Many of us have been there: chronically busy, stressed, trying to meet the demands of our over scheduled lives. Over time, our bodies become conditioned to run on overdrive, constantly moving from one task to another.
I remember a time I felt this way. It was 2006, a few years after I landed my first “real” job in the helping field, working as a public educator for a non-profit agency. I had recently finished my undergraduate degree in psychology and was pursuing a master’s degree in counseling.
During this period of my life, I was constantly stressed and anxious, trying to keep up everything going on in my life. I had trouble sleeping, experienced chronic colds, and felt perpetually tense. It was so bad, other people noticed my stress and pulled me aside to express their concern.
One day, a close friend of mine mentioned that she had completed a meditation course and suggested that I take it. Although I had brushed off many of her past suggestions, I knew that mediation would help decrease my anxiety. I was right: I took the meditation course and felt the benefits right away. I was surprised at how calm I felt while still being productive in my demanding life.
Overall, I credit my decreased anxiety to a combination of meditation, learning about the brain, and discovering mindfulness (being a compassionate observer to your inner experience). That was many years ago now, and I’m still just as passionate about meditation and mindfulness!
I learned a lot about myself during that time, but the most humbling part of that experience was realizing that I am human and I stumble like everyone else. As tough as it was, it helped me feel less alone.
The good news is that you don’t have to suffer silently in a bubble of anxiety. You can learn from the experiences of myself and others who have struggled with anxiety and come out the other side more calm and confident. One of the strategies that has worked well for me was to develop a daily meditation practice. However, I have found that adopting any daily calming practice (e.g., yoga, journaling) for at least 10 minutes, can also work well.
I don’t want to give the impression that anxiety is something that we have to run from. Anxiety is a natural emotion that helps us respond to life’s challenges.
It is when anxiety becomes excessive that it can take away our enjoyment of life.
Our task is to listen to our anxiety without letting it dominate our life.
Christina Bell is a registered psychologist in Edmonton, Alberta. Christina specializes in treating anxiety, relationship issues, and sex and love addiction. Christina is the creator of Mindfulness Meditations for Anxiety, an album of mindfulness exercises.