Home > Life > Awkward can be good.

Awkward can be good.

I am an anxious person. I have never received any kind of diagnosis, but I do go through periods where I get frequent panic attacks. When I first had them seven years ago, I was prescribed Ativan, but I haven’t had any  meds to help with my anxiety since then.  While I’ve had no meds, I have been to therapy. About a year and a half ago, I was experiencing panic attacks three to four times per week. When I finally addressed this with my then-therapist, he focused on breathing and cognitive techniques to help me manage my anxiety and prevent my attacks from escalating. These techniques seemed way too cheesy and hippie for me. Basically, when I could feel my heart racing and I started choking and gagging, I had to practice deep breathing and say to myself, “I feel anxious. This is the way that I feel. My feelings are OK.”

I thought that was dumb. I come from stoic people and acknowledgment of feelings seems awkward and embarrassing. However, I did not want to choke and gag and feel like I was dying three to four times per week. So I tried the deep breathing and affirmations my therapist recommended. I practiced them daily. They worked.

Last night during jiu jitsu, I could feel an attack coming on. I had an overwhelming sense of dread that I could not pinpoint and my heart was out of control. My throat felt like it was closing up. I didn’t want to leave class, as I have in the past since that makes me feel more anxious and also humiliated. At the same time, I did not want to have a complete melt down on the mat. So I took a moment to sit out, breath, and tell myself that I was OK. My heart slowed. I could breath again. I rolled the last set of class.

These mental exercises I practice to manage my anxiety continue to feel awkward and uncomfortable. But they’re good for me. When I think about the conditioning I do for judo and jiu jitsu, a lot of the best exercises are awkward, uncomfortable, and probably look ridiculous to the casual observer. Mountain climbers? Burpees? Squats? They look silly. But they’re great for you.

  1. September 11, 2013 at 15:39

    I just wrote a long post and I think WP ate it. Grrrr. I’ll have to re-write later. The gist — I get this. I used to be anti cheesy, new age, hippie anything. An injury forced me to do yoga, and reluctantly, I committed. Best thing ever. Anxiety is no joke. Hope it gets better.

    • September 11, 2013 at 18:35

      That’s so weird for me to hear because I didn’t start yoga and appreciate it until I got injured and needed a restorative physical activity to do. It really helped me slow down and appreciate hippie-like practices.

      I read your own recent posts about anxiety…another coincidence since I also started running again. And like you, moderation is not my strong point. I already train for judo and jiu jitsu and do strength training 4-6 days a week. But I signed up for a Tough Mudder so I started running again on top of everything else. When i plan my week, I start scheduling in five runs, but I realize I should stick to three so I don’t become all crazy about it.

      Physical activity can be so therapeutic, but I know for me, and it sounds like for you, it can turn something anxiety-producing and self-destructive. The judo and jiu jitsu culture is especially hard for me since it’s all “no days off!” “rest days don’t make champions!” and other things in that vein. I constantly fighting to find the balance between pushing myself and taking care of myself.

      I always love your writing. I feel a kindred spirit in you and it feels good knowing you’re out there.

  1. February 3, 2014 at 20:05

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