In an article a couple weeks ago, we discussed how yoga can help with anxiety. Though it is not a cure, it can help provide comfort and calm when all else seems to be spiraling out of control. Follow along with the next few poses whenever you find yourself entering into an anxious state.
This sequence is best experienced in a quiet setting with very gentle music (if any). If you would like to use my spotify playlist as you transition through these poses, please view & listen HERE
Each of these poses will be linked over to my friends at yinyoga.com, yogajournal.com, and a couple others. If you are new to a pose or need a different variation than pictured, click on the name of the pose and you’ll be directed to more information.
Of note: If you are new to yin yoga, welcome!
This style of yoga is a deep stretching practice, intended to help you dig into the connective tissues that surround the joints and release tension.
It also helps to free up energy within the body. Specifically, this flow helps you free up emotional energy that may be causing your anxiety.
In order for this release to happen, each pose is held a little longer than you might be used to. Enjoy the gift of time that accompanies this practice! It is very counter-cultural to be allowed to “simply be”. So soak it up. The act of slowing down might be all you need to calm your fears and concerns. Do your best to breathe and to sink heavily into each asana.
“You can destroy your now by worrying about tomorrow.”
And it’s true. Worry pulls you out of the present moment and keeps you either dwelling in the past (things you can’t change) or aching for the future (which you cannot predict). As yogis, I think we can all agree that the now is of utmost importance. After all, it’s all that we’re promised. Let’s make the most of it and take a deeper look into anxiety and how yoga might be able to help us stay more present.
I’ll be honest here. I struggle with anxiety. The pit in my stomach wherein lies doubt, fear, and negativity is a dark place that I do not often like to discuss. However, it has become apparent to me that I am not alone in this journey. I came this realization while doing a bit of research. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America states that 40 million people in the U.S. (18% of the population) struggle with anxiety disorders. These disorders are also the most common mental illness in the country. The honest truth is that we all experience anxiety on some level. So it’s important to note that it does not mean that you have a disorder if you worry occasionally. I would just caution you to observe your reactions on a day to day basis. For me, I took a couple of weeks to log any moments of intense anxiety in a journal. Within those two weeks I experienced multiple episodes of higher levels of anxiety than I expected to.
Upon further research, anxiety is most common for individuals that are….
Focused on perfection
Control-oriented (often, in natural leaders)
Here are two questions I, myself have wondered about anxiety…
Is anxiety natural? In a way, yes. You were created with two natural reactions for dealing with stress. WebMD states that this two-fold effect includes both your perception of the challenge at hand and the fight or flight reaction. When anxiety becomes a natural, daily response to life’s roadblocks (small or large) – our ability to observe a situation as is becomes impaired and our body automatically goes into fight or flight mode. This particular response, though natural, is a protective mechanism intended for present and very real dangers to help us physically respond and cope. For example, avoiding a car accident or running from an angry bear might be a great time for that reaction to kick in. When your body enters into this mode – a rush of adrenaline floods the system. Unless you actually need this hormone response on a physical level (say, slamming on the brakes to avoid a rear end collision), it can be difficult to counteract if it is just a mental source of stress causing the reaction. In turn, the adrenaline will take its affects on the only physical thing in the way – your body.
Is anxiety dangerous? It can be, yes. If you are consistently accessing this fight or flight reaction, your body will be taking on intense amounts of stress. An article on anxietycentre.com states that 94% of all illness is caused or aggravated by stress. It can lead to a myriad of physical and mental illnesses, that could be lessened or avoided by finding better ways to cope.
To answer our original question, can yoga help my anxiety?
The answer is yes. While yoga is certainly not a cure for anxiety on any level, it can serve as a wonderful tool in coping with anxiety and its friends (fear, stress and worry). Of note: I am not a doctor, but I feel it is important to be educated on the science behind it all as well as speak from my own personal journey with anxiety and how yoga has helped me.
