Transforming Anxiety & Stress

 

For Solanna Anderson, Transforming Anxiety and Stress (coming up March 28–31) at The Haven made all the difference. Here she explains why.

I arrived at Transforming Anxiety and Stress on Gabriola island on sunny spring day in 2015. Outwardly, my life looked great. I had good friends, a beautiful apartment and an impressive-sounding job. It was a pretty convincing facade.

What no one on the outside saw was that I woke up every morning, hours before my alarm, filled with soul-wrenching anxiety. My guts were tied up in tight knots and my throat felt closed in, like I was gagging. I would drag myself to the bathroom and slump down on the cold floor by the toilet in case I threw up.

It was as if I was swallowing down a life my body just didn't want.

In these early morning anxiety attacks, the facade of my good life crumbled under the whispered accusations of “you're not good enough” and “what's the point?” My brain would search for evidence that proved I was a failure. I was in my mid-thirties, I wasn't in a relationship and I didn't have children. I was absolutely miserable working at my impressive-sounding job.

I knew I wanted to make changes and I felt paralyzed by indecision. Every step towards something I wanted (leaving my job, starting a new relationship) seemed overwhelmingly risky. At work, I guzzled coffee and made myself too busy to notice my despair. At the end of the day, I'd turn on Netflix, pour a glass of wine and collapse on the couch. One glass would turn to three and after a few hours of restless sleep, I'd wake up buzzing with anxiety, finding myself back on bathroom floor with my head full of “not good enough.” 

It was a dark time. 

The one silver lining of dark times is that I eventually become desperate enough to change. Finally, all my excuses about not having enough time or money seemed irrelevant, when I realized I could no longer afford the cost that stress and anxiety was taking on my life.

After hearing about the course from my life coach and course leader Jennifer Hilton, I took the plunge and made my way to Transforming Anxiety and Stress The Haven.

Over the four days of the course, I realized all the avoidance I was doing to try to get away from my stress (avoiding making decisions, avoiding taking risks, avoiding my feelings by numbing out), was in fact intensifying my anxiety. By opening up to my anxiety instead of avoiding it, I could actually become present to my life and make new choices. 

I learned practical tools for learning how to take risks more easily, to expand my capacity for vulnerability and connection, and to surrender to the uncertainty of being alive instead of constantly struggling (and failing) to maintain control of everything and everyone around me. 

Three year later, I now assist Jennifer Hilton and Graemme Brown at Transforming Anxiety and Stress. I wouldn't say that my life is less scary than it used to be, but it is infinitely more meaningful and fun. 

I have a fulfilling romantic relationship and am self-employed in an industry I love. Running my own business has a level of unpredictability that would have easily crippled me with anxiety in the past. But my capacity to channel my anxiety into new creative projects is precisely what allows me to build a passion-filled life. 

I still sometimes wake up in the morning with thoughts of “you're not good enough” and “what's the point?” racing around my head. What’s different now is that I can identify the start of my anxiety spiral without getting caught up in its vortex. I gained an entire toolkit of strategies to mobilize myself so that I don't stay stuck. I can actually harness my anxious energy to take the next right step towards the life I want to be living. 

If you are like I was, tired of worn-out coping strategies for stress and anxiety (procrastination, perfectionism, obsessing, worrying, Netflix, booze, social media, food, shopping, etc.) and you want new tools to help build your passionate life, join us for Transforming Anxiety and Stress, March 28-31 at The Haven.