Peace of mind. It's the stuff of fantasies. The never-ending to-do list of life seems to leave not a minute of peace. And with the outpouring of tragedy and negativity from the media to the dramas of everyday life, peace seems to be an impossible feat. Or is it?
Since the beginning of this journey across the country, I have been on the lookout for ways I can find peace in my anxious-ridden mind. Anxiety disorder runs in my family on my mom's side of the family, my husband has anxiety, and surprisingly, I am the least anxious of them all, but was not always that way. I suffered from anxiety, panic attack disorder, depression, and disordered eating at various points throughout my time in graduate school. I tried medication, yoga, dancing, running, church, and support from family and friends to get through those difficult times. For the most part, such methods were very effective, but the anxious thoughts still linger on from time to time to this day.
I decided that I would explore a variety of different methods to find some peace of mind. I have been a devout Christian my whole life, so it was a no brainer that going to church on Sundays and reading the Bible every morning was something I was going to implement into my peace of mind prescription. Yoga, meditation, hiking, writing, and downtime are some of the other ways I have been exploring to find peace of mind.
"Show respectfulness to every one, every day."
Church is not only is a time for me and my husband to share quiet time in prayer together, but the sermons can also be very inspiring. Just the other day, the pastor told everyone to "Show respectfulness to every one, every day." He talked about how being content in your life is not about getting your way all of the time since most of the time you will not get your way. Instead, he talked about how the void you may feel in your life should be filled with faith instead of violence or negativity towards yourself or others. And no matter what our opinions may be, we should always respect differing opinions, take time to listen to others, and accept that not everyone is going to go our way. It is this acceptance of the differences that exist in this world that can bring you closer to peace of mind.
In my yoga class, during one of the Dharma classes I enjoy taking, the teacher spoke of a concept derived from Hinduism and Buddhism known as "ahimsa." Ahimsa is a term meaning to show compassion or nonviolence. During the affirmations in class, the teacher explained how we can sometimes get down on ourselves if we don't live up to our expectations, if things don't go our way, or if we can't do something as simple as stretch as well as we would like during yoga class. The nonviolence ahimsa starts with being compassionate and forgiving of ourselves and others for the imperfect beings that we are. It is when we accept and forgive ourselves that we can be more accepting of others. And it is when we are more accepting of others that we can find peace of mind.
Although I had taken yoga classes before this time, I think the missing piece of the puzzle for me was the meditation and relaxation breathing. During a restorative yoga class I took, I remember the teacher talking to us while we were lying down and performing our yogic breathing. She talked about how we spend so much time and energy on fixing others, fixing what is wrong with us and with the world, that we forget to just love and accept ourselves and others for what we are. Since I have a tendency to be overly critical towards myself, and have a tendency to worry when someone doesn't agree with me, this moment during class really struck a chord with me. I felt a sense of calm coming over me as I realized that I am enough and I don't need to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I could release a huge weight of burden that had been laying dormant on my mind.
Breathing in the Fresh Air
I love to run. I have run about four marathons and about 15+ other running races over the past 7 years. I enjoy the thrill of the adrenaline running through my veins, and also the way my anxious mind is able to escape while I am distracted from the act of running. However, I was told by my doctor that I may have nutritional deficiencies related to the vigorous training from running marathons. Therefore, for now, until I get my body back in balance, I had to find another physical activity I could use to relax and get fit. I was lucky to find that in Oregon there are a TON of hiking trails and beautiful places to hike. Therefore, my new sport of choice has been hiking. I can burn calories, get fresh air, and as an added bonus I am able to explore all of the beautiful places that Oregon has to offer. When I see the vast expanse of trees, hills, mountains, and blue skies around me, I feel like anything is possible. And since hiking is safest when done with another person or group of people, it has been a great opportunity to spend quality time with my husband.
"Do what you love, love what you do"
I love to write. I love being able to get all of my feelings onto paper. It is therapeutic to say what you want to say when you don't always know how to say it out loud. I started this blog because I know I have so much to say to and want to try to help others in whatever way I can. I have not always been confident in my writing. I have had some teachers tell me that my writing was great, while others would make comments like" You need to take a writing class." Although it hurt my feelings, I was never against trying to learn more to become a better writer. Therefore, I started doing freelance writing online with Examiner.com and Livestrong.com to help me grow as a writer. Eventually, I became a writer for Omnichannel Health Media writing diabetes-related articles for Cdiabetes.org and still write for them occasionally. I never gave up and will never give up because I have a message in my heart that weighs on my mind. I know that I can free the burdens of my mind through my writing, and hopefully help at least one person with my words.
At the end of the day, even though I work at home currently, I am tired from the hustle and bustle of cleaning, running errands, ironing clothes, cooking, and whatever else I may have on my to-do list. Therefore, I try to set aside some time each day for downtime. Whether its watching my favorite television show, playing a game on my retro game system, or taking myself out to get my nails done, I have found that it is vital to my well-being to allow my mind to relax. Being a person with anxiety can be exhausting, and dealing with my various digestive issues and itching throughout the day every day wears my body down. It is nice to engage in activities that are enjoyable, do not require much thought, and that allow me to be distracted from my worries for a while. Downtime, or "me time," is a vital piece to overall well-being and peace of mind. If you do not take time out to take care of yourself, then you will not be in the best condition to take care of others and those you love.
One size does not fit all
Not every thing works for everybody, so it can be a process of elimination to figure out what method or methods of relaxation work for you. The important part is that you do use a healthy and positive way to deal with your emotions so you can free the burdens of your mind and body from stress. Emotional eating, drinking, or self-loathing will do nothing to give us peace of mind. However, if we can seek out ways to forgive ourselves and accept ourselves and others, then we can find peace of mind and get on the path to healthier living.