I’m not a counselor, so this is far from professional advice: but there is something so encouraging about music that I find healing. Something about it can lift my spirits in a special way. Especially music from my past that reminds me of “the good old days.”
I wrote in a previous blog entry how encountering something like a song from our past can really remind us of the part of us that was made/created during those good times. The part of us that learned to smile a little broader, laugh a little harder, and notice beauty in life that we hadn’t seen before.
Listening to enjoyable music from years ago can be so deeply personal. It’s as if the music comes along beside me like a friend, shows me a timeline of my life, points out the good times and says, “Remember this? And this? This is your history. This is YOU.”
While adulting, I’ve found that turning up the volume on certain songs is just plain necessary. It energizes me. It moves me back in time while I stay firmly planted in the NOW, which is where I want to be, and where I should be. But, I’m feeling much more encouraged and ready to face the world.
I hope you will take a minute today to listen to a special song that you haven’t heard in a while. A song that reminds you of a fantastic time in your life.
Ironically, as I’ve aged, I’ve had to learn to breathe again. I’m not talking life giving breaths – or I wouldn’t be typing this. I’m talking about the deep breathing that helps calm the body and subdue anxiety.
I became incredibly interested in breathing when I started having panic attacks – again. And I was so tired of them and living in fear of them. They are debilitating. They make me miserable.
I scoured YouTube and listened to people talk about ways they overcame their anxiety attacks, and a common theme was breathing techniques. I narrowed my search, pairing words like “anxiety” and “breathing”. And I stumbled on a TED TALK that really was a game changer for me: “Breathe to Heal." The speaker was Max Strom.
Max Strom...to begin with, his voice is so soothing. He could have told me my toes were falling off, and I would have smiled and known everything was going to be okay. But about 14 minutes into the video (actually a little before), he shares a breathing technique that helped me endure and overcome anxiety attacks. I won’t go into the details of his technique, because you can watch the video and hear him explain it in a beautiful way that I could never type out. What really caught my attention was his assurance that the technique forced your body to calm down. There was no positive thinking involved, no special yoga pose, no fancy tools. Just me and my body doing something very natural. I grabbed hold of this like a life raft. And I clung.
And it worked.
It was not an instant solution. During my next anxiety attack, I was still very uncomfortable for a while. But I continued the deep breathing and counting my inhales and exhales, and slowly, amazingly, my body was forced to calm down (just as Max had said), and the panic attack subsided. For me, this experience was life changing.
I’ve continued doing deep breathing, and it’s absolutely not a cure all, but it’s a tool in my toolbox that I can pull out when needed. And it’s an effective tool. I can’t guarantee his breathing method will work for you, but I want to share my experience, because it might work for you, and because I want to give you hope, just like Max Strom did for me. I still sort of shake my head in disbelief that the answer was with me all along. I could be corny and cliché and even say, “right under my nose”, and it would be true.
I’m thankful that I don’t wonder so much what people think of me. And I don’t say this in a way that’s harsh or bitter. I just really don’t care as much as I used to, and that’s huge, especially if you have people pleasing tendencies like myself.
I spent years always wanting to make the best impression and wanting everyone I encountered (including the lady at the grocery check-out) to like me. I’d worry I said or did the wrong thing. I knew in my heart that people were what life was all about – not possessions – but I wrongfully wanted “them” (whoever they are) to like me, and I got much of my self-esteem from interactions.
AND to be honest, I really believed that if I stopped caring about what other people thought of me, I wouldn’t look after myself. I’d let myself go, so to speak, and end up neglecting self-care and not doing some of the things I enjoy – like wearing a pretty headband or making sure I wiped the cat hair off my pants (I can’t help it – I enjoy being tidy.)
Slowly, through the years, the truth began to unfold, as I realized that not only do most people I encounter NOT even remember who I am, they just really don’t care that much. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. They have their own little worlds, and I am a stranger to them, just interacting for a few minutes. My role in their life is more minor, and their role in my life is minor.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t treat everyone with kindness and respect; that’s not to say we shouldn’t hope that even just a few minutes with someone might better their life. That’s not to say that a chance encounter with someone might lead to something more.
But it’s about establishing boundaries for ourselves. It’s about walking in the truth that the world just really doesn’t revolve around us, which is a very good thing! And the best thing of it, (though unfortunately, it took a while for me to learn it): we have the power to decide whose opinion is going to mean something to us.
I’ve written in a previous blog post about older members of my family passing away, and how it feels incredibly discouraging at times. Let me just be blunt: How can we better cope when our loved ones die (and not just from old age)?
Everyone grieves differently, but I’d like to share something that helps me with the grieving process.
