From feeling anxious and stressed to going with the flow
From feeling anxious and stressed to going with the flow
I have never really thought of myself as an anxious person, but I was certainly stressed for a lot of my life, so much so that I ended up with a hyperactive thyroid at age 52 years, which affected my major muscles including my heart, giving me atrial fibrillation.
When the thyroid condition was first confirmed in 2002 I asked the specialist if it could be caused by stress and he answered, “Possibly”. “OK” I said, and I was determined from there on to reduce all stress in my life.
At the time I had a lot going on in my life. I was overweight, still drinking alcohol, my kids were in their early 20s and living between home and university, I was unhappy in my marriage and I was running my own business offering coaching, counselling and co-ordinating training courses. The phone was always ringing and interrupting family life. Looking back, I was feeling anxious and stressed a lot of the time.
It didn’t help that I was a great procrastinator, always leaving things to the last minute, and I was running on nervous energy most of the time. In my business I would sometimes stay up until 3 am completing a course handout ready for delivery the next day. Or I would be up late writing emails which could easily have been done earlier if I hadn’t been distracted by something else. Going to bed late before a big day didn’t help, because not only was I anxious, I’d be tired as well, so I was not offering my best to the day.
I always wanted to get things right but I rarely planned ahead, so everything was done at the last minute. For example, I would be due to go out for a social event, but I would be doing something else right up to the last minute then have to rush to get ready and would be anxious about arriving late. For business appointments it was the opposite as I made work a priority; I would arrive early to set everything up, the anxiousness in this case being I wanted to make sure it all ran smoothly.
I was always keen to be helpful in my local community and I spent years on this committee or that committee, and they had a stress all of their own. I was good at chairing meetings, but it was yet another thing for me to worry about.
I over-committed myself and I didn’t have much time left for relationships and friendships. Over the years I have recognised how much stress there was in my life and now I’m learning to relax more and let go of the need to control everything. I’ve always been a busy person and I still am, but I am feeling way less stressed and my thyroid readings have gone back to normal with no surgical intervention. How did I do it? It took a few years and some complete life changes, but it was a journey well worth undertaking.
In 2005 I met a man called Serge Benhayon, who introduced me to the Gentle Breath Meditation®. This is a simple technique that invites us to breathe gently through the nose. It requires no special position, clothes or time of day and can be done anywhere, at any time. For the first time, with the help of the Gentle Breath Meditation®, I was able to connect to a deeper part of me that did not feel anxious or stressed, and I started to use this as a marker of how I could be – not just while meditating, but in everyday life.
Serge talked about energy and how everything is energy, passing through us all of the time, and how that energy affects everything we do and say, and how everything we do and say affects everyone else. I began to realise just how driven I was and how I didn’t need to be that way.
The drivers that make me anxious
When I reflect on the drivers that make me anxious, they are:
- You have to get it right
- You have to be helpful
- There is no time to sit down and relax
- You have to be a good girl
- You mustn’t be nasty
- You must be polite
- You mustn’t be rude
- Keep quiet; do as you are told.
I started to look at these ideals and beliefs I had taken on, of how I thought I had to be and how I had to behave with other people. I realised how destructive they were, and slowly but surely I began to let them go.
I’ve spent most of my life self-bashing; judging myself for being a ‘bad’ girl for doing what I know I shouldn’t. In other words, I’ve made life about good and bad, right and wrong, and what I should or shouldn’t do – it’s no wonder I have been so anxious!
I’m slowly learning to accept and appreciate that simply being me is all I need to do; that everything I am is already inside me and that when I let go of trying and surrender to who I truly am, then life gets much simpler.
Now, 15 years on, at age 70, I can still catch the anxiety creeping in, and when I feel the tension in my neck and shoulders I recognise it immediately, breathe gently, and let it go.
For example, every Monday morning I present a two-hour radio show. At first I spent hours listening to tunes, checking what I wanted to play, writing my script and feeling anxious to get it right. Gradually I relaxed as I realised there were plenty of great tunes on the station library, and I didn’t need to download anything or prepare anything. I can simply have fun seeing what’s there and feeling what to play next in each moment. This creates a flow that allows me to be relaxed in my communication with the listeners.
I’m learning to cut back on commitment – I have cut back on activities that lead to late nights and I have made the choice to not be on any more committees as that was not serving me, so I was not serving anyone.
I have no intention of retiring even though I am 70 years old so I’m working, but work is not stressful because I refuse to let it be and I am there for only two days a week. I have to be realistic about what I can achieve in those two days, so I don’t plan what I’m going to do until I get there and I see what the day brings. No more late nights up worrying about the day ahead and getting stressed and anxious.
I often get small impulses, for example to be somewhere or to do a particular activity. When I trust what I feel then I am less anxious, because it’s the Truth that I am being presented with. More and more I see that the thoughts that make me anxious are lies; it’s as if they are deliberately fed to me to stop me from being me.
These days the anxiousness manifests in subtle ways, through trying to help or trying to please. I can still give my power away to others at times by trying to keep the peace and not expressing in full who I am – i.e. not saying what I feel in each moment, or what I need – but the main key to the change in my life is being a lot more relaxed about everything and not needing to control anything. I don’t procrastinate so much, and I generally feel more on top of things, letting go of the nervous drive and living in the flow of life.
I’m learning to react less to life having a greater understanding through the observation of what’s going on everywhere, letting my natural impulses guide my actions. Decisions become easier as I let my body and not my head decide; when I trust that my next steps will reveal themselves to me, I don’t need to be so pushy for what I think I need to be doing. Funnily enough I’m still doing a lot, but it all seems to flow together in a more harmonious way.
I wouldn’t say I never get anxious these days, but I am so much less anxious and more at ease than I used to be, and I can use the Gentle Breath Meditation® to bring me back to the present moment, in my body.
I’m enjoying being who I truly am.