Winning the Mind Game

Being both an introvert and an entertainer is a combination of disastrously conflicting thought patterns. According to the ADAA, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older, and I’m in the club. It can be so crippling, hindering me from taking chances or moving forward, choosing only to make decisions when I’m comfortable. It sucks.

For me, anxiety strikes when I run recurring thoughts of doubt in my mind with sabotaging talk of unworthiness, fear of acceptance from new people and all kinds of insecurities, leading to an overwhelming wave of disappointment in myself. Once I’m riding this wave, I’m no longer able to sail forward. These are the times I’ll need a crazy amount of calm and courage to snap out of it.

The other day I had dug myself such a deep hole under the pressure my thoughts created, feeling heavy and weighed down. I was on the floor, red-faced, and crying for about thirty minutes. Seriously, our minds can be our worst enemies if we allow demons to set up camp with nothing but negative things to say. I’m an international solo-traveler for goodness sake!

Eleanor Morgan, when writing for VICE UK on how it feels to live with anxiety, expressed “There have been times where I’ve knelt in alleyways trying to steady my breathing and ‘hold on’ to the ground, to root myself to the physical earth while my body enters what feels like another plane of existence.” I’ve been there, sister.

Whenever I have moments like that, I have to pull out my big guns, pick myself up and do the work. The work is the set of steps we can take to regulate our heart rates, clear our minds and get back to the center of existence when in the midst of a mind-battle; so that we can rise up off the floor and walk forward to our destinies.

I like to start by counting to twenty, in both Spanish and French. Then, I’ll take as many deep breaths as I can before my mind starts to wander. After I can breathe again, I’ll play around with different breathing techniques. By that time, I’m not as focused on whatever was troubling me in the first place. Then I can decide, at that moment, whether I’ll give in to the anxiety and pacify it (staying indoors, going to sleep, working on a solo project) or face it with courage (attending the event alone, taking the class, speaking up).

There are so many rituals I’ve adopted over time that help regulate these sabotaging moments. I meditate every day. Yes, I’m a meditator, getting better all the time, who advocates for everyone to incorporate it into his/her daily routine. I would shout it from the mountaintops. Mediation! Is! The key! Even if only for 3 minutes. I make sure to do it every, single day and it’s made a huge difference in the way I fight my battles.

I also keep several journals. Inspiration can strike at any time, so I have about six journals lying around my room; one for each thought-box in my head (this blog, my deepest, darkest secrets, my daily planner, a character I made up, random thoughts, and a ritual guide) It may seem excessive, but I do believe if I did not create those portals, I would’ve gone completely mad by now.

Religion can play a huge role in attaining solace as well. I was raised a Christian so I use my knowledge as a foundation. However, I’ve gained so much enlightenment, inspiration, and comfort from a variety of religious texts. I don’t think someone can really have peace without being the least bit spiritual. During the times when we feel “curled up on the ground”, having a spiritual quote in mind can be just the right encouragement.

I’m not sure if having anxiety is an inevitability for life. If it is, I would like to be totally equipped for it. I want to do as Brene Brown says and “live in the arena”. I want to choose courage over comfort more times than not and see more of the wonderful things life has to show me. Don’t you?