“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt
About a month ago I had an awful experience. I thought my world was ending. Out of ‘nowhere,’ my heart started racing, body began shaking, palms were sweating, and breathing required notable effort. Nothing had provoked this physiological response. And yet, here I was, enduring what felt like my first panic attack.
“This is it. I’m losing it. I’m freaking out. I’m having a total melt down. Maybe a breakdown. How will I work if I have a nervous breakdown?!” As my mind started spinning out, my heart rate spiked further, sweat began beading on my face, and breath lodged itself in my throat. I was vibrating like a Chihuahua.
Then, a still, soft voice whispered in the ear that wasn’t ringing and said, “You have tools you can use . . .”
She was right. And while I won’t say that a few deep breaths sent me back on my merry way, a combination of the following 4 things turned this out-of-control train around:
1. Deep Breathing (It’s Still a Must)
While not an instant cure, breathing deeply does help calm a racing mind and slow heart rate. I repeat, it sloooooows heart rate, which was a far more luxurious response than I wanted. Since my heart had already hit the roof, calming yogic breaths only brought it back down to the ceiling.
So, I added the following:
2. Lavender Oil
I put a few drops of pure lavender oil under my nose (I was breathing deeply anyway) and a few dabs on each heel for rapid absorption. I’ve done this before, and it definitely helps.
3. Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose)
I’ve read time and again that inversions have a calming effect. I can now attest, 100%, that this is true. This is a VERY powerful practice. Lie on the floor, swing your legs up the wall, put a pillow under your head, and sink into the floor. You might want to do this a few times, so that if and when the big moment arrives, you’ll be ready to stop, drop, and invert.
4. Weight on the Chest
We typically think of a weight OFF our chest as being a good thing. But in this case, the opposite is true. I’ve often stacked my hands over my heart when I’ve had trouble sleeping, and it seems to help. When I researched “why weighted blankets work,” I discovered that the additional pressure lowers cortisol levels, reduces the distraction of external stimuli, and mimics certain hormones. I just think it kept my heart from escaping my body.
5. Mobilize Military Enforcement
My fiancé called in the troops: 3 Chihuahuas and a Boston Terrier. Dogs are intuitive. They really are. Basia (Teacup #1) stepped onto my chest, un-coaxed, and hunkered down for the night; Milo (the Boston) nuzzled his head into my neck, Roxy (the chubby Chi) hovered over me, performing Reiki; and Millie (Teacup #2) clamoured in to lick my nostrils (okay, this approach was less finessed than the others, but appreciated nonetheless). As a general rule, anxiety subsides with a barrage of quirky furry kids huddled around you.
If you don’t have four dogs at the ready, any way to lighten the experience will do; humour is a remarkable antidote.
Recently, we have each been confronted with a great yogic truth: The only constant is change. Although we may have heard the phrase before, facing it head-on is a whole new level. Some of us have experience navigating rough waters; others need more of a hand. Most of us are somewhere in-between. I guess that’s me.
As it turns out, what I thought was ‘nothing’ was actually something; in fact, it was quite a lot. Revamping my business overnight, getting engaged, moving out of my home, the sudden loss of my stepfather, and the constant bombardment of a fluctuating daily forecast felt more like a tsunami than a rough ride. And yet . . . here I am, all the wiser, more experienced, and more skilled of a sailor.
May you find peace and calm in uncertain times and benefit from these practices . . . Until the next wave of change rolls in . . .