Today is my first day learning how to breathe.
In counseling, I learned about deep breathing and visualization. When dealing with anxiety, learning how to control your breathing is crucial. If you’re stressed, you can think of the most relaxing place you have been, and close your eyes while envisioning this place. The sights, sounds, and feelings.
Here is mine:
Three times a day (or more, if I need it), I am practicing deep breathing and relaxing visualizations. I’m combining this with journaling my thoughts and three daily positives. The breathing is especially important if I catch myself in negative thoughts and when I feel the anxiety building.
I also learned about how the thought process works:
Or, in other words:
During the thought process, it’s never the situation itself that causes our feelings and behaviors. It is our thoughts about the situation that cause our feelings and behaviors. We go through hundreds of situations every day, and we have automatic thoughts about those situations. Those in turn affect our feelings, thus affecting how we react to the situations that happen in our daily lives.
Today was Day One of learning how to breathe. My first two sessions of deep breathing during the day were before I had any stress. I thought, “Maybe I don’t need to worry. It’s already working. I don’t have any negative thoughts. I’m cured!”
But then, the flashes of negativity struck, dragging my body down that familiar path. I could sense I was inching towards that vicious cycle of anxiety. Panic. It can be like a black hole once it sucks you in. Once you’re in the middle of it, there’s no one helping you out. You’re on your own.
I caught myself before I fell. I immediately sat down, closed my eyes, and mentally traveled back to Greece. I could hear the splashing of the sea, hear the laughter of tourists, see the green water and the rocks at the bottom.
I had climbed safely out of the negative darkness on my own. My thoughts, in that instance, did not get the best of me.
I know this will take practice. Day One was a good day. But not all days will be this simple. I may not catch my negative thoughts the moment they occur. The questions, insecurities, and irrational thoughts happen so suddenly that it takes only seconds for them to manifest into an emotional meltdown.
Night will always be the most difficult. For some reason, the time when my body and mind decompress is when the demons come out to play. As I lay my head to the pillow, the little devils are there, gnawing at my shoulders, face, and ears with their pointy, yellow teeth. Shaking them off has proven easier said than done. They latch onto my skin with their claws, hanging onto me all day. At night they awake to play their tormented games.
I can’t breathe with the demons hanging onto me. Shaking them off only allows them to latch on more forcefully, choking me, slashing at my throat. It puts them on the defense. They attack me, beat me to the ground until I can’t fight back.
Instead of fighting against the demons, I have to let them go. Replace them with other thoughts. When the demons follow behind me, I have visions to distract me, to show them that they are not wanted.
Every day won’t be like Day One. Learning to breathe isn’t automatic. It is a process. I am practicing, and soon, it will come naturally. The oxygen is slowly seeping back into my lungs. The oxygen is clean, safe. For so long I have been inhaling toxins, and now I am riding my body of the harmful chemicals that used to permeate my life.
Having a plan keeps the demons (mostly) hiding out. They’ll come back to taunt me, but I’m armed and ready for them. I know I’m stronger than they are.
I’m stronger than I’ve ever given myself credit for. Finally, I’m beginning to see it. There will days of doubt, of weakness, and of depression. But I know that I’ve clawed my way out of every hole I’ve been thrown into. Nothing will make sense now, but it will in the future. For now, I have to just learn to breathe.