I came across this passage about anxiety today in Paramahansa Yogananda’s book, Inner Peace, How to be Calmly Active and Actively Calm.
“If you continually write out checks without depositing anything into your bank account, you will run out of money. So it is with your life. Without regular deposits of peace in your life account, you will run out of strength, calmness, and happiness. You will finally become bankrupt––emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. But daily communion with God will replenish your inner bankroll.
Everyone has at times been nervous, more or less, without knowing why…. Restlessness, emotional excitement, concentrates too much energy in the nerves so that they begin to wear out. After years and years, the adverse effects of that nervousness begin to show. The nerves are very tough—God made them so, because they have to last a lifetime—but it is necessary to give them proper care. When you stop overloading the nervous system, as when you are in deep sleep or a state of calmness in meditation, you are not nervous at all.
Nervousness can be cured. The sufferer must be willing to analyze his condition and remove the disintegrating emotions and negative thoughts that are little by little destroying him. Objective analysis of one’s problems, and maintaining calmness in all situations of life will heal the most persistent case of nervousness.
Examine yourself to see if you are nervous, and then determine what it is that makes you nervous.”
This idea reminds me of a blog post I wrote about a year ago called, “The Law of Increments.” Basically, I say that small, incremental changes tend to add up to the big things in our lives. It makes sense to me that making regular deposits to our peace and sanity account will add up. Likewise, not making such deposits will leave us depleted over time.
And, most importantly, I love the idea that we don’t need to sit around and wait or wish for inner peace; we can actively attain it. This may be one of the clearest arguments for consistent self-care that I’ve come across.
We all know that we want to have healthier habits, but it’s a lot easier to race around like an over-caffeinated maniac than it is to start and maintain a healthy balance of small steps. The best way I’ve come to think about good habits is through dental health. Yes, flossing and brushing. Most of us do it without thinking, and feel gross if we do not. None of us wants to be toothless in old age, and the habit only takes a few minutes a couple of times a day. One of the best articles I’ve seen recently about healthy habit-forming is Mark Manson’s, “Your Goals are Overrated.” He outlines some of the most important and foundational habits we can develop, and also explains how getting into them works. Basically, we start small and stick with it by building on small victories.
So here we get back to overcoming anxiety and finding peace in our daily lives. How do we get ourselves to meditate, sleep deeply, and observe our emotions and negative thoughts? From my experience, Mark Manson is right: through small, incremental steps. The same way we save small amounts of money that add up, or floss our teeth so they are healthy in old age.
For me, meditating for 10 minutes a day is way more powerful than doing it intermittently for longer stints. Same with yoga. If I’m under the gun, 15 minutes a day is better than 90 minutes once or twice a week. And for observing my emotions and negative thoughts, I’m utilizing my meditation time, as well as journaling (Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong has some great methods for intentional journaling).
The last line of the passage: “Examine yourself to see if you are nervous, and then determine what it is that makes you nervous,” is probably the place to start. Meditation and observing emotions through intentional journaling are great techniques for this, and it’s a relief for me to know I can always start small. Even better, the benefits add up quickly, and before I know it, I have less anxiety and more peace in my daily life.
Author: Erin McMorrow
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Eva Blue