One of the reasons James and I started this website was to try and put some positivity into the world. Sure, we love to muck around and most of what we publish is at best confusing and at worst are the ravings of lunatics, however it doesn’t mean we can’t share something of meaning from time to time. If this post helps one person feel a little less alone then all the long hours creating Dirty Clean Eats are worth it.
Anxiety and Me
Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to share details about my experiences but for now I’ll keep things brief. Anyone who has been anxious before knows what it feels like. The focus of this article is something that helped me and I don’t want to get bogged down talking about the problem.
I’m not the type of person people would typically assume has anxious thoughts but then that’s half the problem. Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to has felt this way at some point in their life. For me personally, my brain thinks up unlikely/impossible situations and then I can’t stop worrying about every little action I take that could lead to that outcome. Looking back, I’ve been this way my entire life, however for some reason my subconscious coping mechanisms weren’t working and I was having a rough time lately.
Whilst it certainly doesn’t feel that way at the time I am pretty lucky. I have the support and life experiences that my issues are fairly mild and don’t occur very often. What I did take from this experience was a lot of compassion for people that don’t have those support mechanisms who can’t pull themselves out of a nosedive.
I have some pretty hippy views on prescription medication that I won’t pedal here but suffice to say medical intervention would have been an absolute last resort so I looked into alternate solutions.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
I tried to google Mindfulness because let’s be honest, copying a definition is way easier than writing one but in my 30 seconds of research it was quite hard to pin down. So let’s give it a crack shall we, I’ve read a book, I’m probably an expert now.
To me Mindfulness Meditation is taking time to disentangle yourself from your thoughts/feelings and taking a moment to ‘objectively’ look at them. It also allows you to let go and make space to quiet your mind. With that said there is a reason I am not a mystic leader and you can probably find much better explanations online. Anyway, odds are if you clicked this link you already have a fair idea what’s going on.
Mindfulness and Me
As you have probably guessed, if you have had a quick look around Dirty Clean Eats, I’m into my martial arts. Contrary to what 80’s action movies would have you believe, martial artists in my experience have much more in common with the local hippie than the stereotypical ‘cage fighter’ persona. For this reason, I’ve been familiar with mindfulness and meditation for a number of years. I even read a book which I alluded to earlier.
What I have always struggled with is the application of the principles and ‘meditating’ itself. Besides ADHD, the main problem looking back was my expectations. I expected to be practicing meditation like a monk not like a young (ish) man with a whole heap of shit going on. I saw enlightenment as a prerequisite not an aspiration.
What I needed was an introduction. There are local groups and businesses that can teach you however if, like me, hanging out with a bunch of weirdos singing kumbaya sounds about as appealing as slamming you dick in a door there is always the internet.
What I tried?
I downloaded the headspace.com app. I’m sure there are a whole heap of apps that do something similar but this is the one I heard about so it’s the one I tried. Headspace have a free introductory program called ‘take 10’. As the name suggests you take 10 minutes out of your day for 10 days of guided meditation. It even has some fancy animations to explain the key concepts which works great if you are an overgrown child like me. After the 10 days, it becomes a subscription service (like 5 bucks a month or something) but I haven’t paid for it, I’m going to keep repeating the first 10 days a few more times. This isn’t a paid endorsement so do whatever you want, or try a different app, I don’t care either way.
Like anything the first time is always the hardest to get going however I was feeling particularly anxious that day which gave me the push I needed to try. They started me off with one of those fancy animations and then it was straight into it. Time to get comfortable, stick the headphones in and relax. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t have any expectations but it literally felt like I just closed my eyes and it was over. For someone like me that was something I had never experienced before. My brain is constantly racing, good or bad, and I have 100% never experienced time leaping forward like that, with the exception of Monday mornings after hitting the snooze button. I felt like an absolute meditation pro-fresh-o-nal and was on my way. This wasn’t a magic bullet and the underlying anxiety was still there however I felt like I had ‘a break’ that made dealing with it easier.
Day 2 – 3 I am still a meditation machine. I like being good at things so this certainly helped me continue on my journey. With that said the underlying feeling of anxiety was still there. I was getting my break but negativity started to creep back in as the day progressed but I was having longer periods of ‘peace’ so I decided to see out the 10 days.
Over this time, I started to feel less and less anxious. I also got progressively worse at meditating. It felt like the better I started to feel the worse I got with the whole process and a few of these sessions really started to drag. I’m nothing if I’m not stubborn, however, so I was determined to see the 10 days to completion. I skipped a couple days over this period because of recreational activities (a nice way of saying I went drinking and was too hungover) so this probably didn’t help. All in all it probably took me 7 days to complete 4 sessions.
Eureka. The meditation machine had returned. I wasn’t quite the zen master I was on the first day (I have feeling I’ll be chasing that dragon for the rest of my life) but things were looking good. I was feeling great and was still able to sit down for 10 minutes without being bored out of my brain. I was secretly starting to worry I could only meditate when I felt rubbish so this was a relief. I had also just returned from an overseas holiday so if anytime I was going to feel rough, this was the time.
As I stated above this is no magic bullet but it is something that combined with lifestyle changes/choices helped me (i.e eating healthy, cutting down on alcohol, exercising regularly). We are all different though and maybe this won’t be your thing. Or maybe it just isn’t your thing right now, I tried meditation many times over the last 5 years and couldn’t get it to work until now. Even now I still struggle.
The important thing is knowing you aren’t alone. Everyone single person I have spoken to about this (which admittedly is a pretty small sample since it’s not something I or most people like to talk about) has dealt with similar problems. Reaching out to someone is often the hardest step but in my experience, there is a lot of compassion and help out there.
If you or someone you know is struggling please reach out. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Mensline on 1300 78 99 78 (they’re both free – and are always there to listen), visit the Beyond Blue website or see your local GP.