“I do not claim to have attained optimum emotional well-being. Actually, I think that may be a lifetime goal. For me it’s an ongoing process that requires awareness, knowledge, and practice. I do know what good emotional health feels like, and that motivates me to keep at the practice.”
― Andrew Weil,
Although I am a yoga teacher who is relatively fit and healthy, I am also a flawed perfectionist. I tend to want to “fix” myself, other people and situations, when sometimes simply waiting it out is the best solution. This “fix it” mentality has gotten me into trouble over the years. I started seeing a doctor earlier this year to help me address some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Yes, even yoga teachers deal with these challenging emotions! Unfortunately, he gave me such a wide variety of pills and herbs that I ended up in a much worse condition than when I originally went to see him.
I felt stuck. If my doctor had all the answers, but he can’t “fix” me, then what can I do? I remembered the words of my dear friend Maria Isabel, “You know your body better than anyone else.” Even though I knew I was taking a risk to follow my instincts rather than trusting a doctor, I knew it was time to forge a different path.
The greatest challenge of looking for answers within myself is when I’m feeling shaky. When my nerves are on edge, or after I made an impulsive decision that I regret. It’s easy for my mind to wander into a space of, “You can’t trust yourself…” Especially when you can provide proof from a recent mistake. A huge part of this shift into wellness for me has been retraining my brain to trust myself.
I have a long history of self-sabotage based around the shame I have felt about some of the significant life experiences I have survived. Rather than seeing myself as a victim who did not deserve the pain and suffering that was inflicted upon me, I took it personally. I decided there was something wrong with me and that I deserved the experience. So, retraining my brain doesn’t simply start with thinking positively, it also acknowledges the messages I adopted from these bad experiences. I’m reprogramming my beliefs to shift away from “I’m not enough,” to “I am enough. I have everything I need, and I am doing enough.”
To support me on my new journey, I hired an herbalist who introduced me to a model for wellness that is intuitive, requiring you to truly listen to your body.
Here is my interpretation of her recommendations:
- Do nothing – If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, wait to see if the symptom subsides. Sleep, meditate, pray.
- Investigate – For example, if you are experiencing anxiety, ask your body what is causing your racing heart or for your body to tremble. It sounds silly, but our bodies have a lot to say. If we listen closely, our bodies will deliver messages to us, sometimes in words, sensations or ideas, like “Please go take some ibuprofen!” Look inward before consulting WebMD. Seriously, don’t freak yourself out. It’s worth taking the time to trust your intuition first.
- Take Action – In the case of anxiety or sleeplessness, you have some options. You can do something active, or you can do something in stillness. If it’s 2 am, perhaps going for a run isn’t the best idea, but you could practice some yoga on the floor next to your bed if you feel the need to physically do something. Writing can be very helpful, especially when there are thoughts swirling around. Yoga Nidra has become my friend. Insight Timer is a great FREE app to find helpful meditations.
- Nourish – Perhaps making a cup of soothing tea. I drink Oat Straw, which is super nourishing to the nerves, and high in calcium and magnesium. This is the type of tea you could drink every day, any time of day and it will be supportive to your system, especially if you’re dealing with anxiety. Many herbalists recommend flower essences. These are subtle, not like taking a pill, but over time you may notice a difference. Some feel the difference right away.
- Stimulate & Sedate –
- Here’s where you might try a sleep tonic. I have tried and had some success with Deep Sleep. It really depends on what’s going on, though, so just take these as suggestions, not solutions. Acupuncture and massage are great options. Tapping on the acupuncture meridians can be calming to the body. Ever heard of EFT?
- After you have tried a few options, with compassion (yes, trying not to be hard on yourself), now may be a good time to grab something more powerful to help you sleep or calm that internal shakiness. Then maybe call a doctor or a friend.
When I’m tired in the middle of the night, I’ll be honest, I’d rather reach for a magic pill. And sometimes I have to. But when I’m feeling emotions, especially the uncomfortable ones, my nervous system really appreciates the release of tears over numbing or ignoring them. And you may not always know the cause of what you’re feeling, but that’s okay too. We feel the need to cry when the nervous system feels stressed, so the best way to support your whole body is to simply let go.
Allow yourself to feel afraid.
Give yourself permission to feel angry.
Let the tears fall.
Sometimes our emotions are windows into the truth about our situation. Maybe try to see your feelings as something to observe and investigate rather than to hide from.
As I shift away from the shame, away from the belief that I am dependent on others to fix me, I regain my power. My good friend Xiomara says, “Everyone is empowered, they just don’t know it.” Sadly, many people are not equipped with the information about how helpful nutrition and changing your lifestyle can promote the healing process. And as I take my power back, I hope my journey will help inform others so that they too can heal themselves. I’m learning to trust myself and discern which doctors, practitioners and loved ones I can depend on to support me on my mission for healing.
My body. My choice.