Photo Credit: Ricardo Reitmeyer E+ Getty Images
Life can be kind of crazy. Sometimes it’s “good” crazy—and sometimes it’s “not so good” crazy.
I think back to a time in my life when I woke up and was fearful of even breathing too heavy because I thought that it would throw me in to a panic attack. I had unexplained bouts of intense anxiety that led me to the E.R. on multiple occasions because, “I was dying”. The first time it happened, I was driving home from Louisville, KY from a fun-filled day and next thing I know I am being rushed to the E.R.—my entire body trembling, waves of heat rushing from my toes up to my ears, and an elephant sitting on my chest—impeding my breath. Less than a week later, I was doing an upper body workout—repping out some pull-ups and felt something a little weird…and before I could decide what was happening, I felt the same overwhelming feeling rush over me and I was off to the E.R. once again.
Beginning in October 2014, life literally felt like a living hell. I was anxious when I drove because I had my first attack then…I was anxious around people, because what if I had an attack and they saw me…I was even too anxious to do my passion—working out. I just knew that if I started lifting weights or doing cardio that I would lose my breath and be spun into another attack. In every aspect of my life I felt debilitated and by what— I couldn’t yet explain.
I saw my primary care physician…had several tests ran, including blood work and EKG’s—with no leads for the cause of my issues. He prescribed me daily medication just so I could get through the day—and more medicine just in case I had an attack. I was always exhausted, fearful and timid just wondering when my body would revolt against me again. Anyone that knows me knows that I am anything but those things—I am outgoing, boisterous and always talking to anyone that will listen.
So I woke up one day and decided that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! I knew I couldn’t go on living that way and that I had to take my health into my own hands. First, a friend shared some essential oils with me. She let me try some lavender oil for its promising effects to calm the body. Think what you want, but it really helped ease me and I still use a variety of essential oils in my daily life.
Then, I started researching ways to help reduce anxiety. There’s a lot of overwhelming information out there, but something that stuck out to me was yoga. The practice of yoga dates back to at least 5,000 years ago & there’s research supporting its positive effects the physical and mental body—and that it could help reduce anxiety! Talk about feeling like I had found a goldmine—this was my ticket to freedom.
I searched Youtube for free yoga videos and after putting lavender oil behind my ears and on my wrists, I started trying some of them in the comfort of my living room. I found the Sarah Beth Yoga channel and instantly connected to it. She had simple routines that were broken down into different levels and types of yoga. I began practicing every day—and even though it wasn’t pretty, I enjoyed it. I could get some physical activity without feeling anxious and at the end, I could relax into a meditation or shavasana.
When I learned to quiet my mind, I began to see why I was having so many issues. I wasn’t sleeping enough or at the right times—I was drinking more caffeine than my body could handle and turns out that my life had become pretty stressful—with some of those things being out of my control. Over the course of the next year, I took several measures to reclaim “me”. I eased myself back in to my workouts while seeing a therapist, still doing yoga, meditating and more. I found breathing techniques in my meditation that helped me control the reactions that my mind and body had when faced with anxiety. I became certified in YogaFit and taught restorative yoga to the masses. I worked with my physician to start tapering my medication and in November 2015, I had completely stopped taking ANY daily medication.
Christine Stein at the Elephant Journal wrote a blog article called, Tiny, Easy Mediations for the Average Person on their Worst Days. She describes 5 meditations that anyone can do and it can help us in so many ways—I recommend taking a few minutes to try one. If direct mediation is not (yet) your thing, find one of the yoga videos, go to a yoga class, or seek therapy to get you on the right path. Let go of all judgment—all expectations and just be. Whether you are stressed, anxious, or just plain lost, I hope that you find something that helps you get to a better place.
I still have bouts of anxiety, but through lifestyle changes, nutrition, yoga and meditation, I feel like I have really taken my life back. I know that everyone’s situation is different, but know that you are not alone and you are in control of your life. You can start with small steps that will make a huge impact on your personal health in the long run!
Yours in Health,
Brook N. Bentley, M.S.