Hi! I’m Kat and I have panic attacks. (monotone: hi, Kat).
Sometimes they make sense, like I’m in an actual dangerous situation that is legitimately scaring me (those are what I like to call 2-bottle-of-wine conversations). Other times, they make no sense – a co-worker I’ve never met was weird with me on email. Sometimes focusing on my breath helps, sometimes it just makes me feel more like I’m about to die. They used to happen more frequently, but now they’re more like a nasty flu bug – about once a year and never at a convenient time.
LOADS of people have panic attacks, but this doesn’t minimize it in any way because it’s completely terrifying. It truly feels like you cannot breathe. It is equal parts horrible and also super common. Five percent of the adult population experience panic attacks – and honestly it’s probably more, but people don’t like to talk about mental health, because STIGMA!
Talk therapy, anti-anxiety medication, trauma-release yoga, running – done them all and they are all great and wonderful and helpful! But I wanted to share something that has been helpful to me lately because 1. it’s free (no equipment required) 2. it’s for EVERYONE.
Meditation – or if your goal is to connect with God – centering prayer, 20 minutes every single day. Here’s the way I do it (by no means that only way).
1. Put small human to bed.
2. Sit down, rest your body, palms facing up.
3. Close eyes and breathe for 20 minutes without judging the weird thoughts.
Sounds easy right? Well, it’s not – hardest effing thing I’ve ever done in my life. Harder than growing out bangs? No, don’t be ridiculous! Nothing is harder than that. Bangs are eternal.
So what happens as soon as you stop and sit? Your mind becomes a pill-popping rave kid from 1997 – glowsticks, ironic pacifier, JNCO jeans and a lot of bouncing around to different topics.
Actual things I have thought about during centering prayer:
What if my fingers turned into limp hot dogs and just flopped around? Was I nice enough to Alexa today? Because when AI takes over the world, I would like to be in one of the nicer human enslavement camps. What’s up with that weird blue temple on Jefferey Epstein’s private island? Why is NO ONE talking about it? It would be a great idea to start a biscuit making business – possible names Bish-Cut (dumb), Mouth of the South (cute but probably taken), Rough Fluff (hard to say). One of my thumbs is SIGNIFICANTLY larger than the other. Who was the first person to put rhubarb in fruit pies? – because he was a true innovator. How long have I been sitting here – my timer doesn’t work, I’ve been here for an hour (*checks phone real quick). NOOOOOO, it’s been 4 minutes… Is my tongue too big for my mouth?
It is useless to fight against your rave-kid mind – this only speeds her up. Don’t judge her or her fashion choices – just allow her to rave – or imagine each thought is a balloon and just watch it float away. You could also choose a word like allow, grace, peace, or love. Bring your thoughts back to your word. Your mind might calm down, or not – either way it’s important not to judge, but just allow.
Some things I have noticed after practicing centering prayer daily for a while:
- it’s harder to lie to myself… I tell myself a lot of stories, and I am really good at believing them. Stopping this cycle requires me to slow down and ask myself – what is this story I’m telling myself? Is it true? What is the evidence? What would I lose if I let go of the story? Dang, y’all! I don’t get the joy of being a victim anymore, and I have to recognize that there’s a lot going on that has NOT ONE THING to do with me.
- I notice patterns… When I start to hyper-focus on relationships (or lack of them) – there’s something that I am desperately trying to ignore in myself. I can only see it when I’m still.
- Those chimes seem to ring sooner every time. 20 minutes doesn’t feel quite so agonizing. No one is “bad” at meditating, no one is “good” at meditating. It is truly a practice and one that I don’t dread as much.
- I’m more efficient – this might seem counter-intuitive, but the less I try to manage, manipulate and orchestrate – the more happens. Imagine water flowing over rocks, things are moving, stuff is happening but the water is not trying, it’s just flowing… Maybe that’s too woo-woo for you? Here’s another way to say it: I’m getting out of my own way.
Cheers to more peace and presence in 2020!