Updated: Mar 4
I have zero chill. None.
Sometimes it’s embarrassing to admit, but I’m a remarkably high-strung person. Even more, I hate that about myself.
Several years ago, when my husband and I lived in Pensacola, I suffered from crippling panic attacks. Some of that may have been circumstantial, but overall, I think it was just my inability to relax. I didn’t realize how much it was affecting my health until long after the fact, and I’m very glad I did.
The truth is, I hadn’t put my health as a priority for so long that it didn’t even occur to me that something was amiss. It wasn’t until I adopted the regular and consistent practice of meditation that I noticed a change—and even that was an uphill battle.
Here in the western world, I was taught to strive for productivity and avoid idleness. It gave me great work ethic but did nothing for my sense of self-worth. In a way, I considered it part of the greater good. I was serving a greater purpose and working hard to improve my community. On the flip side, however, that also meant I was only a cog in a larger working machine.
I was disposable.
My panic attacks became more regular, and I knew that something had to change. Without going into detail, my religion at the time was of little or no help whatsoever. I was told to stop complaining, to serve others, work harder, and that would solve my problem.
*induce eye-rolling sequence*
While serving others did help with putting things in perspective, it didn’t make me feel any better. I’m an empath, so seeing other people suffering doesn’t help me forget about my problems, it just gave me one more thing to worry about. It’s been a long, and arduous journey of teaching myself not to take on other people's suffering. The feeling is innate, I care too much and too deeply. I worry all the time, about everything—including things I have no control over. The constant worrying and anxiety are not only miserable but will slowly kill me if I let it.
Little by little, I started engaging in meditative practices and they taught me how to relax. I say “taught” because it doesn’t come naturally to me. Even when I’m laying in bed at night, my mind is fretting over the list of things that still need to be accomplished. I literally could not turn it off.
The first time I set foot in a yoga studio I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I felt silly, uncoordinated, and quite frankly like I didn’t belong. But as my muscles eased into the poses and I closed my eyes a sense of calm came over me that I had NEVER felt before. When I got home that night I cried, and I couldn’t explain why.
I went back to that same studio every week since, and it has changed my life.
Now that I had a taste of what I’d been missing, I incorporated other aspects of Zen Buddhism into my daily life– actual meditation, a reduction of screen time, minimalism, walks through the garden, and more.
Most importantly, however, I protected these scheduled activities and made them non-negotiable—they were important to my mental health. I set aside time dedicated to these practices and scheduled work, chores, and homeschooling around them. I end up saying “no” a lot more regularly, and it received a fair amount of pushback. Even so, I was starting to see how these practices were benefitting my life, and I wasn’t willing to give that up.
I make sure there is time every day for me to meditate and reflect. The more often I do it, the more it has become like second nature.
I know that I’ll always worry because it’s in my nature to be anxious, but now I have the tools to help me deal with them effectively. Adopting elements of zen lifestyle have helped me tremendously because, of all the things I could have tried, zen is what I need. Forcing myself to break the cycle of work and noise keeps me grounded.
I know the panic attacks will never go away completely, but it’s a thousand times more manageable than before. I’m so grateful that I found a lifestyle and system of beliefs to benefit me this way.