I was talking with friends the other day about how certain activities change your body chemistry, how you can jump in water, or simply walk along the ocean and breathe in that air and your body alters with every step. You feel different. Your head clears, your skin glows. You are quite literally a different person than when you started. Putting on the right tunes, getting in your car and screaming (as one of my friends likes to do) or going on a walk can all turn you into a different you.
On the one hand, this is all very basic and intuitive. On the other, we tend to swirl ourselves into a messy head so easily and forget that we have our bodies as our allies and collaborators in climbing out of our heady tangles.
For years I had anxiety attacks that ranged from inconvenient to totally debilitating. I wouldn’t be able to catch a full breath, and of course the harder I tried to breathe, the worse it got. I went to the doctor thinking I had asthma or some other respiratory problem. (He sent me home with no advice.) It took me years (and a xanax one day) to realize that it was anxiety.
When I moved to San Francisco I decided to try yoga and a mere two weeks into my practice the attacks went away for years. I was able to keep the anxiety at bay for a long time this way (until I became a mom, ha!) and I didn’t see it so much as exercise, but a rearranging of my cells. Like water and food and love, my body seems to need a regular dose of this too.
My friend Sasha said this beautifully, “Often we tie ourselves in knots in our minds. Though frustration comes from the head, often the best way out of it is through the body.”
I have a tendency to try and figure everything out, to try to control my life by processing it all and intellectualizing it. And sometimes that’s appropriate… but I am starting to wonder if a hot shower or a walk around the block or a hit of ocean air could help even more.
Maybe you need to playfully tackle your dog or sing loudly in your car with the windows rolled up or lay flat on your back on the floor and shout, “I surrender!”
Maybe you just need to dance it off.
Or run until your shorts are all sweaty.
Or sing into your hairbrush for a spell.
There is a quote from St. Augustine that I love: “Solvitur ambulando” which is latin for “It is solved by walking.”
I love this, Andrea. As an introvert, I’m always in my head, too. I don’t suffer from anxiety, at least not at a troublesome level, but I’ve never thought about using my body to process or tame what’s on my mind. Thanks!
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