Have you ever noticed that when something is on your mind, you often find yourself coming across references to that very issue in the media? It happened to me twice this week as I was beginning to consider plans for getting back to work. As much as I am looking forward to it, the prospect of coming out of my safe little bubble was throwing me off kilter again, although it took a while for me to realize that I was struggling with that. With many decisions to make and a tumble of thoughts swirling in my mind about everything I need and want to do to make sessions as safe as possible for everyone, I began to feel a little out of sorts. Unsettled, a little nauseous and even slightly breathless at times, I began to worry that I was getting sick, and with increasing alarm came decreasing productivity.
Unable to get much done, I stopped, went for some long walks and did what I tend to do when I am stressed – listen to the radio, and this time it was as if the radio was really talking to me. Two days in a row, I heard podcast episodes of NPR’s Fresh Air (how ironic!), the first an interview with Dan Harris of ABC about the benefits of meditation, and the second a conversation with journalist James Nestor about breathing. So that’s what was wrong – I was suffering from anxiety, and my physical concerns were symptomatic of that. This was nothing I couldn’t have been able to work out for myself, but the problem with anxiety is that once it begins to grip you, the physiological changes it provokes can make it hard to see the wood for the trees.
Why it was happening was something I read and heard about too. ‘Coming out of lockdown/ re-entry anxiety’ is being reported on all over the world, and it makes a lot of sense. Moving out of our safe havens and back into a world of risk is a big, slightly scary step, but just acknowledging it was happening was helpful. Even more helpful were the reminders in the two radio interviews that we have it within us to truly calm ourselves when it feels as though we are losing control. Both conversations were informative and a timely reminder of what we all need to do in times of uncertainty – take the time to practice breathing, mindfully and with intention. I needed to listen to be reminded how.