I haven’t blogged for nine months. I could go on at length about busyness, holidays away, and Christmas commitments, but I suspect the reason for my absence from the blogosphere is more likely to be related to the subject of my last post, Dealing with Stress in my Forever Life.
When I wrote that post, I thought I’d found the solution to my first world problems, but apparently, I hadn’t. The stressful feeling became more consuming as time moved on.
When I moved back to Australia, I lost control over certain areas of my life. As an expat, I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, but back here, I found myself pulled in many directions by my children, extended family, grandchildren, and old friends.
My routines were out of whack, and making time for writing and those activities I’d filled my expat life with seemed lost.
As the months passed, and I continued to struggle with what wasn’t quite right in my life, I began experiencing sleepless nights, and last November the heart palpitations arrived. Over the next three months, the palpitations became more frequent, and were accompanied by a tight knot of anxiety in my chest that made me feel physically ill.
I realised I was moderately depressed and needed help. I made an appointment with my GP, and requested a referral to a psychologist.
The advice the psychologist gave me worked like magic. At the end of the first session, she asked me to do three things:
- Spend ten minutes twice a day breathing to a pattern of ‘in to the count of 7, hold to the count of 5, and exhale to the count of 7’. Ten minutes is a long time to simply focus on counting the air entering and leaving my lungs, so I set a timer to do it. That was the only way I could be sure I would commit to the exercise for the allotted time, and it was important, because ten minutes was long enough to send calming hormones around my body, signalling there was no need for the exhausting flow of adrenaline.
- Keep a journal. I’ve kept a journal since 2007. It’s a wonderful way to solve problems, but it hadn’t solved my anxiety. The breathing exercise did that.
- Get back to the rewrites of my second book. I’m not ready for that, but I had an urge to return to blogging, which is why I’m here today.
I did the breathing exercises twice a day without fail, and after one week, my improved state of mind astounded me. Over the following two weeks, my palpitations and anxiety vanished. If I felt them threaten again, I didn’t worry, because I had a weapon to stop them.
It’s been three months since my appointment with the psychologist, and I’m ridiculously happy. I sleep well, and have magically gained a sense of control in my beautifully chaotic and fulfilling life.
Writing is still missing, but I’ve given myself permission to take a break from it. I’m hoping that by writing this blog, I’ve recommitted to writing in a small way which will eventually lead me back to the rewrites of book number two.
As I wasn’t seriously depressed, the thought flitted through my mind that I was wasting the psychologist’s time, but that was crazy thinking. It was the best decision I made, and I’d highly recommend the same for everyone struggling with anxiety or depression.
Are you guilty of avoiding getting help for depression? And if you’ve been depressed, did a simple breathing exercise help you?