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Lessons From My Life - Part 1

I'm nearing my mid-40s this year. While thinking of mid-life crisis and if I'd even live that long, my mind wandered to recalling how many impactful life lessons I've had so far. Some of them were hard and painful, while some were subtle though I could remember them so vividly in my memories.

Flipping through my journal, page by page, I read my own stories and random thoughts I wrote down here and there. My emotions were stirred, and I pondered upon this big word called LIFE once again.

I wish I could re-write a few of my stories and turn them into fairy tales, but I think it's more important to share with you some of the things that I've learned and grown from.

I'd like to start with this one.

Dealing with Anxiety and Anger

I turned off the lights at 10 to go to bed. The fan was oscillating gently with a soft, breezy sound. I covered myself, nice and warm, with my favourite blanket, hugging my soggy but comforting rabbit plushy. I closed my eyes and started to visualise what I wanted to do and had to do in the morning. My sisters were already snoring right beside me. The clock was ticking and ticking and ticking. When I realised that I needed to sleep, it was already morning. I got out of bed, but it started to rain outside. My plan was ruined, and so did plan b.

This pattern had self-repeated for quite a long time that I finally declared that I had insomnia and anxiety. There were no plans to seek advice and help as I was then, a stubborn and independent teenage girl. Perhaps, to be more precise, egotistical. I was easily irritable over trivial things and rage over, well, nothing. I thought I could deal with everything on my own, and loud music was one of the best solutions ever. In reality, I was feeling completely out of control.

I gradually became so washed out and ill-tempered. Both my academic and sports performances were badly affected until one day, one of my coaches finally intervened and taught me a most valuable lesson that changed me forever. He told me to place my hands on my lower belly, breathe in, let it rise, breathe out, let it fall. I had no idea it was a belly breathing exercise. He called it dantian breathing. I followed his instructions and did it every night before hitting the sack.

It was miraculous, and it still is. It is the first thing I'd do whenever anxiety hits – deep belly breathing. I can't say that it is a quick fix all the time, but it's definitely a life-saving skill to own. I later learned more about the science behind it through my yogic and anatomy studies and vowed to be a life-long advocate for this breathing technique.

Managing Anger and Anxiety can be a life-long process for most of us. Here's my view.

1. When we fail to control, do not judge nor punish ourselves. Instead, be kind. Find a space or a room; as Thich Nhat Hanh explained, "a breathing room is a calm place at home that you can go to when you're feeling uneasy, sad, or angry, and thereby come back to yourself."

2. When it's hard to focus on our breathing, try alternative ways to calm down. I love to paint, doodle, candle gaze, and do a few good rounds of power vinyasa. Those energies just had to be released. :)

3. Seek help. Find a trusted friend or family member. Seek their approval to be your listener but create a boundary and respect his/hers as overpouring can be toxic and harmful to the listener. Most of the time, we just want to be heard and seek validation. Remember, if we can be overwhelmed by strong emotions, so can our listeners. Try singing out loud instead. This works wonders for me.

4. Keep trying. Being anxious and angry is normal. Be aware that they are arising and practice self-control. Understand that this can be a constant work in progress, and we'll only get better at managing it over time.

5. "Man Proposes, God Disposes". This is a quote I live by. Plans we make can fail or turn out very differently than we intended. Sometimes, better. So, plan and let it flow. Breathe and Let Go.

The ocean of suffering is immense, but if you turn around, you can see the land. - Thich Nhat Hanh

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