I’ve Meditated for 187 Days Straight

And boy, is my mind tired! (Ha ha!)

But really, I have. And I’ve done yoga for that length of time, too, give or take a day or four. And this is why I started and why I’ve kept up with it….

Back in June of this year, I felt like I was losing my grip on my peace of mind, my emotional balance, and my overall world order. I wanted everything to stop so that I could take a break for awhile. I wanted to wrap myself up in a blanket and rock back and forth to save my soul. I wanted to be left alone, but I also felt lonely. The funny thing is, there was nothing really specific happening other than I was alone for almost two months straight while dealing with a rescue dog who wasn’t a perfect angel right out of the gate. That made me feel even worse. I felt like I was overly anxious and emotional without a “good” reason to be so. (If you read this, BoBo the Chiweenie, please know that the problem was me not you and you’re an awesome doggie!)

I’d had the feeling before that I was experiencing anxiety, maybe even panic attacks. I didn’t want to admit it to myself, much less talk about it with others. I’d feel a pressure like a fist squeezing my chest. It would hurt. It would be hard to breathe. I’d get very light headed, almost faint. I would break out in a sweat. When I look back, I see that I’d been experiencing this type of thing off and on for most of my adult life. The frequency of these episodes had been steadily increasing. I have pulmonary issues because of my autoimmune disease and these attacks do not do my lungs any favors. I used my emergency inhaler just in case.

I was feeling this way again in June and knew that I had to get myself back on track or I would be headed toward an unhealthy place that I had no interest in visiting. I had a flash of something I thought could help, something that my body and mind seemed to be asking for when I sat still quietly enough to listen. I decided to commit to 30 days of meditation and yoga. I set a minimum goal of 5 minutes of each daily, figuring that no matter what was going on, I could find 10 minutes in my day to care for myself and my mental health. At the time, it was so important to me to get myself better, that a daily practice was immediately non-negotiable. I used guided meditations from a variety of sources. (Still do! Having someone else talk me through it gives me something to focus on so that my mind doesn’t wander too much.) Initially, I focused on reducing anxiety and achieving a calmer mind. Within a week, I was feeling more calm and able to focus. Within two weeks, I realized I was happier, more optimistic, and starting to feel less physical pain. I kept going….

And now, here I am at 187 days straight. I am even happier. I feel more balanced. I still have periods of anxiety (I had one this morning!) and I assume I will for life, but they are less frequent and less likely to be triggered by something trivial. I am better able to manage the episodes that I do have. I stand taller. I am more confident and less socially anxious. I reduced my reliance on things like alcohol, social media, and retail therapy. I am in considerably less physical pain and have been able to reduce medication that helps me manage it (this was Ok’d by my rheumatologist). I’m thinking about becoming a vegetarian (again). My skin is clearer and my eyes are brighter. I feel more grounded and connected to the world outside my head. If I feel my chest starting to tighten or my heart starting to beat out of my chest, I immediately turn to focusing on my breath or, if location and time permit, I run through a yoga sequence. I’m going to keep going. Can I make it to a year straight? Can I make it to 1000 days?

Through this journey and process, I’ve had a lot of realizations and have been able to process patterns of behavior, choices I’ve made, and aspects of my personality that I’ve never been in love with. I’ve been able to release things that it does not serve me to put energy toward and I’ve been able to better consciously choose what I bring into my life. I’ve become clearer about that all important life goal: “the Purpose”.

It is my intention to start sharing what I’ve learned about myself and how I’m dealing with life after the acceptance of the role anxiety plays in it. (I should probably be super spiritual here and express gratitude to my meditation practice for connecting me with awareness for how anxiety was manifesting itself and disrupting my life, but I’m not there yet. Maybe I’ll be grateful after 374 days straight, but at Day 187, I’m still not thrilled.)

 

Now is Not the Time to Knit That Sweater

As a person that wears a lot of hats, one of them being someone with an autoimmune disease, I often struggle with overwhelm and getting burned out quickly. I can feel like a superhero if I go grocery shopping, walk the dog, and do laundry all in one day. In fact, the ability to complete basic household tasks without needing a day to recuperate might be an autoimmune super power.

Sometimes, I overwhelm myself with things that are potentially good for me. “I’m going to start this yoga challenge and revamp my diet and journal and meditate every day and start painting and read all of those unread books and put on real pants all right now!” I can be very all or nothing. Needless to say, I can also burn out very quickly.

My Schweetie is currently out of town for five weeks for work. I was looking at this time as a way to finally do all of those things and more. (Side note: I’m SO amazing at putting on real pants now!) One of the things I had planned was to start to knit my first sweater. I tried. I started and restarted about 4 times. I asked for help. I consulted with a very knitterly friend. I spent an entire Sunday trying to start knitting this sweater correctly. It wasn’t happening. I was frustrated and defeated. Then that spiraled into all of the other super awesome things that I was supposed to be doing to be a super awesome person while Schweetie is out of town.

Then it hit me: Now is not the time to knit that sweater.

In fact, now is not the time to do all of the things, even if many of those things are good for me. It’s time to focus on what is important and to even decide what hats to take off for a bit.

I started to think about what my main goals are for the rest of the year (only about 8 months left!) and I started to think about how I could comfortably make progress. As much as I like to be a creative, idea generating tornado, I thrive best when I have structure, a schedule, and clear expectations. I decide to operate from a list of my Can Dos, Have Tos, and Want Tos.

A Can Do is a thing that will move me toward a goal. They’re more free form choices and are usually remotely enjoyable. They include things like researching business card designs, studying information for a course I’m going to take, or contacting friends to ask if they’d be willing to let me practice skills with them. I try to keep the tasks short and sweet. This blog post is a Can Do.

My Have Tos are the less fun things. Much like the title says, they are things that I have to do. Things like checking my email, returning a business phone call, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, or household things like laundry.

I use these lists to determine my Want Tos. I ask myself: “Out of these things, which do I want to do today?” Note that the Want Tos are still focused on achieving goals and getting work done, it just makes it a more comfortable process for me. I’m motivated to keep moving forward because I’ve got specific actions to choose from and most of them I really want to do.

I try to pick three to four things to tackle in a day. After those are completed, I might decide to take on more. After that, I do something just for fun…something that I really want to do like play with my dog or read a magazine or watch the latest episode of America’s Next Top Model or online shop for more pants.