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Anxiety. Could It Really Be Mind Over Matter?

On Monday I mentioned how last week I was really struggling with anxiety. This perpetual, chronic sense of body tightness and  chest discomfort just wouldn’t go away, no matter how much I tried to stretch or focus on my breathing.  When I have a lot of anxious thoughts, I feel almost as if I’ve pulled muscles in my chest. And my solar plexus turns to rock.

My mind was steadily racing to fill thoughts of “what do I need to do?” ” What should I do?” ” What needs to be done?” “Oh right I need to do that – I better write it down.” “Oh and that too…”

Nothing external was really going on or stressing me out, so its a mystery as to where this anxiety was coming from.

Sometimes my body felt hyper. Was I hungry!? Was it caffeine? I went back to decaf half way through the week and the body anxiety still continued just as strongly. Was my body protesting from the long hours spent sitting each day!? Or was my mind protesting and messaging my body to react….?  Was it all more physiological? Or mental? ….

Questions I will forever be asking. 

labrynth anxiety

So then one night I got thinking…

What if I just…chose…to start living a stress free life?

Just stop everything that makes me live with this anxiety?

Just let it all go?

……

I wonder if I could? 

labrynth anxiety

The Labyrinth is a slow meditative walk to the ‘centre’ and to a place of inner quiet.

 

This thought is continuing to stay with me. What IF I just decided to stop it all? What IF I just decided to, right now, make the choice to live with relaxation and peace? Just stop letting in those thoughts. Stop listening to them. Just stop the cleaning. Stop the counting. Stop the perpetual productivity. Just let go and be. 

 

labrynth anxiety

Sometimes it is simply a walk that slows the pace and calms the chaos…

 

I know, rationally, it is not as simple as that and you probably think I’m crazy. Maybe I’m dreaming. But I also know that after living in this way for years, as I have, there comes a point where you are just so bloody tired of living in this way. 

At the beginning, when your anxious coping mechanisms are just growing, they are too new for you to know what you think about them, know how to deal with them, or to tell apart the good from the harmful.  But after time, you’ve experienced the good side of things – the life you feel when you do not feel anxiety – to know that this is not the way you want to live. 

And so then.. then… maybe it becomes a choice. 

 

labrynth anxiety

… and sometimes it reveals a surprising insight.

 

Of course there will be discomfort. There will be some fear. But where does that fear come from?

I guess it comes from the notion that if I do just… drop… all those things that are making me live in perpetual anxiety, I would have to find a new way to be okay. I’d have to find a new way to fill my time and my thoughts. And what if I couldn’t do that? What if I didn’t like it? What if I didn’t know what to fill my thoughts with!? 

But then I ask myself, “What’s the worse that could happen?’

…I feel sad. With the extra time. With more space to feel my feelings. With loneliness. 

…I gain some weight. By letting go of all food restrictive thoughts.

 

labrynth anxiety

It is an ancient practice of walking and pilgrimage.

 

I’ve been there before. And I know I’d take “feeling sad” over this chronic stress and anxiety any day. Sad is something I can see and see the world through. Sad is something I can coddle and show compassion for. Anxiety is something that keeps life a prison, and keeps me separated from the both the outside, and inner, world. 

 

So here is my pledge. To, when I see those thoughts arising – those thoughts of productivity, numbers, food, and irrational fear – I am letting them go. I am telling myself, “I am choosing to not have these thoughts.”  I’ve been garnering this practice since last weekend and I have noticed a significant change in my spirit. A change for the better. A change toward the life I want. 

Its going to take a lot of practice. A lot of discipline and determination. But, as a friend always says….

….it will get easier…

 

Thank you to Amanda for helping me Think Out Loud. All pictures were taken at Toronto’s outdoor Labrynth in Trinity Square park, a place hidden behind the city’s largest mall. It is a secret place. A lovely place. To anyone struggling with anxiety, know that there is no shame in seeking medical assistance. Sometimes we need a little loving push to get started. 

Anxiety: Is there power in mind over matter? #mentalhealth #compassion #letitgo #recovery Click To Tweet

Tell me,

Have you ever just “put your foot down” and stopped including something in your life?

Do you feel anxiety? Where do you feel it? How have you learned to over come it? 

Do you believe in the power of  “mind over matter!?” 

