My Body Shut Me Down
Do you have recurring headaches, backaches or stomachaches? Do you think it could be your body trying to tell you something?
I consider myself to be a spiritual person. I practice mindfulness such as yoga, meditation, prayer, staying present, deep breathing and mantras daily. However, this does not make me immune to fear or other dark feelings. Recently, my husband was gone for 3 days. Whenever he is out of town, I feel a low-level stress. He is my home and I love having him near. But he is also my partner and I need someone to help give me some time off from the full-time job of mom and household manager. At the same time, we had an upcoming family get-together, which always causes me stress due to some tense relationships. And then this virus panic escalated. It is true that I am an empath but I consider myself empowered so I was consciously trying to do things to keep myself from taking on the worry of the world.
I couldn't help being on social media, I knew I shouldn't be but I felt a need more than normal to connect with others. Then there was the fact that school closed. I didn't want to tell my daughter without my husband being there so I had to keep it in. I felt for her. School means so much to her. Then of course, I felt sorrow for everyone--sad for those not able to work, sad for those who still had to work, sad for the kids staying home, sad for the people who feel the need to panic buy, sad for those who cannot find what they need, etc. I know, from my spiritual practices, sending people my worry doesn't help them. But this quote from Che Guevara kept coming to my mind, "Above all, try always to be able to feel deeply any injustice committed against any person in any part of the world.” I kept focusing on my present moment. I would say, "In this present moment, I have all that I need. I am safe. My family is all healthy and safe." But it's like the fear was in the air. And later, once I processed things, I realized that my brain had no frame of reference for what we are all going through. There is nothing like this virus panic that I could connect to and look towards for the comfort of familiarity.
My body started with a knot in my lower back. I noticed it but I didn't give it attention. I didn't let myself feel it. Then, I started to catch myself not breathing. I have over the years, gotten into the habit of breathing deeply. I felt myself just holding my breath. Then I woke up with a stiff neck. I did my yoga and tried to work through it. Then I woke up with a migraine and I wasn't able to turn my head. I went to the chiropractor and got a massage. I was grateful but my body was still stiff. It felt like my spine had been replaced with cement. Then I lost my appetite. I felt constant butterflies in my stomach and I just wasn't hungry. And then one evening, my heart started racing and my throat felt like it was closing and I knew I was on the verge of a panic attack. I started taking deep breaths. I laid on the floor, in a child's pose and finally said aloud what my body was trying to communicate,
"I am overwhelmed."
Our bodies store trauma and experience emotion. It is my belief that a panic attack occurs when we ignore our anxiety, stress, worry, and fight or flight response to the point that our body can no longer take what is stored and so it processes the feelings for us. We have an energetic body as well as a physical body. Our energy--our feelings--directly affect our physical body. Think about a migraine or a headache, they usually occur when we are overwhelmed and not consciously working on a way to dig ourselves out of the overwhelm. In Native American stories, whenever a character has a stomach problems, it is usually symbolic of that character living in fear. Think about how much fear you process in your belly. You get nervous and excited butterflies. Our back is associated with our flexible nature and our chakras. If you are too rigid and not expressing your emotions, your back can feel it. In fact, our lower back is directly connected to the first chakra, the root. The root chakra when unhealthy results in anxiety. A rapid heart-rate, chest pains or feeling the need to hunch yourself over out of sadness are all issues with love and trust. Our heart chakra when healthy is open and ready to give and receive love. If you feel a tightness in your throat or like your choking back tears, you are probably bottling in your truths that need to be expressed.
So what can you do to relieve the body of its trauma and emotions?
One thing that you can do is simply sit with your body each day without distraction. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and be in your own body. See what you are feeling, notice where there is tension or pain and work with your body on releasing and dealing with it. In fact, this is exactly why I became overwhelmed. I wasn't giving myself any time alone to just be in my body and figure things out. I was busy with my kids then at night on social media and then reading a book. There was no gap in there for me to explore my feelings. Journaling can really help you discover what it is you are feeling and why. Just letting yourself freely explore your emotions on paper can be a great way for you to see what is going on. Learning about and exploring the chakras or the energy system is a great way to understand the mind and body connection. Tapping and yoga are both ways to help the physical body move the energy through and out of the body. Seeing a therapist (if possible) or talking to a loved one may also be a way for you to get to the root of why and what you are feeling.
Lastly, I want to express the importance of not thinking there is something wrong with your or you cannot be a mindful person and feel sad, angry or fearful. It is not enough for us to say to someone who is experiencing difficult emotions to just "choose love." Or to tell them to just focus on the present moment. You are free to feel the way you do. And sometimes these feelings seemingly appear out of nowhere. The best practice is one of patience.
Give yourself all the love and patience you would give to a loved one who is feeling the way you do.
When you are feeling a difficult emotion, first take notice. Simply observe the feeling and remind yourself that you are not your emotions. After that, try to discover a root cause of the emotion. Next, work it out of the body through exercise or meditation. Finally, accept this is how you feel at this moment and work towards feeling better in your own time. I leave you with a meditation I have created as a way of helping you sit with and explore uncomfortable emotions: