High Anxiety and New Beginnings: (Re-)Finding My Zen

I am used to living with a lot of stress- I’m a musician, university professor, and gifted by genetics with my mother’s over-active worry- wart gene. There is always an upcoming recital or presentation to stress about (usually several all at once to make it extra interesting), new music to learn. There are students to worry about, and eating too much or not exercising enough to agonize over. There are animals and family and a house to worry over, along with all that entails. Recording projects, grants to write, meetings to attend, articles to write; There are responsibilities that seem to add on in layers all the time, with the constant worry of ‘how will I ever do a good job with it all?’ and lately, book deadlines and final edits to get my adrenaline going- oh, and let’s not even talk about world news. Sometimes I feel as stretched thin as a dollar bill in Vegas.

Finding peace at home…

It has been this way for me for as long as I can remember- I have always taken on a lot of things, always pushed myself to reach higher and do more, to succeed, to try to help people and to not let anyone down. Don’t get me wrong- I obviously thrive on it all, as evidenced by the smile on my face, my wacky schedule, and inability to say no to people; I love what I do, truly. I have also not always succeeded, and sometimes some of those spinning plates that I’ve put in motion come crashing down around me in spectacular disarray.

Shiva the yogjni…

I’ve seen some of my colleagues and students go through this ‘Carb-loading’ of duties, too; so many musicians are overachievers who by necessity diversify our skills, get pulled in many different directions, and end up dealing with the unwelcome gifts of anxiety attacks, depression, sleep deprivation, weight gain or loss (oh, how I wish), diminished mental focus, and whole host of ancillary issues. As for myself, I am yet again fighting those thirty pounds that have come and gone throughout my life during times of stress, yet I never give up hope that I’ll banish them for good some day. It’s either my Mary Poppins positive attitude…or the definition of insanity. There truly is no coincidence that the word diet has the word die in it…just saying.

Sophie always seems to know when I need her calming presence at my side.

I woke up at 4am the other morning in a full-on panic attack, one like I hadn’t had in years. I couldn’t breathe, my heart was pounding, and I felt extremely nauseous. Not wanting to wake Dan at chicken-thirty in the morning, I got up quietly and went downstairs to do some yoga and meditation to calm myself, but the symptoms only worsened. For the first time in my career, that high level of anxiety kept me at home on a school day. I do my best to push ahead no matter what, but on this day, I just could not. I crawled back into bed, feeling physically ill and spiritually broken, feeling like a failure.

Time to open a new door, find a new beginning…

(An old door in our 1920 home.)

However, I have learned to trust my gut instinct after these many years, and I know I did the right thing in honoring my feelings and needs that day. Self-care is so important and often I am not good at, as I am too busy taking care of others. I am a nurturer, and I love taking care of more than being taken care of. That is well and good, but- as I often tell my students- you can’t pour from an empty cup. If I give and give without taking care of my own needs, then I won’t be able to give to others, to be a good teacher, colleague, friend, or spouse. When will I ever listen to my own advice?

Sophie demonstrates the perfect down dog…

I decided that it was time for another life re-boot, another opportunity to right my path. I am huge believer in second chances- even in tenth chances- whatever it takes; as long as we keep getting back up and trying again- that’s what matters. I made a pact with myself to do some sort of yoga and meditation every single day for sixty days to reduce my stress and gently get my body (and tricky back) in a healthier place. My husband is a yoga teacher, and I have seen the transformative effects of yoga time and time again. Now it’s my turn. I’ll keep you posted.

Namaste.

And if nothing else, a bit of levity never hurt…


6 thoughts on “High Anxiety and New Beginnings: (Re-)Finding My Zen

  1. I can sooo relate to this post! I’m currently fighting a stress cold and trying to keep all my plates spinning. I need to try yoga but I’m too chicken to go to a class where I’ll embarrass myself (almost 60 and I’ve discovered I have my mother’s flatulence gene!!)…

    1. I promise you that you won’t embarrass yourself- yoga is about taking you from wherever you are, accepting where you are. I would suggest finding a class at a YMCA or something less threatening than a yoga studio, or look for Vinyasa Flow videos on YouTube for beginners or on DVD on Amazon. There is something for everyone, and it is so very good for us. Age isn’t an issue- yoga keeps you young, mentally and physically (my husband is 65 and going strong with teaching yoga). And…farts happen in a yoga class. Just laugh and keep going. 🙂 Go for it! ❤️

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