 

 

 

28 COMMENTS

  1. chasetheredgrape | 6th Oct 16

    At the worst of my ED I know I had no control, there was nothing I could do, my bad head was boss. Then during recovery I found that one day something clicked. I realised I could fight those thoughts, and most importantly, I could win. I could say no and not allow it to spiral. It gave me hope and spirit that I could be free of all this. I won more and more of those fights and now whenever those thoughts pop in I can say no and 90% of the time it ends there. This is progress Cora – trust your journey πŸ™‚

    • Cora | 9th Oct 16

      Thank you for this, Jen. This is a wonderful story of your journey and the strength you gave to yourself. This is what I’m talking about… that sense of one day learning that we DO and CAN have power to choose a better life for ourselves. Its hard work and takes time, but I believe we can train ourselves to win. Thank you for the constant support and motivation by sharing your story and experiences with me.

  2. Susie @ SuzLyfe | 6th Oct 16

    While I wholeheartedly believe that there are certain types of anxiety that can indeed be fixed by mind over matter, there are also certain types that are just chemical imbalances. The good news is that the coping mechanisms that you use to handle and abate the former can help you stave off the more disastrous effects of the later.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Reach Out Before You Break (Mental Illness Awareness)My Profile

    • Cora | 9th Oct 16

      Yep, absolutely. And even with positive thoughts and mental strength, there is only so much you can do. I completely understand this, even with writing this post, and sometimes chemical imbalances require much more than mind over matter. I like your last point though… the two can and need to work together.

  3. Kat | 6th Oct 16

    While unrelated, the one area where I finally put my foot down is allowing people to treat me like dirt. I’m a people pleaser, so I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings or call them out. There’s been a few people in my life however [mostly family] who have just mistreated me and take advantage of me to the point where one day I was like, “why am I doing this?” So I walked away. I just said “no more” and now we don’t have a relationship because they didn’t want to admit wrong and they didn’t want to change. Totally off the subject of this post but you “putting your foot down” reminded me of it πŸ™‚
    Kat recently posted…TOL # 105 – The Random Act of Kindess That Made My DayMy Profile

    • Cora | 9th Oct 16

      YES. Thank you for sharing this, Kat. This is exactly what I mean. WE have the choice to just so “NO MORE.” I’m really thank ful you did this for yourself. Cutting out relationships can be really, really hard… but you need to do what is best for your happiness.

  4. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets | 6th Oct 16

    Despite my medication, I still have bouts of anxiety although it’s much better now. Of course, I get high anxiety when the baby cries but I also have random moments where I feel a sense of urgency for no reason at all. My heart rate goes up, I start to sweat and I feel the need to GO somewhere, anywhere and handle something, anything. I recognize these moments for what they are though and take a few deep breathes until the feeling subsides. I’ve also started to notice these moments happen more often at specific times so I’m betting there’s something to that.
    Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets recently posted…Eight Must Have Vegetarian Soup RecipesMy Profile

    • Cora | 20th Oct 16

      I just found this in my spam. You never end up in my spam… πŸ™
      You describe it very well. I relate to that feeling of needing to go somewhere and handle something. I think being aware of what is happening, and maybe even why its happening, is a huge proponent for being able to combat it. Or to at least know that it will pass. Its sure exhausting, though.

  5. Heather @ Polyglot Jot | 6th Oct 16

    Very interesting point! I think there are certain anxieties we can choose to live without while others may be something we can only learn to cope with and maybe that means counseling and medication, etc.
    I think the majority of my own anxieties could be helped if I only choose to let it go. I am in a place in my life where I feel very similarly to what you are describing here. I dont know if its 100% possible, but just taking daily steps to let things go has helped me relax so much more!
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot recently posted…TOL: Learning to BreatheMy Profile

    • Cora | 9th Oct 16

      Yes to your first point – its absolutely true. Sometimes we need much more than just positive thought to help us out, and that is okay. Your second point is really interesting, and really insightful for you to think this may be what you are dealing with right now. The only way it can be fought is with the small, daily steps. Each time we say even a small “no” or “let it go” builds our strength more and more. I hope you continue to make these daily steps for yourself!!

  6. Joyce @ The Hungry Caterpillar | 6th Oct 16

    Dear Cora,
    You probably already have a bit of an idea how I feel about this. On the one hand, as you know I think because I’ve written about it, we only have so much power to choose our emotional states. I’m so sorry that you keep trying to overcome this anxiety, and it keeps coming back. It’s so frustrating and unfair!
    But at the same time, I hope you may find some peace in this approach. We can certainly choose our actions, and we have some power to choose our thoughts, too. As for what you will have to fill your thoughts with–I have no doubt that you have lots of awesome things to put in there. Theater! Music! Baking! Family! Friends! This blog and helping other women through this unfortunate struggle! Movies! Books! Wine!
    <3 Hang in there, girl!
    Joyce @ The Hungry Caterpillar recently posted…Your Participation Is Needed for: No Shame November!My Profile

    • Cora | 9th Oct 16

      Thanks, Joyce. This was a wonderful comment to read. I do have lots to fill those thoughts of mine with… there are so many wonderful aspects about my life and other passions. I just need to let myself be with them and let the others go.
      Even though I wrote this, I still know that as much as positive thoughts and mental strength is beautiful, there is still only so far it can take us. Sometimes we need that extra bit of help through medication.

