Stop Anxiety in its Tracks
Today I’m writing you from the fabulous South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, Massachusetts. I’m sitting in the kindergarten classroom waiting for my five o’clock clarinet student to arrive. I love teaching lessons in this space; large and airy windows look out towards the woods, and the teachers have adorned the room in vibrant springtime decor of forsythia branches, kites and paper mache clouds that seem to make the space dance. Through the open doors I can hear students and parents hustling to lessons, and a steady murmur of piano and flute scales coming from above. The sun is just beginning to set and life is fine.
The Challenge: Getting caught in an anxiety vortex
Ever had a small moment of anxiety that spun into something big and menacing? Me, too! And according to my friends, colleagues and students, we're not alone. Here's a story of my latest escapade with anxiety...
I’m not stranger to anxiety, and according to my friends, colleagues and students I’m not alone. The other day I took my dogs for an early morning run at a local cranberry bog. Let’s be clear, they run, I walk! It was a chilly spring day, and after awhile my cheeks started to freeze so we headed back to the car. A shaggy coyote ambled across an open patch of sandy road about 200 yards away, and my 3 year old Doberman, Ranger, took off after him; running at a full-tilt speed that I had no hope of matching. I clicked his remote collar a bunch of times, yelling “heel!”, but I was not as tantalizing as his wild-and-free canine brother. About 50 yards away from each other, they both froze. I could hear strains of the 80’s pop hit “Macho Macho Man” by the Village People playing in the back of my mind as the two sized each other up. Ranger let out an impressive “woof!”, then touched his nose to the ground and happily scampered into the car. The coyote was not impressed, and lazily continued scrounging in the weeds.
10 minutes later we arrived safe back at home, but I was still seething and panting with anxiety. My husband looked at me with playful concern, “Sweetie? What’s going on?” My anxiety loves an invitation to show off, his question was all it took, “Ranger ran after a coyote and what if they got in a fight and even though we’ve been training everyday he didn’t respond to my recall command and that was really dangerous and what if the coyote bit him and and and” He interrupted me mid-sentence, “Stop. Take a deep breath.” I did. I felt better. It was that easy. Yoga teacher, heal thyself.
How about you, what are your anxiety triggers?
The Challenge Decoded:
When our nervous system gets it’s cue for anxiety, it runs down the path, taking our peace away with it. Be it a runaway dog, a misbehaving child, traffic, that project that you’ve been procrastinating on; once your nervous system is triggered your fight-or-flight response kicks on, stress hormones fire up, your breathing becomes shallow, and precious blood gets diverted from your limbs as your body scrambles to protect your internal organs. It’s an amazing process designed to protect us, and one that can be under our control, and it’s as easy as your next breath.
Your Takeaway: Your breath
You have the power to shift this in one easy step. Each breath is a chance to begin again. The first moment you realize that your heading towards freak-out land is the first moment of your new beginning. Just acknowledge what’s happening, say to yourself, “Interesting. I seem to be having some anxiety. Poor me.” Then, take a deep, intentional deep breath. Imagine you are breathing in peace and exhaling stress.
Stop. Breathe. Begin Again.
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
Om Shanthi Om,
Peace to you,