What led you to implement mindfulness in your daily life?
Having lived with anxiety and panic disorder for the majority of my life – I got to a point a few years ago where I could no longer face another day anticipating a panic attack or feeling anxious. I was tired of making decisions based off of fear. I would find that unless I was “numbing” myself I was left to face the feeling of being suffocated, or like I was crawling out of my skin. I decided I couldn’t live like that anymore, especially because there were periods of time throughout my life where my anxiety and panic disorder were very much under control. I knew how much more enjoyable my life was when I wasn’t living in constant fear of my own mind.
I decided I needed to find a way – drug-free- that would help me learn to live with anxiety and maybe even relieve some of it. The practice of “mindfulness” or being present, grounded, or however you define it, seemed to me so taboo, but I finally gave in and opened up to the idea.
How has it helped you?
Practicing mindfulness is a constant reminder to stay in the present moment which allows me to surrender to the universe. Focusing on what is happening right now and giving up trying to control what could happen in the future, provides relief. Staying present and grounded is a daily practice and something that I was seeing results from almost immediately.
I have always been very self-aware, but not willing to dive deep enough to deal with the root cause of my anxiety. The practice of meditation as well as exploring behavioral psychology has allowed me to have a greater understanding of my anxiety and where my fear stems from.
I practice mindfulness every day in various ways. Meditation is where I began and the one tool that has remained consistent. Often times my anxiety first shows form in my breathing. Focusing on my breath and keeping it under control immediately helps to slow down the anxietal snowball effect. Then I take some time, even if its a few minutes, to set an intention and meditate, redirecting my focus on the present.
How did your mindfulness practice change during pregnancy?
I decided to incorporate a prenatal yoga practice in addition to meditation. I had never loved yoga, and preferred strength training and other activities, but am really happy I gave it a try. Where meditation allows you to learn how to control your breath, Yoga has allowed me to feel in control of my body through a time when I really have little control. It has also helped me feel more connected to my pregnant self, and stronger.
Has it helped you at all throughout your pregnancy?
Pregnancy is quite the journey. I have learned that you can have 100 people tell you “what to expect” but everyone’s experience is very different. When I found out I was pregnant my first thought was how I would handle my anxiety, but I have felt the calmest over the last 9 months than I have in a very long time. I have my moments, but they are far and few between. I think that is because of my mindset at the start of my pregnancy. Having practiced mindfulness I started my pregnancy having faith in the experience and knowing I was mentally and physically strong enough to handle whatever this journey was to look like for me.
What have you gained spiritually throughout your pregnancy?
Faith. It wasn’t until becoming pregnant that I realized everything I have experienced good and bad was preparing me for motherhood. It may sound cliche but you really need to surrender to your life and have faith that the outcome of whatever situation you find yourself in serves a greater purpose.
Walk us through your daily rituals
I try to set the tone of every day by setting a positive intention – lately it has been “today is a good day”. I find that if I begin the day with negative self-talk, I spiral and it is hard to pull myself out of a dark place. I try to meditate, usually only a handful of minutes, just enough to help direct my breath. I find it makes a HUGE difference in how I handle my encounters for the rest of the day. Coffee also ALWAYS helps.
During the day if I feel a sense of overwhelm or anxiety arising, I state one of the mantras I have picked up along the way like, “I see love”, sometimes, it’s even a quick reminder to myself “not today girlfriend”. I tend to hold my belly when I am experiencing moments of unease because I usually can feel movement from the baby. Feeling my baby is the most grounding and always brings me to the present while shifting my focus on what matters most. A healthy baby! Pre-pregnancy if I started to feel uneasy, I would repeatedly and slowly squeeze a finger or two. This also helps shift your focus through the use of multiple senses.
By the time I get home from work after a hectic hour commute, I take a few minutes to just do nothing and reflect on all of the amazing things to come. Depending on my energy level I will try to get a small workout in. I always end my day with a prayer of gratitude as well as identify any personal areas I need to work on. The prayer typically looks like “thank you for blessing us with this healthy baby, being surrounded by love and support, the ability to create a fulfilling life and the strength to work on my patience.”
What has been the most effective tool for you? (meditation, journaling, meditations, etc.) Why?
Meditation has been the most effective tool for me because it counteracts anxiety. It brings clarity when anxiety likes to stir up every fearful thought I have.
What advice do you have for expecting mothers or mothers who are looking to overcome anxiety through mindfulness?
You are stronger than you accept. You are in control of how you feel at any given moment. The moment you think you can’t take anymore is the moment right before you overcome your greatest fears.