Below are the four aspects of the practice that have helped me better manage my anxiety levels. I hope you find them helpful as well.
1. Deep breaths (aka: Pranayama)
Deep breathing in and of itself is a healing practice. It gives all of your organs and internal systems a big surge of nourishing oxygen. This helps you rid yourself of toxins and other chemicals built up that shouldn’t otherwise be there. The systems affected include the nervous and endocrine (hormonal). In moments of high anxiety, your breath becomes rapid. This intensity in the breath one way the fight or flight mechanism is triggered. Practicing 3-part complete breath (belly-ribs-chest) can help calm everything down. Regular practice of deep breathing (for instance, in your yoga practice) will train you to more readily turn to deep breathing in the midst of potentially anxious moments. You can even take this practice of breathing into the more normal moments of your day…as you lay in bed at night, on your morning commute, or even while you work at your desk. I am also a big fan of Brahmari breath (aka: Humming Bee’s Breath). In this style of breathing you take a long inhale and on the exhale you create humming/buzzing sound. It is very calming and often helps me calm an overwhelmed mind. Practicing 7-10 rounds before bed has also been very beneficial in helping me get a restful night sleep.
2. A balanced asana practice (aka: The Poses)
It’s important to note the poses that some poses can be too intense when dealing with anxiety. For me, deep heart openers (say, upward bow pose) are not a great idea when I’m dealing with anxiety. However, more restorative heart openers (reclined on a bolster for instance) can be a great way to gently access and release stress in the heart center. So first, I would recommend in your next practice, you observe how each pose makes you feel or react mentally/emotionally. Don’t ignore the little stuff. It matters! There are also a lot of really great poses to help you if you’re working to prevent episodes or are feeling anxious in the moment. A few poses that might help:
Childs Pose: Forward folds in general are wonderful ways to calm anxiety. The very nature of folding inward helps you to turn your gaze inward and release external triggers that might cause you more concern. Childs pose and similar poses are also a nice release for the back, neck and shoulders which tend to carry the physical stress of anxiety, which is one common reason why they are so tight.
Legs up the wall: This one has been super comforting for me personally. The inverted position helps reverse the fight or flight response, calming the nervous system back into resting mode. If keeping your legs straight causes you to go a bit tingly, you can bend your knees and bring your feet together into a butterfly position at the wall as well
Tree Pose: Any balancing posture can aid in relief. What I like about Vrksasana is the simplicity of it and the imagery associated with the pose. The very idea with connecting back with your roots is therapeutic. In this pose, think about what is stable and strong in your life. Start with your breath. Then expand to your physical surroundings such as the earth beneath your feet. Then to the people in your life and perhaps your faith. All of this comes together to aid in concentration so you are able to stay aware of the moment at hand, rather than what you are worrying about.
If you are headed to a class, keep it a slower-paced one. If restorative is available, start there. Beyond that, slow flow and yin-style classes are also generally a good idea. If you feel comfortable enough with your instructor, it may be wise to let them know that you will be taking it easy or you can mention that you’ve been struggling with anxiety. This may give them insight into how they can best guide you through your practice…which is their job!
3. Time in stillness (aka: Meditation)
In one study, a group of inner-city residents suffering from chronic pain, anxiety, depression, diabetes and hypertension were trained in meditation. From meditation, they experienced a 50% reduction in overall psychiatric symptoms, a 70% decrease in anxiety, and a 44% reduction in medical symptoms.(1)
The simplest way to put it is that when you are worried, you are completely fixated on something past/future-oriented. In contrast, when you are meditating you are solely focused on the present moment. The act of becoming aware of what is rather than what was or what could be helps one to gently calm an overactive brain. A lot of anxiety starts with us buying the story that our momentary thoughts and/or feelings are telling us. Rather than letting them pass so we can stay connected to the truth. Meditation can be simple. It can be a mere 5 minutes in your car before work. You can go the guided route (via podcast, perhaps). Or practice in silence. Start out small and build on it. There are also many group meditations in most cities across the country.
At Inspire Yoga, our Sunday morning “SIT” session with Leila is at 10:30am and open to the public.
4. Application in the real world (aka: Yoga off the mat)
You’ve heard your instructors say it, the real practice of yoga begins when you step off the mat. In one day you will experience intense situations, moments of ease, circumstances that require balance, and so much more! The more you practice with mindfulness (keeping your intention at the forefront), the more you start to understand that how you respond and handle these similar situations on the mat can directly impact how you respond in your life. So, be intentional in building a strong foundation to how you practice in your yoga practice and you might just see that foundation keeping you steady out in the real world.
I hope that you found this article helpful for you. Please feel free to comment below with any additional questions/thoughts that I may help think through with you. If you think that you might struggle with an anxiety disorder, I encourage you to make yourself a priority and ask for help. That help may start as asking a friend for prayers. It may include speaking to a counselor. Or perhaps you seek out medical help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. YOU matter.
Love to you all,
1 – B. Roth, T. Creaser, “Meditation-based stress reduction: experience with a bilingual inner-city program,” Nurse Practitioner 22(3) (1997): 150-2, 154, 157.
Today we are featuring a Denton student named Alana. She has been coming to Inspire since 2016 and makes her practice a priority despite a busy schedule with school and work. Alana has found yoga to be the perfect compliment to her daily activity and a helper for her to alleviate stress and anxiety. Give her some love in the comments!
Gosh, I don’t even know where to start. I guess I should start by saying how shocked I am to be the yogi of the month. Seriously shocked. I thought, “Me? Stress-ridden, scatterbrained, a-little-awkward me?” Having just gotten into yoga over the past year, I never thought I would be Inspire’s Yogi of the Month. I imagined some sun-kissed ridiculously flexible, totally-at-peace-with-themselves type of person to be featured. So, when I was first asked to write a little about myself and my “yoga testimonial” I didn’t think of this glamorous story of how my yoga journey began –
I immediately thought of my anxiety.
I thought about why I started yoga and how far I’ve come in even the few months that I began coming to Inspire. While a few months sounds like a short amount of time, I have overcome a lot since I first started this journey. I started heavily practicing yoga this year because I came to a point in my life where I said, “I do not want my stress to define me anymore.” I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t control my anxiety and I surely thought there was something out there that could help. And at first, it didn’t start with yoga. I began looking for a counselor over the summer to cope with my anxiety and I soon found out that one session costs upwards of $175. ONE SESSION! There was absolutely no way a college student who works part-time could afford that twice a week. I began looking for an alternative and in His perfect timing, God presented me with Inspire Yoga in a beautifully wrapped present at my door step. I signed up, anxious and unsure of if it would even help and even more nervous that I did not have enough experience. Little did I know that a few months later, yoga would become my counselor, the place I go after a long day at school or work. The place I could finally say, “OK, you can let everything go now.”
Inspire Yoga has helped me of course in my flexibility and strength, but so much more in bettering myself. Sure, I still face anxiety and stress every day, but yoga has given me the ability to look at it and say, “I am more than my anxiety.” I can go about my day and face all of my battles knowing that this problem or struggle I am dealing with will not last forever and is not the end of the world. I can leave my mat taking the confidence, peace and love for myself that everyone deserves to have. Before, I would be consumed by everything and be so frustrated that I just couldn’t let things go, in turn making it worse.
I am so thankful each time I step onto my mat and even when little bubbles of worry pop into my head, I’m thankful I have the ability to let them go. I’m grateful for each and every one who has welcomed me with open arms into Inspire Yoga because you have no idea how you have inspired me in the last few months. Thank you Nancy for the opportunity to share my story and to everyone who has practiced aside me, spreading your love and passion for yoga onto me. I look forward to pursuing yoga until I absolutely cannot do it anymore. And I’m thrilled to be doing Inspire Yoga Teacher Training this April! I know I still have a long path of yoga ahead and am eternally grateful.
