I love to swim. For me, going underwater is, ironically, the only place I feel like I can breathe. It mutes a noisy world and a noisy mind, like hitting pause. Whether you hit pause by focusing on your lungs expanding like in mindfulness meditation or by taking a breath and slipping under the surface of the water for a few moments, I think it’s easy to underestimate just how powerful just stepping back, pausing, and taking a second to just breathe can be. When my anxiety was at its worst, the people most important to me always said the same two words any time I panicked: “Just breathe.” And I never listened, because I didn’t think it would work…which of course, is why it didn’t work! One of the biggest things I’ve learned in the past few months is how to take time to step back and take a breath to clear my head before letting my thoughts spiral into panic mode. I’m proud of myself for getting to this point, but more often than not, I think back to all the times I didn’t listen, all the friendships I hurt and the chances I didn’t take because I was drowning in my thoughts instead of taking a step back. We are only capable of what we’re capable of at any given time, and when I was drowning I wasn’t able to step back like I can now. But now anytime I feel anxious, I hear the voices of those I never listened to before: just breathe.
I can’t recommend mindfulness meditation breathing practices enough — you learn to slowww down, which is a serious help in anxiety overload moments. It takes practice and it takes a little faith in the process. But anything worth doing is a process right?Keep breathin’, folks! xo