Transforming Anxiety and Stress

 

By Laurel Aasen, a recent participant in Transforming Anxiety and Stress (coming up again March 2-5, 2017) and Teens Alive Assistant.

 

Anxiety is a fantastic dancing partner … if you’re willing to extend your hand.

If you’re willing to momentarily surrender the lead, its energy will remind you of how alive you really are.

On January 1st, my partner and I found ourselves running along the rocks and forests of Whytecliff Park during an incredible windstorm. Amidst the salty ocean spray and flying branches, we were determined to get to a lookout point on the Northwest corner of the park that would allow us to witness the enormous waves on a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. Temperatures were freezing, and downed power lines on Marine Drive would keep us stranded in the Bay for hours to come. But we wouldn’t let the moment escape us: dodging more branches, being soaked in ocean water, and full-belly laughing as we leaned forward deeply into the powerful wind. Rather than screaming “DANGER!”, my mind was focused on how exciting the day was. Sure, it was physically uncomfortable and there were many opportunities to injure ourselves, but it was also breathtakingly beautiful (and I have pictures to prove it!). I look back on this day with so much fondness and gratitude, because days like that never happened until recently.

Being high on the “neurotic scale” is a double-edged sword. I was a prudent student who achieved high grades, but suffered sleepless nights filled with self-doubt and worry that someone, someday, might see past my well-put-together facade (haha, joke’s on me! My loved ones already could.). My relationship experienced strain because I was fearful of the potential consequences of breaking routine and going out of town for a relaxing weekend … but my bosses loved how I was always around to work Saturdays and Sundays! I was a careful practitioner, but never developed beyond my current, familiar professional state. Others loved how I was so “easy to get along with”, because I was terrified of setting boundaries or asking for what I needed or wanted.

I was exhausted from trying to suppress anxiety, so transforming it seemed like a refreshing idea. Transforming Anxiety and Stress was a space to explore the bubbling pressure in my chest, my fears, and imagine where I would focus my energy if I stopped wasting it on trying to control and diminish these feelings. Sitting in the session room, I had my first experience of creating space to embody two seemingly opposing desires: the deep desire to live, accompanied by a deep fear of doing so. This was my very first step in reconciling that helplessness will always be a condition of living, and channeling anxious energy through movement, breath, immediacy, and sound can be trusted alternatives to engaging in my typical fight, flight, freeze, or insomnia responses.

Since the workshop, I’ve found plenty of opportunities to step into new learnings. I continue working on re-wiring my thoughts from “this can’t be happening” to “well ... this is exciting” (I’ll admit that some days are easier than others). I’ve chosen to release myself from the pressure of being “fearless”, in favour of acknowledging that I am human. I find myself delighted in having more energy to put toward living and daily endeavours I actually care about.

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Read more and register for the March 2017 program here: Transforming Anxiety and Stress