Hyperventilating - not a pretty thing!

As a licensed professional counselor intern, I attend two sessions of therapy a month - one in a group and another individual, plus I am strongly urged to have personal therapy. It makes sense - listening to other folks talk about their problems increases our empathy factor to the point that we sometimes are triggered to our past traumas or stressors. How we handle those is called self care.

After a few weeks of changes, my spiritual, mental, and physical health began to deteriorate. I began that old cycle of hyperventilating, and, if you have never experienced it, you won't understand. It is a feeling that begins with having or feeling as if you have to yawn. But  you can't. Pressure builds up in your chest and you try to yawn. You need to get that feeling to stop. I imagine it's like someone who cannot stop hiccuping. It begins to wear you down. Negative thoughts and events start to crowd out the previously balanced you. If the cycle does not stop, who knows what might happen?

Changes are always stressful. Even small ones. Especially large ones. Like worrying about my spouse who was being tested for cancer. For me, thinking I had symptoms of endometrial cancer. All were false fears, yet real at the same time. Changes in my office location. Changes in work environment (teacher going back to school). Changes in administration at the school. Changes in my work day. Changes in availability of children and grandchildren to visit. Changes in church attendance. You get the idea. Then, wham, one criticism from someone blows up your entire psyche. You are suddenly spiraling.

Image result for hyperventilationIs there a way to get off this roller coaster short of taking anxiety pills and sleeping? A vacation? This week I began to manage my spiral by doing a lot of self talk. Let me tell you, a lot. Mostly it didn't work as well as I had hoped, but it opened the door to a possible improvement. Getting a massage was definitely helpful- moving all that stress from my muscles and ligaments. Resting and reading a relaxing book after my two clients today. Deep breathing and listening to restful music rounded out the evening, so here I am awake at 1:10 am after sleeping for two hours doing something that also helps me destress - writing. More deep breathing and I am almost ready to return to bed.

So how can I possibly be a good therapist if I have sometimes difficulty managing my own stress level? That's exactly why! I know what it feels like. My clients are not alone. They know I have my ups and downs. Thankfully, not when I am with them. I am there to listen and focus on them alone. But they also know they are not alone.

One piece of advice I have never been able to use is breathing into a bag. Maybe it feels silly. Maybe I didn't do it correctly. For whatever reason, it doesn't work for me. But it might for you. Try it! Remember, we are all susceptible to mental unwellness. Even if that is not a word, I like the way it shows that we are usually well, but sometimes we are unwell, and if, for a moment, some of this rhetoric has resonated with you and rescues you from any type of anxiety attack, then it is worth if for me to do some sharing. Here's hoping you find your personal ways to self-care so that your anxieties will be far and few between the harmony most of us hope for in traversing this universe as living humans.

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