Today we are thrilled to announce our newest “Inspiring Yogi”, Kaitlyn Stoddart! Kaitlyn is a member at our Denton location since we first opened in August of 2015. Over the past year, her love for yoga and kindness toward others has shown through her time at the studio. We love her story for many reasons, but a favorite is the fact that she has a contagious joy that cannot be avoided. Having struggled with anxiety and depression, she has experienced the game-changing effects of a regular yoga practice. Read on to learn more!
“I took my first yoga class when I was 13 to ease my aches and pains caused by gymnastics. Three years, several ankle injuries and a back injury later I quit gymnastics completely and pursued my yoga practice. At the time, yoga served as a form of physical therapy. My back injury had left me with numbness and tingling from the waist down and certain movements cause me to lose feeling altogether. After I recovered from my injuries, I realized yoga is much more than the physical movements.
Quitting gymnastics left me without purpose. It had been a part of my life for nearly fifteen years. When I quit, I lost my entire circle of friends and all of my self-confidence. I quickly turned from a quirky and outgoing 16-year-old to a socially awkward teen struggling with major depression and anxiety.
Counseling and medication only seemed to make matters worse and it was when I finally broke down that I realized how important it was to find strength within myself.
I was in a small yoga class my senior year, practicing to stay in shape when I finally reached my tipping point. I’m not sure what pushed me over the edge, maybe it was the stress of work, school and applying to colleges. Maybe it was the exhaustion from carrying all of my emotional baggage, or just everything together, weighing me down. All I know is in that class, I broke down and began to cry. My mom was next to me, she touched my hand and we continued on with the practice. I cried every practice for the next six months and then one day, I was better. I hadn’t changed anything with my personal responsibilities and workload, but I had changed something within myself.
Yoga helped me to gain purpose back into my life. It has allowed me to heal my body both physically and mentally. Instead of coping and dealing, I have finally found a way to find strength and ease in all aspects of my life. I accept the struggles and I work through them. I cry, I sweat, my muscles burn and I heal. I moved to Denton right after high school and took on more stress, but this time I knew how to handle it. I turned to my yoga practice. I discovered the Denton yoga community and came across Inspire. Inspire Yoga Denton, as a studio, challenges my practice, introduces new poses and provides me with opportunities to grow. The Inspire community encourages me to continue on with my yoga practice and my life practice. I am honored to share my breath, my movement and my story.
Are you ready to share your yoga journey? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured!
But only seeing the physical benefits of yoga is like going to Baskin Robbins and getting chocolate ice cream every single visit. My son does this, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. But yoga is 32 flavors and then some, and if you only pay attention to the physical yumminess it has to offer, you’re missing out on a lot, especially if you are an athlete.
For me, bringing yoga beyond the physical realm started with breathing in and out through my nose, Darth Vader like. Teachers cued it as “Ujjayi breath” (pronounced oo-JAH-yee), and while I couldn’t spell it, I loved its meaning – victorious breath. As an athlete, it sounded as if the goddess Nike was in my corner providing the literal wind beneath my wings. All accomplished by tapping into the simple act of inhaling and exhaling.
Most of us breathe between 17,000-30,000 times a day. And as I started paying attention to my breath, my exercise on the mat became a practice in awareness. As an athlete, there’s a difference between running aimlessly minus a plan and actually training. The same is true in yoga — you put some intention behind what you do and things start to happen.
By paying attention to something as simple as breathing, I found myself tethered to the present moment, which was new territory for me. And that was bigger than anything stretching or strengthening I did on the mat. So often we are either stuck in a swamp of what would have, could have, should have happened, or we greet the day filled to the brim with anxiety over what hasn’t even happened.
