Since the start of the new semester, my anxiety has come back with a vengeance. I have always been an anxious person, and have struggled with anxious thoughts and constant worrying at different points in my life. However, my anxiety lately has been harder for me to get under control. I particularly suffer from the physical symptoms, including stomach cramps and digestive issues. If the anxiety is especially bad, I feel like my throat is closing, and have difficulty getting enough air. It can be really debilitating. I mean, really, who wants to bust out an assignment when you can literally barely breathe?!
Something I have found to be very helpful in calming my anxiety is mindfulness meditation. However, it wasn’t successful right away. I first tried mindfulness during my first year at U of T, and developed a love-hate relationship with the practice. Sitting in a chair for 45 minutes, tuning in to my own mental chatter was, quite frankly, exhausting. My thoughts bounced around like a 4-year-old on a sugar high: I thought about everything, from what I was going to eat later, to the mountain of assignments I needed to do, to what my plans were for summer, and back to what I would eat tomorrow (I love food, clearly). I was restless and antsy and ended up getting mad at myself for how difficult it was for me to focus on my breathing. But I persisted, and continued going to the class and found that eventually I stopped trying to fight against my mind and just let it go all over the place. And at the end, when I opened my eyes, I was happy to have allowed myself a break from the craziness of life.
Since my anxiety has returned, I have been feeling very out of control and a little lost. So I decided I should return to my mindfulness practice, if for nothing else than for a short break within my day. I attended the Yoga and Meditation class offered at the Athletic Centre and am so happy I did. The class began with us lying on our backs, eyes closed, focusing on our breathing. This is something that is really helpful for me, as I can become aware of how my breathing changes when I’m anxious compared to when I’m relaxed. The instructor then guided us through some gentle yoga poses and movements. Normally, I am adamantly opposed to yoga, as my flexibility is what you could call lacking: my “toe-touch” is more of a “knee-touch” on a good day. Nevertheless, I found the movements really helpful and relaxing! The class ended with us returning to our meditation. There is nothing quite like the feeling of opening your eyes after meditating. I always feel so refreshed, my mind more awake and my thoughts more at ease.
I know anxiety is something I will likely always struggle with, but that’s okay, because I can always slow down and pause for a mindfulness break.