I woke up this morning with a knot in my stomach. I don’t know if I woke up with it, but it was first feeling I recognized after the dread, panic, and desire to curl up and hide back under the covers. What’s the point? I have nothing to give. I’m doing everything wrong. It’s probably the beginning of the end of world anyway. It’s what my coach, Sarah Turino, calls the “Voice of Suck” and that voice was screaming at me today. Of course I wanted to bury my head in the sand and make it all go away.

I reached for my notebook and pen and just started writing to get it out. It felt like a spiral that kept spinning out of control and all of my thoughts and worries spun up into the violent wind of a tornado. I let the words flow out of me onto the paper without reading them and suddenly I was in conversation with myself.

What am I feeling? I am feeling scared. I am feeling out of control. I am feeling worried. We’re experiencing a global pandemic and I don’t know what’s going to happen. Am I doing enough to take care of the kids’ mental and emotional needs during this time? Will I be homeschooling them in the Fall? Am I totally messing them up? We’re also in the middle of a major civil rights movement. Am I doing my part to dismantle systemic racism? I feel insecure like I have nothing of value to offer.

What do I need most right now? I need to breathe. I need to slow down. I need to create space between me and my emotions.

What helps me when I’m feeling this way? Breath work, meditation, movement.

Funny how my favorite things are the things that help me most, yet don’t even occur to me when I’m in that place of suck. But once I named how I was feeling and what I needed it suddenly became much clearer to me. While it seems so simple now in hindsight, if I hadn’t taken that time to write it down I would have stayed in bed, scrolling through my phone, reading more news articles, and the feelings would have just gotten worse. I didn’t need to fix the problems in that moment. I didn’t need an action plan for homeschooling or to find out what organizations are in need of support (although those things will come in handy later when I’m in a calmer emotional state and thinking clearly).

Once I asked what I needed, my inner wisdom told me. She told me to breathe, to meditate, to move, and so I did. I got out of bed and got dressed (no small feat when you’re feeling this way). I did some small movements and then sat down and did a Nadi Shodhana pranayama, alternative nostril breathing, which brings balance to the left and right sides of the brain, eases anxiety, and fosters mental clarity. And then I sat quietly for about five minutes with my hands on my heart. I felt the sensation of my heart beating and it made me realize that it’s working so hard doing its job to pump blood and keep me alive. I need to do my part as well.

It didn’t take a long time, maybe 20 minutes total for all of that. When I come back to myself I am able to see things more clearly. Maybe I need a tattoo that says “when in doubt, meditate” so I can remember it every time I need it most.

Oh, and by the way, when I envision my inner wisdom, she looks like Oprah’s character from a Wrinkle in Time, so beautiful and wise, of course I should listen to her.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and in the spiral of suck, ask yourself three questions and see what your inner guide tells you. What am I feeling? What do I need most right now? What helps me when I’m feeling this way?

And just for fun – what does your inner guide look like to you?

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