“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
With the Fall, comes change. Kids back to school, shorter days… If you believe in a collective subconscious, that we are all plugging in and out of a shared frequency, then you’re probably picking up on some of the anxiety floating around associated with this back to school change felt by so many.
I do not have kids but the week of Labor Day when there was a lot of going back to school going on, I was full of anxiety. Just woke up that way. It’s a terrible feeling, like something really bad, really really bad, is going to happen at any moment. When I feel like that the only thing I can do to squelch the bubbling dread is to hit a WOD. Right up until it’s 3, 2, 1.. Go! my skin feels like it’s going to peel from the bone, my heart is in my stomach and I just want to coat my brain in a magic numbing elixir, whatever it takes to calm the rushing thoughts and invoke some peace.
Since the Holiday week has passed and I’ve resumed my routine and have been hitting WODs faithfully so too the anxiety has ebbed. Sometimes I wonder, when the anxiety hits and almost seems too much to bear, I wonder if these pelting bouts of dread are to be my fate in the years to come and worry if I will have the continued necessary strength to endure. Of course the answer is, Yes. I can say that now of course as I am once again on the other end.
But if you have ever experienced brow beating anxiety you know the weight of which I speak and the inability at times to see through to the other side.
There’s a really good Memoir, Monkey Mind by Daniel Smith, that chronicles a personal journey of living with Anxiety – well written and most important, wickedly funny.
When the rounds of Anxiety come knocking I’ve learned to arm myself with a few tricks of personal defense, drummed up after years of trial and error:
- Recognize – When the negative thoughts start to percolate, recognize their approach, know you have some work to do, tell yourself it’s okay, allow yourself the task at hand.
- Put on some calming music. Not pop, or anything with words for that matter, classical or actual meditation music, Pandora has some great heart meditation stations.
- Try to sit calmly somewhere comfortable. Close your eyes. Breathe.
- Identify – Focus on exactly what it is your are feeling. Don’t bury it. Call it out from behind the curtain and name that which you are feeling. Anger, guilt, remorse, fear. Stare it in the face. You’ll be surprised by the strength you gain in doing so. There’s nothing to be afraid of.
- Picture something arbitrary and beautiful – rolling clouds on a sunny day, an endless empty beach with crashing waves, wind blowing through pine trees. Something that will take your thoughts from the bad to something unrelated and light. Time to start redirecting the thought train in a new positive direction.
- WOD – I don’t care what it takes. You’ve checked your breathing and started to tame your thoughts. Now stand up, put on your gym clothes and step out the door and drive/walk/skateboard/skip to your box. Walk through the front door. That’s all you have to do. The rest will take care of itself. A friendly face will say your name and greet you, hello. You’ll put down your bag and take off your coat. You’ll study the white board and your thoughts will turn from dread to strategy, weights, reps and possibilities. Soon, your body will start to move and your heart will race and you will sweat. Your mind will focus on the one very immediate task in front of you and maybe you’ll think that you can’t but you will get after it anyway and you will know that you can and all else will melt away.
Individual strategies for coping with anxiety will vary. The above seems to work for me.
When there’s only a light sprinkle on the horizon I’ll just skip to number 5 on the way home from work knowing it’s the one true remedy. When the storm clouds really start to gather I’ll methodically go through each step from 1 to 4, sometimes more than once, before even attempting no. 5. Sometimes things can look so bleak I understand I’ll never get out the door unless I tame the thoughts first. Other days I can feel the trouble brewing and nip it with a WOD before it boils over. But in the end the WOD is always an integral part of the solution.
Tonight, it was box jumps.
I’m struggling with being laid off from work. About 60% of the staff in our office are currently without jobs come Nov. 8. There is still work to be done, important work, between now and then. It is not a fun place to be as there are a lot of unknowns, a lot of anxiety, some resentment, some ambivalence, mostly just uncertainty.
While I do believe great opportunities are born from moments like these, it does not make the process any easier. Combine the professional uncertainty with a poignant form of loneliness that surfaces every now and again, and you have a storm a brewin’. What will happen to me? Where will I end up? Who will be the lucky bastard that ends up with me?
And then you hit a WOD RX and do some 31″ box jumps. And everything gets a little brighter… Everything gets a lot brighter.