So thanks to yoga, yes, I got more flexible in my hamstrings, but I also made space in the grey matter of my head. That perhaps was the biggest victory of all.
On Sunday, I’ll be teaching Part II of my Yoga for Athletes series. We’ll get on our mats, but also into our heads, explore the power of the many mental tools yoga offers, including that victorious breath allowing you to embrace your potential in your sport and in your life!
Today we are excited to feature Denton yogi and current Spring 2016 Inspire Yoga School trainee, Briana Salas! One of the most important takeaways we would like you to gain from your time at Inspire Yoga is a sense of belonging. There have been countless studies on the importance of belonging somewhere, to someone or a group of people. We cannot go through this life alone. We were created to work together similar to how an orchestra comes together. The individual instruments are beautiful, created with specific and individual purposes. However, when you add in other instruments to the mix, the whole of the symphony starts to come to life! Sounds, vibrations, and abilities adjoin in perfect harmony. This is only possible when in community. At Inspire Yoga, we hope to make you feel like you are a part of a beautiful symphony. Your voice is heard. Your story is valuable. You matter. Most of all, you belong.
To be able to fully understand my love for Inspire Yoga, I need to explain where I was before. Pre-yoga, I had been struggling with fairly debilitating anxiety and depression. For six or seven years I had been on various medications, in and out of therapy, but even after all of that, I was mostly just treading water. I had a lot of coping skills in my arsenal, good and bad, but they were just that: coping. My rough patch ended with a huge final blow that derailed my academic career and the small amount of confidence I had accrued over my short life. I’ve had a rough time, but it makes me appreciate Inspire and the community within the studio that much more.
I came to Inspire Yoga and my first class was with Bethaney. It was a tough class, but getting through it in one piece, knowing I’d shown up and given it my best, was like coming home from a long day at work. It was a relief. It’s very difficult to describe, but it was so satisfying and invigorating that I started coming to the studio three to four times a week. I was hooked.
This community of yogis is helping me reclaim my sense of autonomy. It’s my decision to show up to class and to make time for self-care. I have observed that I am more aware of myself and I treat myself better. I am making time for myself I wouldn’t have before and I’m more conscious of my thoughts and actions. I can also better determine if they are ultimately best for me or not.
Yoga is helping me to understand myself as well as establish a solid foundation for who I want to be and hope to become. Just like with any pose, the foundation is important. I’m choosing to sow my roots here because it’s solid and good.
Even if I can’t always silence the near constant stream of anxiety and doubt in my head, the breathing techniques we learn in class help me calm myself enough to process and put things at a safer distance. I’ve taken so many newly learned practices off my mat and into my daily life. This open-minded approach to life has allowed me to reap immeasurable benefits in overcoming anxiety.
I am really grateful for my instructors at Inspire. Even if my schedule has only allowed one class, each teacher has given me tools to become more and more myself. I can’t speak for other studios, but this specific yoga space is one where I don’t feel obligated to make small talk. That being said, it’s also very easy and inviting to make friends here. Everyone, students…teachers…yogis alike, seem focused on bringing a sense of genuine kindness and peace to practice on our mats. I think that unspoken bond between my mat neighbors and instructors helps me feel safe and comfortable with the vulnerability that comes with an open mind and heart. Inspire Yoga has truly inspired my to move past coping and aim to instead, thrive.
Are you ready to share your story? Contact us about being featured on the blog.
Heart openers can be a really beautiful thing. That nice release across the chest and front body is energizing, refreshing, and freeing. However, especially around this time of year – backbends can be intense. As the weather gets chilly, we cross our arms for warmth and inadvertently our shoulders find their way closer and closer toward our ears. With the double whammy of our car-driving, desk-sitting lifestyle, wheel pose can be a lot to ask. I would even argue that it goes beyond physical intensity though. The space that stretches across the chest represents where we hold our worries, our fears and our ability to love. Whether it’s a lingering anxiety or a broken heart – backbends can be scary. Backbends can also be very exhilarating. So my recommendation – take it one breath at a time. If it feels like just the right amount of openness in your bridge pose, stay there! If it feels good to move into your full urdhva dhanurasana (Wheel Pose – AKA Upward Bow Pose).
