Hey there, lovely souls! It's day six of my "Week of Hugs" blog posts, and today I've decided to talk about something that helped me immensely a few decades ago. I talked a bit about my struggle with anxiety and panic attacks in this post and on my about page, but I'd like to go into it a bit more today.
Back when I was in college, I started having daily panic attacks. They were so awful that I still remember them vividly, decades later. I remember lying on my bed one day, staring at the hippie tapestry on my wall, feeling like I was powerless over my thoughts. I remember wondering if I'd ever feel normal again. I remember feeling like that line from a Dave Matthews Band song: "Open up my head and let me out" (which came out a few years later, but reminded me of my panic attack days the first time I heard it).
This went on for a few months, until it became clear they weren't just going to go away on their own. I remember sitting in my college apartment, thinking: "I could go on meds. . . or I could try and do this the hard way." And just FYI, I have no judgment about people who do use meds. They have their place. But my path was different.
So, instead I began to devour everything I could in the self-help realm. I started doing affirmations, self-hypnosis, mantras, visualization exercises, and meditation. I saturated myself with the stuff. And before too long, I started to notice a BIG difference.
There was one moment that it began to click for me, that this stuff was actually working. I had been visualizing myself as a really happy person, walking to a building on campus. I was imagining myself walking in an almost dance-y kind of way, with a really joyful look on my face.
One day, as I was walking, I noticed something pretty amazing. I noticed that I actually HAD that look on my face, and was walking in the way I'd imagined. I stopped in my tracks, and took it in. In that moment, I also realized that I wasn't having anxiety attacks anymore. I hadn't had one in over a week. It was probably one of the biggest feelings of relief I'd ever experienced.
So, I want to share with you a few of the tools I used to go from a state of despair to a state of empowerment and happiness. And I also want to reiterate something I said in my "Seven Ways to Create a Positive Path Forward After the Election" - that sometimes our greatest struggles bring our greatest gifts. If I'd never had those vile panic attacks, I would have never built up my inner wellness regime, or been able to pass that on to others. I'm grateful for that hellish time, because I wouldn't be half the person I am today if I'd never gone through it and come out the other side.
OK, enough chit-chat! I want to share one of my favorite tools for inner wellness with you today. This was one that helped me immensely back then, and I often work with wellness clients using it as well. It's easy to do, and you can use it anywhere.
Breathing Affirmation (Feels like a self-hug):
1. Get into a comfortable position. I used to do this sitting in my car, actually (in the olden days of the early 90's).
2. Think about something you want to let go of, and something you want to have more of. When I first started doing this exercise, I was directly addressing my panic attacks. So, for me, I used "fear" and "peace."
3. Breathe in. As you do so, affirm "I am breathing in ______." So, in my example, I'd say "I am breathing in peace." I also like to use the words "allowing" and "open to." So, some different ways you could state this would be:
- "I am breathing in peace."
- "I am allowing more peace."
- "I am open to peace."
- "I call forth peace."
And of course, you can use the word "peace" or replace it with whatever works best for you. Some other words that work well here are: Love, Light, Strength, Trust.
4. Breathe out what you don't want. For me, I started with "fear." And so, I'd say (think, actually), "I am letting go of fear" as I exhaled. You can also use words like: Darkness, Anger, and The Old. (I used to like doing another twist on this, breathing in "I allow the new" and breathing out "I release the old.")
5. Simply continue this exercise as long as you can. Breathe in the new/whatever good stuff you want more of, and breathe out the old/crappy stuff you want to say BUH BYE to.
This is a powerful exercise, that if repeated regularly, will help you shift into a happier, more positive state. Please let me know what you think! I'll be back tomorrow with another wellness exercise for day seven.
Much much LOVE to you always! xx Tess