  7. Emily Swanson | 6th Oct 16

    So I think I’ve learned this year that I can gird up the loins of my mind, like Peter says in 1 Peter 1, and I can discipline my thoughts and find truth in Scripture, as I’m often tossed about by anxiety when I get far away from God’s Word. I’m so thankful for God’s divine Word; it has been an amazing gift for my soul. <3

    And dear precious Cora, I just wanted to share these verses from the Lord Jesus that really have been such a gift to me in many times of anxiety. We often bind really heavy burdens, but Jesus' burdens are so light you won't even feel weighed down by them.

    Matthew 11:28-30, '28 β€œCome unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
    29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
    30 For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”'

    Love you friend. I just wanted to share that. I hope that doesn't sound preachy or pushy, but I just wanted to share. <3

    HUGS.
    Emily Swanson recently posted…WIAW: Why Stress Kills My AppetiteMy Profile

    • Cora | 9th Oct 16

      Thank you, Emily. I am so happy you have found a place to help bring you back to loving thoughts, away from those anxieties. You are not preaching or being pushy in the least. I really, and always, appreciate your support.

  8. Jennifer @ Fit Nana | 6th Oct 16

    There’s definitely a lot to be said about this way of thinking. I can get super stressed and anxious and worry my whole day away and not get one single thing accomplished. What I’ve found that helps is differentiating between what I can control and what I cannot. And, interestingly enough, I’ve learned that I get anxious mostly about things I CANNOT control. In fact, there seem to be quite a few things in this world that I cannot control. Who knew?! (Seriously though. Type A personality, mom, red head – I might be a little controlling.) But, once I got to that point, it was pretty easy (not SUPER easy at all but easy enough) to let go. I like this. Good luck on your path to choosing wisely and inner peace!

    • Cora | 9th Oct 16

      Yes, yes and yes. First of all – worrying and stressing has never gotten me anywhere. I always end the day not even getting anything that I wanted to get done. There are many, many things in this world we cannot control. I once asked a friend, “what do you do to feel in control?” And she answered, “what if there was no such thing as control?” That has really stuck with me. If there is no such thing as control, then we have no other choice than to just let go…
      Thank you so much for your comment.

  9. Ellie Pell | 6th Oct 16

    Whenever I used to think about my parents, immediately I started a fake conversation in my head where they do something and I get negative about them and list out all the ways they’ve wronged me. For the past two years, I made the choice to say out loud “I have forgiven them and let it go”. At first, the thoughts still came, but I can say now that with practice, this has been successful. It takes a lot of mental energy and effort to get angry. My head no longer hurts and I don’t just get mad anymore for no reason.
    I think it will take a while, but you certainly can control your anxiety.
    In the words of the great film, Frozen “Let it go! Let it gooooooooooooooooo!”
    Ellie Pell recently posted…3 Ways To Restore Racing ConfidenceMy Profile

    • Cora | 9th Oct 16

      Wow. As always, Ellie, you inspire me with the mental strengths you have gained… and seemingly all on your own. You have such a capacity to just know what is and what isn’t healthy for you, and to just say “no.”
      And to your last part….. I LOVE YOU YOU’RE THE BEST!!!

  10. Lyss | 7th Oct 16

    I do believe in the power of mind over matter, yet I know how hard it can be at times to change our thoughts. When we get stuck in a pattern of thinking, changing that pattern can be so difficult! But I know it is most certainly possible. I hate that tightness in your chest feeling. Had the same feeling last weekend and gosh it sucks. Praying for you love! Anxiety is a pain but we can conquer it πŸ™‚
    Lyss recently posted…What an Instagram photo can’t captureMy Profile

    • Cora | 9th Oct 16

      Changing our brain pathways is THE hardest thing to do. Which is why, even though I wrote this, I still know we sometimes need extra help – through therapy and/or medication, and that’s okay. But with the hard work and energy that it takes, being able to get to that place where you can, in your mind, just say “no” and know you have the ultimate power to choose your happiness….. its just the most beautiful thing.
      Thanks, Lyss. I hope no more chest tightness comes your way.