I’m a very tactile person. I like to have something I can hold in my hand to help me remember and be encouraged. I think it started when my sister got me “bad day” earrings. They were a pair of earrings she gifted me to wear when I was having a bad day. I would put them on and know that I was loved by her. And while earrings didn’t change my situation, they changed my mindset. And that made a huge difference.
So, when a loved one passes, I like to designate a special item to remember them by and to help me make it through the tough time. It might be a mug; it might be a key chain. The item itself isn’t what’s important. What’s important is that it’s something that visually grabs me and brings that person to my mind.
When two of my grandparents passed away, I purchased a necklace to wear that reminded me of them. It’s not an ornate necklace - just a simple one I can put on and I know it’s a symbol for them. I see it reflected in the mirror or in a photograph, and even just the feel of it around my neck reminds me of their love and care for me.
Am I saying these actions took away my pain? Of course not. This is just one way I help myself cope, and I find it incredibly comforting. Because while the person I’m grieving isn’t physically alive on earth anymore, I can combat the loneliness with something that’s tangible, that will help me keep memories alive, and that will make me smile and remember their impact. Because that’s what I really want, and it’s something I know they would really want for me, too.
What helps you grieve?
I love your comments! Let me know your thoughts below!
As you probably know, there is a movement that encourages people to be more mindful in life.
I would see the books and articles and podcasts and breezily think, “how nice” as I continued with my fast pace. I didn’t want to slow down. I liked moving and getting things done and accomplishing things. It felt so satisfying.
Until I realized I was feeding my anxiety because I was doing too much at the same time. I was having a hard time relaxing and calming the rush of thoughts swarming in my mind. So, I took a closer look at what it means to be mindful. Please know I’m not an expert on the topic – far from it. But what I have learned is the importance of single tasking and focusing wholly on the task.
It has been incredibly hard. At first, I hated it. And I still struggle.
I’d wash grapes. I’d focus on how plump they feel in my fingers, and the fresh smell they produced, and the chilly water on my hands, and the soft thumping sound the fruit made as they moved around the bowl.
And then I’d want to go insane.
Seriously. Why just wash grapes when I can wash grapes while listening to a podcast AND the timer for the muffins baking in the oven? Oh, and text a conversation on my phone with my friend Caity.
But I didn’t give up. And while I still do this mindful thing (in my opinion) imperfectly, the point is I’m doing it. And I’m starting to reap the benefits. The pace of my thoughts have become a more manageable beat. And I’m starting to believe that time isn’t always rushing.
I’m not by any means slowing down time, but I’m slowing down my perception of it. And it’s done so much for calming my mind, taking a deep breath, and keeping any anxiety I feel at a more manageable level.
Are you successful at being mindful?
Do you have any tips you can share?
I’ve tried to find reasons to be thankful for anxiety in my life, and it’s hard to do. But I must admit I’ve seen such care and compassion from others as a result of it. I’m exposed to a softer side of humanity that isn’t always present in typical interactions.
A good friend came over to be with me on a day that was incredibly tough for me. I was switching medications, going through horrible withdrawal, and my husband was out of town. I was not coping very well, as the physical and mental side effects were incredibly overwhelming. It was as if anxiety was giving me a giant unwanted embrace – tentacles wrapped around me tightly, engulfing me.
There I laid on the couch, tears in my eyes, watching Property Brothers on the HGTV channel. But those smiling brothers and their decorating expertise didn’t catch my attention as they normally do. The show seemed so surreal.
Meanwhile, my friend sat beside my head on the end of the couch and held my hand. That’s all she did. And that’s all I needed.
When my mind was spinning with pessimism and a flood of weird and sad thoughts and impressions, her hand grounded me. It was literally the touch of reality I needed to remind me that the turmoil inside me would stop, and the peace I sensed from her would one day be mine.
It would just take some time, but I would make it.
It seems that seeking help for anxiety leads me to a lot of talk on "mantras" and how powerful it is to speak and repeat words to yourself. I don't know how much they help you, but I was reading this mantra by John Maxwell, and I love the strong determination to not long for the past, but to enjoy the current stage in life:
Today, I will live today.
I will face today’s challenges with today’s strength.
I will dance today’s waltz with today’s music.
I will celebrate today’s opportunities with today’s hope.
I can tell myself, “I miss the good old days.” (Maybe we fall into this thought pattern because we aren’t open to what today is offering us?)
Like Maxwell, I can remind myself that TODAY also has strength, music, opportunities, and most importantly, hope.
Oh, and we can’t forget there’s dancing!
Creator of Love, Auntie.