Here’s what Inspire Yoga Teacher, Jenny (pictured) has to say about it…
“I love wheel pose because it provides openness and expansion for all the muscles that are constantly contracted when sitting. I also love the surge of energy experienced when coming out of the pose.”
A new #IYPOW (Inspire Yoga Pose of the Week) is introduced on our Instagram every Sunday. You are then invited to join in with us by posting your own interpretation of the pose and a short thought or inspiration that you receive from the particular posture that week. Make sure to use hashtag #IYPOW so we can see your pictures! Each month, one person (who shared and hashtagged) will be chosen to win an exclusive Inspire Yoga merchandise prize!
Our minds can carry us backward and forward in time emotionally charging us through past moments or creating anxiety about future situations that do not exist. When we let elements outside of our body control our emotions, it can lend itself to unnecessary suffering. In the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, and observing the possibility of existing mentally in a future state of mind, “Don’t make assumptions” can create anxiety and undue emotional distress. Using this agreement and the principal of “Stay in Your Body”, as outlined by Jay Fields in “Teaching People, Not Poses”, it can make it impossible to create the mysteries you are trying to solve of the future, because it’s not real. It will also eliminate wasting time creating imaginary scenarios that can be validated by saying “I’ll be prepared for anything” but in actuality you just lost two nights of sleep over it. Stay in your body and in the moment.
When I feel myself going into my brain, I begin to churn, over plan, or reassess a conversation or situation and my breath becomes shorter and higher in the chest. I stop and remind myself that I can always “go back to me”. Through the use of pranayama and clearing my mind, the balance returns. I do this on average 3-5 times a day full out, reminding myself to shift my thought pattern when I feel stressful energy rising. This allows me to direct focus and have conscience decision making skills, clear conversations and enjoy the moment I am in.
When I am able to shift my mental state of mind back into my body I feel more complete and purposeful. I consider it my moving mediation wherever I am. My quality of life and present moments are greatly improved and “the creepers” also known as anger and anxiety take a back seat to the driver of The Crazy Train… Me. Having the ability to practice this mindfulness or conscience train of think shifting gives me a sense of power and love. I have the ability to manage and reset my emotions at any given time. It may take longer at one time than another but like mediation it’s coming back over and over and over to retrain the my mental health. It connects me to my physical body and I am able to give my body what it needs – space and air to breathe.
When I can stay in my body for extended amounts of time, an overwhelming sense of happiness occurs.
I notice it but do not reward myself for it because it’s not a “goal” it’s a way to operate clearly and fully.
This is something I learned from our wonderful Leila Cranford here at Inspire Yoga. With the opportunity to share this in the classroom I could teach this one lesson over and over and over again. I want to share this experience of powerful peace.
As a yoga student being present on my mat can be difficult sometimes. If I have disconnected from my body over the course of the day multiple times and never return, then make it in for an evening class, it’s much more difficult to let my brain wrinkles flatten out. However, when connected deeply to my breath and really starting slowly to open my practice, I feel like I could stay on the mat forever. While practicing “Stay in your Body” as a student it also keeps me in tune with my anatomy. There is a higher accuracy with which I feel my own body, my creeks or tweaks approaching, and I’m able to keep my body safe. Connecting through the breath to stay present also guides me further into asanas because I’m not mentally competing with myself, I’m letting my body work on its own, I’m letting it happen.
This principal saves me everyday. That is the level of importance that it brings to me. Without the principal of “Stay in your Body” I would be driving my Crazy Train and Wrinkled Brain off the High Five to soar into the beautiful disaster of chaos my mind can create. The words “stay in your body” sound more simple than it can feel sometimes – but over and over returning back to the breath, empowering the mind to quiet and feeling where you are in the moment – that’s where the good stuff lives.