  11. Evangeline | 7th Oct 16

    Cora, I swear your posts always come just when my heart needs them most. Lately, the accumulation of college anxiety, worry about the future, school stress, and personal frustrations have made me really want to “put my foot down”. It can be exhausting to have such a busy mind.

    I usually feel anxiety in the pit of my stomach, and generally it obliterates my appetite, which is a whole other problem. As difficult as it is to be vulnerable, opening up to a trusted friend has been the best way to overcome those feelings. Also, channeling that anxious energy into other things (e.g. gardening, cleaning, reading) helps too πŸ™‚
    Evangeline recently posted…WIAW #11: School Day in the LifeMy Profile

    • Cora | 20th Oct 16

      Oh I hate when comments end up in the spam πŸ™
      Ugh. This time in your life is very stressful, Evangeline. I remember it clearly. All I can say about the school/college/future stress – and its not much because I remember people trying to tell me the same and it doesn’t make a big difference – is, that you have SOOO much life ahead of you. And, sorry to say it, but you will make mistakes. You may choose the wrong classes or programs or school and decide to change direction a hundred times and feel like you don’t know what you want to do. But thats supposed to happen. Its inevitable. That’s how you will end up learning what it is you truly are meant to do. I’m 27 and just finishing my last bout of education, because I took a long path with a lot of detours to get here. But if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be so ridiculously happy with what I am doing now as I am. And school right now? You will look back and realize how the things you may think really matter – the marks etc. – don’t matter quite as much as you may think. Do your best. Live for the moment. Know that one decision is never the be all end all and that you can always change. And enjoy.
      Talking with someone – friends, family etc – is really the best way to get out the anxiety. It will only grow in our crazy minds that are sooo good at blowing things up if we don’t.

  12. Sarah @ BucketListTummy | 7th Oct 16

    Well written, my friend. I totally believe in the power of mind over matter, as I know just how strong the power of the mind ca n be. Back in high school, I really found out the power of negative thoughts. I played basketball and somehow got this thought into my head that I couldn’t make a lay up. I led the league in steals, so would always be going down the court all by myself with no one around me. Really, it was me and an open net and there was no reason I shouldn’t make it. But, I missed it every time, because I psyched myself out about it. I kept thinking about “what if I miss,” rather than brushing it off and just playing the game. Now, when anxiety gets to me, I use your line above: “What’s the worst that could happen?” So what -maybe I’m late to a meeting, I don’t get a post up, it’s a busy week so I buy lunch out every day..In the end, those things are all okay. I try to minimize the scope of the worst fear I have.
    Sarah @ BucketListTummy recently posted…Iron For Runners + Friday Favorites #8My Profile

    • Cora | 9th Oct 16

      Wow. That’s such an insightful thing to look back on, Sarah. I can see that same notion in so much of what I’ve done – and definitely when I look back to when I played high school sports. Its really how crazy how our thoughts can affect our actions. Which is why we need to practice – daily – positive and confident thinking for ourselves! If we believe it….we can live it.

  13. Stephanie Leduc | 7th Oct 16

    This is funny that this post came right at the same time after feeling anxiety for the first “real” time in my life! It was an evening this week where I was studying for my exam coming up and just felt this weight and tightness in my chest. I knew it was anxiety because James deals with it alot. It went away, but dealing with that all week, I can’t imagine how tough that could be. James has learnt to cope with it very well, he tells himself he’s having a physiological response and he should just not dwell on it. His problem is that he used to stress over the feeling and it would make him more anxious. He has since let go of trying to explain or understand it and just let’s it be, and it happens a lot less now!!

  14. Kristy from Southern In Law | 8th Oct 16

    For me, anxiety was DEFINITELY mind over matter – but I know that’s not the case for everyone. Every single one of us copes with things differently and it’s so important to find the right path for you – whatever that may be.
    Kristy from Southern In Law recently posted…Recent Things: Twister, Foodie Wins and Doggie DramasMy Profile

  15. Katie @ Peace Love & Oats | 14th Oct 16

    I’ve had some form of anxiety since I was probably 10, and I’m really working right now on affirmations, meditation, and positive visualization. I’m actually on anxiety meds right now and really hoping to be able to “control” (haha if possible) my mindset enough to go off of them. We’ll see!

    • Cora | 14th Oct 16

      Affirmations and meditation are definitely in my tool box. Positive visualization I’ve never really given a try…. though I suppose maybe this could go with the positive thoughts I’ve been working with. The meds are there to help us be able to – one day – do this on our own. But that will only come when we are ready. Thank you for sharing part of your journey with me.

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