Anxiety. It’s a word you’ve heard me say often enough here on HealthyGirl.org. I don’t have an anxiety disorder, but when things in my life change, or good—or just new!—stuff happens, I can feel quite queasy and unsettled. Those feelings of anxiousness have been a big binge trigger throughout my life. Like many of you, I used mounds of food to numb them and “deal” the best way I knew how.
Of course, now that I’m not using food, I have to just feel them and work through them. And I’ve found healthier ways of dealing like talking about it, exercising, and meditating. But I’ve stumbled upon another new tool, and it’s been kind of amazing. Here’s how it happened:
A few things have been heating up in regard to my book lately (discussions about publicity and speaking engagements, and what magazines an excerpt should run in—all good stuff), and about a week ago I found myself feeling incredibly anxious, and almost blue. I thought to myself as I was sitting on the subway on the way to work one morning, “This is an amazing time in my life, why am I not enjoying it more? Why I am feeling all of these unpleasant feelings instead of excitement and joy?”
And the answer came to me: My perfectionistic side had kicked in big time, and I had been thinking about all of this in terms of results. I had been focusing on what the outcome of the work I’m doing right now will be once the book comes out in April rather than what it’s like to live and work on it today. That made “today” feel sort of meaningless and gray, like drudgery rather than exciting or engaging. And, because the future is unknown, living in it like that is scary to me rather than wonderful.
As these connections were being made, a phrase popped into my head totally unbidden: “Beginner’s mind.” It was like the proverbial lightbulb went on over my head, and I immediately felt less stressed out.
Beginner’s mind is a mindfulness concept that I first read about in a post by Tiffany Stewart, Ph.D. on her Body Image Project blog. When practicing it, you basically attempt come at things as if you’re a true beginner: curious and maybe even a bit wide-eyed, with a fresh and new point of view, almost as if you were a child. No pre-conceived notions about what it’s going to be like, what it means, or how to do it.
I realized that beginner’s mind is the only way for me to approach this part of my life because, well, it’s the first time I’m ever doing anything like this. It’s the first time I’ve written a book! It’s the first time I’m going to be expected to publicize something of my own! It’s the first time for a lot of things that I’ve been doing this year! So why wouldn’t I have a beginner’s mind about the whole thing? Everything?
Giving myself permission to be new at something, to be wide-eyed and excited, to approach it with curiosity rather than pre-conceived ideas has soothed my anxiety and made my daily to-dos more…fun! This is the only time I’m going to publish my first book. I’m giving myself permission to act like it and feel like it.
Maybe this is the first time you’re going to go to a party since you’ve started trying to recover from binge eating; or maybe this is the first time you’re trying to be in a relationship where you ask for what you really want; or maybe this is simply the first time you are 19, or 22, or 35 years old. No matter what it is you’re facing that might be making you anxious, or making you seek numbness in food, maybe you can take the beginner’s approach, give yourself a break and take a look around—without judgment—at what’s going on and just take a moment to wonder at it. Maybe it’ll help. I know it did me.
What do you think about this beginner’s mind idea? And what do you use to help you get through anxious times without turning to food? xo…Sunny