It was in the middle of the night when I suddenly woke up from a dream.
I was sweating, my body was shaking, and I could feel my heart beating out of my chest. I’d never felt anything like this before. I got scared noticing my mind racing to dark and uncomfortable places.
Being a yoga teacher, I often practice and work with my breath, so I remembered to breathe slowly and consciously. I was focusing on my exhales, making them longer than my inhales, and, with awareness, I was able to slow my breath down.
I felt how my body was calming down as a result of my breathing, but my mind wasn’t. I felt worried and scared. I felt my mind spin thinking about anything that could go wrong. It felt like an emotional roller coaster moving faster than the speed of light inside of my chest.
It went on until morning. It was the first of many anxiety attacks that same month.
What struck me was that I felt strong afterward. I was proud of myself for coming out on the other side in one piece. It felt like an emotional release—like every feeling that I’ve had carried and suppressed finally had the chance to be expressed and released.
This got me thinking, and I asked myself, how did I get these anxiety attacks?
Watching my children, the best teachers of my life, I noticed that they never deny their feelings. They express their feelings wherever they go and no matter what they feel. But what about us adults?
Somewhere along the way, we’re taught to be kind—so kind to others that we tend to hurt ourselves.
I started to practice getting to know myself again. How to not deny or suppress my own feelings. This was new to me; I’ve been denying my feelings most of my life—prioritizing moving forward, getting things done, accomplishing things I wanted, and not allowing myself to stop and feel how I was actually doing.
I watched my son one evening as he fell on the bathroom floor hurting his knee. He screamed for 10 minutes without any hesitation or holding it back. He hurt his knee, and he screamed for as long as he felt he needed to.
Standing next to him and kissing his knee as he was calming down, I was thinking to myself that I couldn’t remember when I last screamed like that.
I realised that I tend to suppress my feelings on a regular basis.
I made a promise to myself: A promise to start allowing my feelings. To scream if I have to. To feel my feelings. To acknowledge them. To be curious. To look deep into them and the information that they carry. To practice getting to know myself again.
If I’m sad, what do I need?
If I’m stressed, what do I need?
If I’m happy, what do I need?
If I’m angry, what do I need?
If I’m worrying, what do I need?
There’s always something we need, but we don’t always feel like we have the time to stop and acknowledge what it is. I’ve now made it a priority to stop and feel, to notice what I feel and what it means I need in my current situation or moment.
I know now that anxiety is not a basic feeling; it’s a mix of different feelings. Feelings that have not yet been expressed or taken care of.
Making an inventory of which feelings are bubbling inside, and what they’re trying to tell me, has helped me to get to know myself throughout the recent ups and downs in my life.