One of the things that people with anxiety have difficulty with is transitions. We don’t like the unknown and transitions are always a healthy dose of unknown. I do believe that. The unknown can be healthy. It’s just also scary and enough of my life is scary already.
A few days ago I made the trip from Salem, MA to Lawrence, KS for December. I have wanted to split my time between two different places since I was in college. I am so lucky to do this and live the life that I lead and I owe it all to very special people in my life. They make it happen far more than I do.
The days leading up to travel day is always extremely hard. My love is in Massachusetts and the light of my life, my son, is in Kansas. Every time I fly somewhere I am leaving someone I love. Because of financial restraints and my desire to keep my carbon footprint relatively small I never fly more than once a month and usually it’s a lot less than that.
Describing this as hard is an understatement.
Having a relationship where I’m gone, one month, six weeks at a time is actually a little less of a problem for my boyfriend, than for me. He needs a lot of alone time. He misses me, but he appreciates the downtime. It’s nerve-wrecking for me. My anxious mind goes into high gear. If there’s a relationship worry, I’ve got it. Well, except one. I know that he would never cheat on me. Fall out of love with me? Decide he likes the quiet better? Decide he really liked his life a lot better before he met me? Yep, you betcha. The days and weeks before I go to Kansas are filled with thoughts like these. The night before? Forget about sleeping.
I’m not sure that I ever talk about my age, but I’m 46 and the last 9 months or so I’m noticing a lot of hormonal changes. So add perimenopause to anxiety disorder and I’ve been a mess.
Finally last night, after telling my sweetie that maybe it would be better if I stayed at a friends and left from her house because saying goodbye to him was too hard and her house is closer to the train, I found a bit of calm. I know, crazy right? This man loves me, never gives me any reason to believe otherwise, takes care of me and is kind, generous and sweet and I am constantly trying to run away.
That’s a little peek into the perimenopause/anxiety mess that I’ve been. Did I mention crying jags?
So, I’m supposed to have some yoga wisdom here. Mostly the past seven days or so I’ve just been riding it out. And sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes that’s all you can muster.
Because this is a transition and not a life situation riding it out can be an appropriate choice. If this were a life change or even just straight non-specific anxiety I’d need to pull out my DBT book or practice restorative yoga poses several times a day. Because those things wouldn’t necessarily have an ending point.
A transition has an ending point. Tuesday I kissed my sweetie goodbye. My fear of leaving him has been realized. Done. Over. I got to see my son. By mid-afternoon my eagerness and anxiety about reconnecting with him was over. The transition ended. The anxiety eased.
So how do you decide what path to take in managing your anxiety? For me, first and foremost it’s about what I can manage. For the last few months I’ve been struggling with a lot of back and neck pain. So, while I did work out cause I thought my brain really needed it, once I decided to back off a bit, I felt better physically and that helped a lot. For a few weeks now, my yoga practice has been purely therapeutic. Stretching my piriformis to manage sciatic pain, putting legs up the wall to support my spine and increase circulation and focusing on twists to nourish my spine and increase spinal flexibility has been super important just to keep me out of bed and mobile from day to day. Of course the benefits to my brain were huge, but it wasn’t my focus.
The second thing I consider when deciding how I’m going to manage is to focus on how I want to feel. Do I want to feel grounded? Connected and social? Quiet and contemplative? Vibrant and powerful? Of course, this depends a lot on a few factors. It depends on what’s going on in my life, the season, what’s coming up. Sometimes I need to get quiet and grounded because I know that a busy outwardly-focused period is coming up. Other times I have to accomplish a lot and so I want to feel powerful, talented and effective.
So, I do my check-ins, mind/body/spirit. If you’ve been in my class you know that I do this at the beginning and end of our practice. You know, also, that I suggest doing it as often as you can to get honest and real about how you’re feeling.
Once you’re clear, then you can decide if you need to take action or just ride it out.
I’m not claiming to be an expert. As my workshop partner, Abby Young, says We’re all works in progress. This time the answer was to ride it out. Next time it might be something different. There are no set answers. It’s checking in with your inner wise self and making the best decision in the moment.
I’m grateful that I realized riding it out is a viable option. I used to bully myself into feeling something I didn’t or acting in a way that wasn’t helpful or productive.
Today, the perfect answer is to just ride it out.