I’ve struggled with anxiety since high school. It got really bad in my early twenties, when I began to have major panic attacks – the kind that left me feeling like my outer layer of skin had been removed and I was left to face the world raw, red and bare. It got so bad that I once spent two days laying in my mom’s room, unable to get up or go out into the world for fear that I would die or be killed. I got through that, and by my thirties, with the help of anti-depressants and a (relatively) healthier lifestyle, the panic attacks subsided.
But the anxiety has remained. Healers that I trust have mentioned the connection between all the time spent in my head – because I’m a writer and that’s what we do – and the anxiety. It’s like all the energy just gets trapped up there and has no where to go. This week, instead of just dwelling in the anxiousness, I made a couple of different choices.
On Tuesday, I attended an introduction to anxiety class through my medical provider. I went in thinking, I’m not anxious! I dealt with that shit along time ago. I came out realizing that, yes, I haven’t quite kicked anxiety to the curb like I thought. At the beginning of May, I begin a four-week session that uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to address anxiety and its root causes, so writing about that experience is definitely forthcoming.
That same day, my roommate generously offered to take the baby out for the afternoon. Normally, I would have spent that precious two hours reading depressing news on the internet, doing (another) load of dishes, sweeping the (always dirty) floor or knocking out work emails and other random freelance tasks. But that day, I spent twenty minutes with long-haired yoga master Rodney Yee. It felt great. Then I boiled some water and spent the next half hour in the heaven of a Ayurvedic steam inhalation.
I’ve been lucky because one of my oldest friends is studying to be an Ayurvedic practitioner; she’s taken me on has one of her clients as she completes her studies. Admittedly, I’ve spent the last few weeks meaning to do the things she’s recommended, while remaining firmly entrenched in my regular habits. But not this week.
First, I went out to the garden and picked a few stems of lavender and lemon balm. Then I placed the herbs into the hot water and watched the fragrant steam rise. Then, I placed a clean towel over my head and the pot of hot water. The point is to to create a kind of “tent” around your head and to let the herby steam rise up onto your face for as long as you can stand it. I challenged myself to sit there for longer and longer periods of time.
The feeling afterwards is nothing short of wonderful. It’s like going to a spa, without the drive or the cost. With each steam inhalation, my head felt clearer, less heavy, like the energy was moving around instead of just sitting there trapped, a feeling akin to sitting in a cave filled with old dirt.
I did this for about half an hour. Then I took a hot shower, followed by a walk with Acorn around the neighborhood. Amazingly, the anxiety had lifted. I felt refreshed, grounded and centered. All from a hot pot of water and a few fresh herbs.
What DIY methods help you stave off anxiety and get grounded again?