Last week while in St. Lucia, I enjoyed my morning walks along the beach. Today, while not quite as tropical, the sun was shining and the weather was a little warmer, I decided to do my morning walk outside instead of on the treadmill. Although the weather was quite beautiful for this time of year, it was quite windy, and at times, walking into the wind was a little difficult. It occurred to me that the wind is a great metaphor for how I have been feeling on the inside lately.
I have recently discovered that I suffer from anxiety. While I think I’ve had anxiety all my life, I was never officially diagnosed, and found ways to cope. One of the “gifts” I received from having experienced cancer last year was coming out of the anxiety closet. Yes, I am officially an anxious person. And, I know I’m not alone in my experience. In fact, anxiety, depression, and stress are the leading causes of mental health issues today, where 1 in 5 Canadians experience some form of mental health.
One of my aha moments on my walk this morning was “accepting” that this is a part of my life. However, just like the weather, how I feel and how I cope will change, daily. Sometimes hourly.
Here’s what I learned. I hope it’s helpful for you as well.
Calm and Beautiful – Some days the sun is shining and all you want to do is be outside and enjoy the beautiful day. The warmth of the sun on your face is inviting, invigorating, and energizing. You can’t help but feel positive, hopeful and present. All seems right in the world and you feel strong. Even though I suffer from anxiety, it isn’t always challenging. Just like a beautiful day, my mind can be calm and my thoughts at bay. Of course, we all love these days. And, I’m learning to appreciate them as great gifts, not expectations that every day will be warm and sunny.
Windy but Nice – And then, there will be days that are still nice and sunny but quite windy. These days make me more aware of where my thoughts are and how I might need to dig a little deeper to be (and stay) positive and strong. These days make me realize I am resilient and more powerful than I give myself credit for. And, it also reminds me that every day is not always going to be challenging. The wind will eventually die down.
Gloomy and Stormy – Of course, there are those days that it’s just miserable outside. The days where it may be cold, windy and rainy or snowy. The days where you just want to stay indoors, curl up by the fireplace and read a good book. Maybe even have a good cry. Storms are fascinating to watch yet scary to be in. I’m learning that during these times, it’s best to be safe and take care of yourself. Sometimes this means acknowledging that it’s a bad day and sometimes it means reaching out for help and support. And just like anything, know that this too shall pass.
I think what I’m learning the most is to be self-compassionate with myself. I’ve been told I am a very caring person and will do anything to help my family, friends and clients but when it comes to myself, I don’t necessarily practice what I preach. By definition, “self-compassion is way of relating to the ever-changing landscape of who we are with kindness and acceptance—especially when we fail or feel inadequate. Self-compassion requires acknowledging that we share the human condition of imperfection.” (Centre for Mindfulness Self-Compassion)
Whether you suffer from anxiety or not, my hope in sharing this information with you is that you too will recognize what type of day you are having and what you might need to support yourself and be more self-compassionate. Doing so is an exercise that will make us all happier and healthier.