“Let’s do a one-minute meditation…okay…go!” I dreaded this part of our sessions when my therapist would force me to sit with my thoughts and focus on my breath.
This was early October, when I made the heartwrenching decision to put myself first and take a short-term disability leave from work, citing mental health issues. And yes, I did have a mental health crisis indeed – I didn’t know how and couldn’t breathe properly. I was holding onto so much inner turmoil on top of unsolved intergenerational trauma, that my mind and soul had trouble containing it. My body started to shut down on itself in the form of unprompted convulsions, medically known as psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES). Enough.
The past three months served as the Universe’s emergency intervention for me to hit the reset button on life. I took this time to unlearn and deconstruct everything that I had ever known about work, grind culture, rest, self-care, self-worth, and mental health. I was also simultaneously relearning tools and regaining skills to create a strong and nourishing routine that would allow me to connect my mind, body, and soul. I increased my weekly therapy sessions to two sessions per week, and we set goals for what the three months of progress would look like. I also invested in life and career coaching services that empowered me to regain confidence in myself and in my goals. Even with all of this, I felt that something was missing.
I entered each day with the intention to be patient with myself and to listen to my body. I tried out yoga, even though I knew it drove me nuts to sit in different asanas for more than a few minutes at a time. But the more I found myself being fully present in every class and trying to push the envelope, the more I started to breathe properly again, I was no longer holding so much tension within my shoulders, my gut, my back, my legs, and the list goes on. Yoga for me is not just a form of physical exercise; it is also a form of meditation, allowing me to ground myself and challenge my deep-seated beliefs.
In my last month of leave, I spent time in Playa Negra, Costa Rica at the Peace Retreat. My week there pushed me to engage in intensive reflection and introspection through yoga. As I was moving my body to my breath, I found myself purging the pain and trauma I found myself paralyzed by. I realized that in order to make room for the growth I so desperately desired, I needed to let go of harmful thoughts and habits that no longer serve me. I was confronted with the sobering truth that self-preservation and resiliency come with reflecting on the conditions that have led me to my demise. I needed to start sacrificing the things that I was comfortable with to build the life that I deserve.
One day, during a 6 a.m. yoga session with Kevin McQuillan, founder of the Peace Retreat, asked us, “Why are you causing your own suffering? And what must you do to stop it?” These were hard-hitting words for when I was just barely awake. But I needed to hear them and hear them then. I acknowledge that everyone’s journey to self-preservation and building resiliency is different. However, we all have to start at the root of answering this question that Kevin poses so that we can start walking the path toward a clearer idea of what we want our lives to look like.
We don’t know what 2023 holds for us. But at least we will have the foundation to preserve our worth and sustain ourselves in the face of trials and tribulations. Here are some of the top five things I learned about self-preservation in my 3-month-hiatus. I hope that these can help you just as much as they have helped me build a sustainable foundation for the long run.
1. Approach therapy with intention. But also have some goals in mind of what you would like to achieve in your sessions. I always start out with each session with one to two goals. It always helps to check in with yourself and feel yourself gravitating towards a specific goal or topic of discussion.
2. Be vulnerable and authentic in your self-preservation journey. No one else knows your story better than you.
3. Invest in yourself. This could be in anything that brings you happiness, new skills, new experiences, new hobbies, etc. For me, it’s trying out different yoga studios before committing to one that I know works for me and my lifestyle.
4. Ask yourself, “What is the cause of your suffering? How can you eliminate that to ensure that you’re living your best life?”
5. Practice gratitude towards yourself and the Universe every day. You would be surprised how much abundance you start to see in your life, even when times are difficult.
And above all, remember to breathe.