatter onto the page gives me some distance from it, almost as if the thoughts were objects I could observe. And when the mental loops gain a physical form they usually become less scary because I can see them for what they are. "Oh, this is what I'm afraid of." "Okay, here I'm projecting and fantasizing so much. I have no idea how things are gonna play out." "This other situation could become burdensome but I objectively can't read into the future, so I don't know. If it does become burdensome I'll act accordingly. I just don't need to think about it now." Above all, it makes me realize that my mental loops work like a magnifying glass that highlights only the danger. It's as if my mind becomes its own private tabloid, bringing things out of proportion. Let's say that I'm feeling tired and a bit nervous for whatever set of reasons. The headline my mind would produce is: Burned Out And Insane: The Downfall Of Ana, The Woman Who Had Everything To Succeed But Didn't Because She's Just The Total Looser And Now Everybody Knows. In that sense, when I'm anxious, my thinking isn't fully grounded in reality. Just like, say, The Daily Mail or De Telegraaf (or Correio da Manhã if you're Portuguese) are not.
The distance I create from my thoughts when I write them also reminds me of the workings of anxiety. Anxiety presents you with worst-case scenarios every single time. This feels bizarre because I'd describe myself as a pretty positive person. But this type of contradiction is part of the human experience. My thinking when I'm anxious doesn't define me. The symptoms I might experience when I'm anxious don't define me. They are circunstancial. They come and go. However, there's this other side of me that is always here: my "core", my "nature", some call it "soul". I've gone through enough horrible periods in my life to know that *that thing* always remains. Even in the darkest times, there's a little undying flame inside me, something I will call "goodness" for lack of a better word. It usually comes in the form of kindness I spontaneously show others or kindness others show me. It usually goes both ways. It's a mix of love and redemption; at least that's how I experience it. No, I don't "go crazy" when I'm in periods of acute stress (a recurring fear I had in the past.) If anxiety is strong it can feel extremely uncomfortable: it might fill me with doom, make me feel spaced out and disconnected. It might manifest physically too, with pain here, discomfort there. But my essential nature remains. And I like who I am. And I fully trust who I am. Doubting my sanity when I'm bothered with anxiety *is* anxiety. It's not me.
Radical self-trust is precisely the takeaway of today's morning pages, for me. I have found time after time that trusting myself 100% is the safest of paths. Because when you honor what's the most genuine to you, you feel secure. And even when the outcome of a given situation is not what you had expected, it still feels right because you respected the integrity of who you are. It feels very scary to trust yourself so fully at first - a bit like jumping off the highest board of an Olympic swimming pool. Since most of us were trained from a young age to disconnect from ourselves and to have a basic distrust of our emotions and our bodies, it might take a lot of practice until we manage to do something as basic as to TRUST. But as we get used to treating ourselves like we would treat our best friend, we learn to rest in that *core -self, *, and its wisdom. Our core -self doesn't know everything, but it has an in-built sense of direction. If we learn to go with it, we'll always be fine. In my mind, I can hear Elizabeth say "You're Goooood, Girl!"