Healing looks different for everyone and certainly isn’t linear. We all go through life’s ups and downs, highs and lows. Healing doesn’t mean that you don’t experience the roller-coaster of life, it simply means you get to decide how you want to respond to the ride.
Looking back at my life, I am so far from the girl I once was. At one point I struggled with debilitating panic attacks, constant negative thoughts and anxiety that was crippling. I had
irrational fears and I spent every night worrying about the next day. I vividly remember the day I decided to change my life. As a small child I was very anxious. Always afraid that my parents would divorce or that someone close to me was going to die in a car crash. I would almost convince myself of the certainty that death was coming for someone in my family. I didn’t know it at the time, but my nervous system was incredibly dysregulated and my body was producing so much cortisol that I truly don’t know how it didn’t shut down.
So how did I go from this scared little girl to a confident, happy and peaceful adult? I worked on my mindset. I worked on letting go of fear. I spent time really noticing the irrational fears that would occupy my brain. I wrote them down. I looked at them. I accepted them. Once I was able to really notice my thoughts and my anxieties, I was able to change them. Trust me, this is was a lengthy process. It didn’t happen overnight. The decision to change my life absolutely happened over night but the process of implementing these changes took a little longer.
Here is what I did when I first started to change my life. I would notice the negative thought that had entered my mind, I would stop, take three deep breaths and ask myself where in my body am I feeling this fear? For as long as I can remember I have felt my worries and my fears in my stomach. I get a distinct “sick” feeling in the pit of my stomach when I feel fear. I recognise the fear when I board a plane or before I stand up at an event to speak. Only now, I welcome this fear. I welcome the feeling. Only when you accept & welcome your fears, can you let them go. Much like accepting and acknowledging your thoughts before truly being able to release them.
I should mention, my anxiety started when I was only 12 years old. Mindfulness wasn't really a thing back then. To be honest, I didn’t even know that I had anxiety. I just thought I was a nervous child. Maybe something that I inherited from my parents. Looking back everything now makes so much sense. All the steps that I subconsciously put in place as a small girl is exactly what I teach my clients today. It didn’t come from books or therapy. It came from my own intuitive nature to want to heal and be free from anxiety.
Once I recognised an anxious thought and settled my breath, I would subconsciously talk to the part of me that was suffering. “What is under this fear?” “What are the chances of this fear actually coming to fruition?” By asking these questions and putting some type of “rational label” on your fear, you are able to almost speak yourself out of it. So when the fear of a car crash popped into my head, I would recognise it, take a breath and ask myself where I felt this worry in my body and why I feel it. “Ok Courtney, the chances of your parents dying in a car crash are slim, lets release that fear and move on with our day.”
When you first begin changing your thought-pattern, it’s hard! I mean, really hard. The negative brain is stubborn. When you spend years in a hypervigilant state you learn patterns that are difficult to break. Difficult, not impossible. The more you stick with the challenge, the easier it becomes. Eventually, it becomes second nature until the negative thoughts don’t inhabit your mind on a daily basis.
So here I was as a young girl, working every day on my mindset. Trying to intercept that negative thought pattern so I could free myself from anxiety. I want to mention also, if you are reading this and thinking “my thoughts are a little more dark and worrying than you have described here Courtney” trust me, I am with you. I want you to know that no matter what you think, no matter how irrational, dark or scary your mind can become, there is always light. A light that you can implement. You must let go of shame and guilt so you can truly accept the positive changes that you are creating.
Next I began learning to love myself. Not feeling angry that I was wired differently to most. You see, the opposite of self-love is not self-hatred, it’s fear. I truly believe that unless we can learn to love ourselves first, we can’t love anyone else. Like when you are on a flight. If you don’t fit your own oxygen mask first, you certainly won’t be able to help anyone else.
Loving yourself and letting go of fear is a choice. It’s a choice we have to make every single day. When our old patterns of self-sabotage creep in and when those old familiar feelings of anxiety take hold, we can choose to actively let them go. Remember how much work you’ve done and every single day choose to shift your mindset.
My experience with anxiety and trauma has undoubtedly lead me to the career path I have chosen today. Through yoga, meditation and breathwork, I am able to guide others who are on the same path as I once was, to freedom of the mind.