Looking for a good read? “Teaching People, Not Poses” by Jay Fields” is an excellent read for teachers and students. This book covers 12 principles for teaching yoga with integrity – but you don’t have to be a yoga teacher to enjoy this book. It’s not just about our practice on the mat, it’s about our practice of life and these 12 principles can crossover into any profession. Pick it up!
Yoga has been a part of my life for some time now. One of my favorite memories through this journey has been my current teacher training and coincidentally, the reason behind my workshop.
The training itself is amazing and informative and I can’t think of a better place than Inspire Yoga to have had this experience…and before this sounds like a plug, ha!…let me get to my point. The people that have surrounded me through this journey have been some of the most supportive, compassionate souls that I have ever encountered. I would venture to say that many of them would agree with me. We have shared stories, heartache, tough decisions and moments of breaking down.
It became a place not just of learning how to be a better yoga teacher, but a place of letting go, figuring things out, and knowing that its okay to be vulnerable.
Yes, along the way, we also learned many tools in the training such as meditation and pranayama that as long as we were willing, proved to be affective in quieting the mind, calming the soul and helping us to find our way; but it was the fact that we had each other’s support to be authentic that truly made it work.
I believe that modern culture so often wants us to appear untouched and to move more quickly through tough situations, experiences, and decisions. We are all guilty of it. Brushing them under the rug, making brash decisions and denying the depth of the human feelings that are attached to our experiences. We tend to forget the importance of taking a harder look at our fears and honoring our thoughts and feelings and we lose out on the possibility of finding growth and learning.
I feel that the most authentic way to get past our trials, tough choices and tribulations is to move through them. We need to change our mindset from seeing all things mentally and emotionally challenging as something gone wrong and weak, because the truth is, it’s whats gives us strength of will and what makes us who we are. Its our essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and figuring it all out along the way.
This is the reason behind my workshop. I want people to know that its okay to be vulnerable when faced with adversity, okay to feel, and to think, and to move through it rather than around it, and to have learned some tools in my workshop to make it through just a little easier.
This is a donation-based workshop. All contributions will be given to mindfulschools.org, an organization that offers mindfulness training to teachers, parents, social workers and other adults. The training is used in schools, homes, and therapy for kids to teach them ways to deal with stress, anxiety and depression.
I’ve always thought of myself as a decisive person. One of my strengths is the ability to objectively weigh all the information and confidently know which path to take. And yet, I spent three years thinking about getting my first tattoo.
At first, I let the unknowns overwhelm me. Where should I go? What’s the artwork process? How much does it cost? Those and a dozen other questions swirled around my head in a misty haze of mild anxiety just thick enough to prevent me from piecing together any single question without devoting significant emotional energy. Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I started keeping a list of those things as each one came to mind – progress! Now I knew everything I didn’t know. Catching and releasing those buzzing little thoughts was an important first step that made space to feel deeper underlying fear.
I was afraid I might be creating a constant reminder of a terrible mistake. I was afraid I’d be subject to the unconscious biases directed at a community of people I realized I knew very little about. I was afraid of the commitment. That last one held the most power over me – although it may not be surprising given that I am, in fact, a man.
I struggled with that deeper issue of permanence. If the invention of a 5-year or 10-year tattoo was announced tomorrow, I’d barely give it a second thought. But I needed to make a decision about something that was going to be on my body forever – and something that is forever should require deep, concentrated thought. Maybe even three years’ worth.
I like to think that every problem has a solution and indecision is a prerequisite for decision. But finding that solution takes hard work and sometimes what we find isn’t always the answer we want to hear. In this particular case, my solution was the realization that the entire issue hinged on a single problem. The hurdle to overcome wasn’t always needing to be the person who got this tattoo, it’s always accepting that I was once the person who did.
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