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.

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  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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