Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Think Yourself Thin (Or At Least Relaxed)

Some 15 years olds panic in the moments before the curtain rises.

Standing in the cafetoriums dark wings, some students quietly run their lines waiting for the one word or character decision that will ignite the 3 or 4 minutes of stage time for which they have been rehearsing for months.

Other 15 year olds stand in those same wings and recite the lyrics to The Beatles' Rocky Raccoon. As one of those Rocky loving teen actors, I have to admit that I don't know how RR became anxiety go-to. I just remember that the lyrics took enough of my focus that the nervous part of my chest started to relax AND that I could remember every word to the song. This dependence only grew in College, but also took on a different purpose.

My freshman year it was very popular to go to parties and dances 20 minutes or 30 minutes away at a rented banquet hall. The all-you-can-drink model was a large contributor to why we attended these banquet hall parties, but the bigest draw was really that you also got to drink on the bus on the way to the party- and everyone knows there's no fun like drinking-on-the-bus-fun.

The problem with this seemingly ideal set up, a problem that some how always slipped the minds of me and my 18 and 19 year old co-ed friends, was a simple equation.

Booze + booze + booze + bus = sick party animals.

The midnight ride back to campus, complete with rocking and rolling and pot holes, was often a very rough trip. When my best friend would inevitably start to feel sick, I'd press my head against the green plastic seatback next to her head, and softly slur Rocky Raccoon from beginning to end - distracting us both just enough from our nausea that we'd make it home without losing our (liquid) dinners on the well traveled floor of a yellow a school bus.

There's something about being able to distract yourself from anxiety and illness - feelings which seems unavoidable.

Why am I remembering the gifts that RR gave me in high school and college on this day? Because I spent my lunch hour almost completely horizontal with my dentist's responsible hands and buzzing tools all up in my grill. It's scary to be so vulnerable, and scary to not know if physical pain might win the battle of the Novacain. It's scary to think about your teeth falling out or how much it costs to put them back in. The dentist is scary no matter how nice or easy it is. Luckily I'm pretty good at calming myself down.

This time it wasn't Rocky who slowed my heart rate and lowered my blood pressure - it was Vinyasa. Closing my eyes and running a simple sequence of yoga poses, remembering the often well rehearsed lines that accompany each pose, imagining those poses perfect on my body in a way that I can't actually wear them yet. I can get a lost in my imaginary practice even with the tugging and the taste of blood in the back of my throat. It's cool to be able to separate your mind from your body, to distract yourself from what you are feeling.

What tricks help you manage your anxiety or control your fear? What else can you gain from having a mind over body connection?

PS: I originally blogged this post from my phone, and felt like there were too many errors to ignore, so this is a corrected version!

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