A few weeks ago I had a nasty ear infection that turned into a sore throat and cough. It wasn’t anything serious but I missed 2 days of work and had to take antibiotics. The cough’s been lingering and I still don’t feel back to my usual health.
Last week was hard because my energy was low and I felt exhausted. It’s been all I can do recently to get through the work day.
I know from experience when I don’t feel well physically I am not at my best mentally…
So today was my first day in weeks back at the gym for a full Spinning class. I woke up bright and early so I couldn’t talk myself out of it. I felt good and my expectations for the class were reasonable- to not overdo it physically, just to have a nice hour of riding the bike. I felt mentally ok, but I knew since I hadn’t been at the class (an anxiety trigger) in awhile, it was likely that some anxiety could rear its ugly head.
I also knew full well that if I could keep my focus and attention on the present moment, and not let my mind wander I would be fine.
Beginnings are hard for me: the first part of the work day, the first part of a class, the first part of anything that can make me anxious are typically the hardest part for me. And I kept this in the forefront of my mind…
So I got to my car and headed for the gym and while I tried to keep my focus on the present, my irrational mind still crept in through the back door:
Anxiety Monster: What if you can’t get the bike next to the door? What if you have to leave?
Jill: Oh great, good morning to you too. I’m not doing this. I am focusing on feeling my inner body. I am going to have a good class, and just do the best I can.
Voice of Reason: Find your peace. Just breathe. Look around
I notice how nice and mild the weather is, the sounds of the car, how grateful I am to be finally feeling well enough to go back to the gym.
I get to the gym, park my car, walk in and scan my gym fob at the desk, take a Spin class pass, and go to the room. I put my water and towel on my bike and then head out to the weight room to warm up my shoulders on one of the machines before the class starts.
Anxiety Monster: What if you have to leave class??
Jill: Oh my God shut up already!
I feel a pang of nerves (adrenalin) and look at the door of the Spinning room feeling scared.
Voice of Reason: It’s okay, you let yourself get a little freaked out. Feel the fear and do it anyway. It will pass. Stay present.
I stop doing the shoulder machine because now I feel anxious and pissed off and I have to get to the room. I am not really listening to the good Voice of Reason, I am scared. I walk to the room and try to notice the people around me.
Jill: This is fine. There really aren’t many people here right now.. (good!)
Anxiety Monster: The reason the main gym is empty is because everyone is at the Spin class! Look how filled the room is!!!! It is crowded in there!!!
I get on my bike and start peddling, waiting for the instructor to turn off the lights and start the class.
Anxiety Monster: Wow it sure is taking forever to start. Forevvvvvvverrrrrrrr. These lights are BRIGHT. And lookie there- your neighbor is here, the one you used to have issues with!! What if you have to leave the class? What if you can’t stay???
Jill: Oh my god, shut the fuck up.
Says hello to the neighbor. Tries to keep focus on activity of adjusting the bike seat and handlebars.
I feel nervous but I know I can do this. If I can just stay put, the feelings will pass…
Finally class starts. The instructor tells us what we will do for the next hour, and now we are doing some warm up exercises.
But I am not even there. I am not present. I am freaked out from listening in to and arguing with the stupid Anxiety Monster. I am feeling scared. I want to leave.
Anxiety Monster: class just started and you have to leave already? You’re so pathetic!! Go on leave!! You probably can’t even make it out the door ha ha ha ha ha!!
Voice of Reason: Jill, this is the worst it can get. All it can do is make you afraid. Fear is an illusion. You know this honey. Can you just sit here and pedal your bike and just Do it Afraid for one minute?
Jill: Yes but I don’t like it.
Voice of Reason: Just do it for one minute. Believe me, the Anxiety Monster is an insubstantial phantom. Just notice that you feel afraid. Let one minute pass. Just one little minute…Do it Afraid…
I don’t like it but I stay. I stay and pedal and start to talk to myself..
This is not ok. I am 50 years old. I am staying in this class. These people are not the enemy. My neighbor is not my enemy. No one is scrutinizing me.. (I look around to prove it).
So I feel afraid, so what? I know if I stay here and let time pass, the feelings will go away. This is not a big deal. I am a big deal. My health is a big deal. I am not leaving this class because of a pang of anxiety. This is not what I do…
Anxiety Monster: But what if you have to leave? What if you lose control and fall off the bike?
Jill: Wow, you’re actually kind of funny. The stupid shit you come up with…Now that I feel better, I am empowered. I am so feeling just fine and normal. You are so not in control here… Thank you Lord!
And the class was now 5 minutes over. Those first 5 minutes weren’t easy. But it wasn’t impossible either, once I decided to stay put and let the anxiety wash through me and Do it Afraid. By not giving in to the fear, I continued on well for the rest of the class. It was a good workout and I left feeling very happy and grateful…
And you, have you ever tried Doing It Afraid when you are in a situation that triggers anxiety? Anxiety conjures up our greatest fears of shame and humiliation, so staying put is not easy! But doing it Afraid- even for a minute or so, and letting the time pass can really help. This is something I highly encourage you to try. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
I wish you peace,