Do you ever get anxiety attacks?
Right now, for example, I’m sitting at a table in a café, my laptop is in front of me, my Skype is on and in constant flow with my team, my phone is next to me, notifications ready to pounce. I have fifty emails waving their red flags at me in a corner of my brain, thirty ideas waiting to be written down somewhere before they self destruct and I’ve just posted a photo on Instagram, which means I’ve got perma-scroll eating away at me.
So as I balance on top of this unending avalanche, I’m writing to you to talk about my stress. Haha.
So here’s what I’m going to do if you give me two seconds. Close out of Skype. Put my phone away in my bag, close my email, write down my ideas so I don’t have to think about them anymore. And breathe, a big, deep breath. One more.
And finally say to you: Hey, how’s it going today?
Me? Yeah, I’m fine.
I’ve always been sensitive to stress. My brain is like Soul Cycle. It never stops thinking, never stops coming up with solutions, analyzing every instant, and giving meaning to everything. Never stops thinking about the past. Thinking about the future. Thinking about how the past could have changed the future.
My thoughts never stop. Everyone who knows me knows it. My brain is always bubbling. Two thousand ideas per second, which can either be inspiring or totally exhausting.
Add to that my digital brain (my phone) that’s also permanently exploding, and you’ll understand the permanent rave party I’m living in.
This temperament makes me prone to muscular tension (Ow, my neck! Ow, my shoulders!), food compulsions (omg why did I eat those cookies, I wasn’t even hungry!? And they weren’t even good!!!) and, on my darkest days, anxiety attacks that give my anxiety attacks anxiety attacks.
When all I want is to be the most chill girl in the neighborhood.
The most chill girl in the neighborhood!
You know, the girl who goes around totally relaxed as if a Bob Marley song is constantly playing in the background, delicately bringing down the pace and sending out good vibes everywhere she goes. She speaks slowly, she articulates well, like Brigitte Bardot, who always made it seem like she had plenty of time.
She’s got a ray of sunlight in her eyes, a slight smile on her lips and the soothing grace of people who know there’s no point in freaking out.
To get to that state of grace, I’ve tried everything.
And you know what? I have found a few answers, the real ones.
So I thought it was time to share them with you. Here we go…
I tried smoking joints.
Let’s be real, (especially not now that more and more states are legalizing cannabis) marijuana is all around us and always has been, and apparently for a lot of people, it works. So that’s how one day when I was complaining about having trouble falling asleep (at a particularly stressful time in my life) a friend lent me a little box with everything I needed to smoke.
Of course, I’d already tried it! When I was twenty, everyone I knew smoked joints. But I’d never liked the extreme version of it, getting super “high,” the contest to see who could roll a super long joint with 18 rolling papers. Haha, we’re so stupid when we’re twenty. Plus, I really didn’t like the taste, and while it seemed to make my friends roll around on the floor laughing, the only thing it did for me was make me super hungry and want to fall asleep, no matter where I was. Like on a park bench.
It definitely wasn’t my thing. So in one of my first acts of self-affirmation, I decreed that I didn’t smoke marijuana.
But once I had my mini-kit in hand, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try again. I hate taking medicine, and the longer this went on, the more exhausted I was. Being exhausted makes you ugly and depressed. It’s a vicious cycle. I had to get some sleep.
Plus, I did the math: if I fell asleep before I could get to my pantry, I wouldn’t have to suffer from the instant increase in my appetite. I tried, and it worked.
One hit was enough, by the way. That’s how sensitive I am to it.
Once my life calmed down again, and my sleep went back to normal, I stopped using it naturally.
Really, I’ll never like the taste.
AND THEN ONE DAY LIKE ANY OTHER at the Studio a few weeks ago, we receive a little tin of chocolates. And me, of course, I see the chocolate, I eat the chocolate. It’s automatic, don’t even think about it, that’s how I am.
And not just one square. Who can eat just one square of chocolate?
So I munch away on the chocolates without even thinking about it, and I start to feel, how can I put this…I feel good, REALLY GOOD.
That’s when Natalie says to me: what’s this CBD chocolate you were eating, Garance? And that’s when I look at the tin. Almost empty. And I realize that the chocolates are made with CBD, one of the ingredients in…cannabis.
SHIT. I’M GOING TO GO ON A TRIP INTO OUTER SPACE, RIGHT HERE IN THE STUDIO, in front of my team who is already starting to give me funny looks?
They burst out laughing.
I take a closer look at the label, and that’s when I understand. CBD is an ingredient in cannabis, but it doesn’t have the psychotropic effects.
However, it does have anti-stress and anti-anxiety properties, as well as anti-inflammatory effects, which I’ll tell you about one day.
The recommended dose is one or two per day, and I’d just eaten six.
So I go home that day in a soft little cloud, smiling and cozy.
And I reordered another tin of magic chocolate (one more reason to eat chocolate!) and I have to say, ever since, CBD has saved me from stress more than once.
I’ve tried acupuncture.
I’m always hearing people say: Aaaah, acupuncture, it changes your life!
And since my quest in life is to find things that are life-changing, I made an appointment right away, and arrived starry-eyed, ready for my new life.
Except the friend who recommended this acupuncturist forgot to tell me he only spoke Chinese (how was I supposed to explain my symptoms?) and that in acupuncture, the scariest part isn’t the needles. Ohhhh no.
The needles are nothing. You close your eyes, you feel a little pinch, and if you don’t look (I mean, I can’t look at my body covered in needles, can you?)(It reminds me of Hell Raiser, remember the poster for that horror film?) you forget they’re even there.
NO. The real scary part is having to stay lying down, all alone in the dark for at least twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes alone, making sure not to move so you don’t push a needle in too far, and having no idea how much time has gone by. So it’s twenty minutes of: have I been in the dark for one minute? Has it been four hours? Has my acupuncturist forgotten about me? Should I scream? Shit, my right knee itches, what do I do? I’m cold, I’m thirsty, I’m hungry, I’m panicking!!!
When the acupuncturist finally reappeared, I was a little puddle of anxiety and all I wanted at that point was to be freed from my immobile prison. I paid and never went back.
Till more recently, full of good intentions in my quest for spirituality, calm, and health, I let myself be convinced again.
In the meantime, meditation had come into my life (I’ll talk about that in a second) and staying immobile for an indefinite amount of time didn’t scare me anymore. I chose an acupuncturist who spoke English, which allows me to spill everything about my emotions at the beginning of every session (yes, I have a tendency to mistake any doctor person pole for a therapist) and my acupuncturist, before she leaves me alone in the dark, always says to me: I’m going to leave now, but I’ll put this buzzer in your hand. If anything bothers you, just buzz me, okay?
So that’s how I finally discovered the treasures of acupuncture. After my first few visits, honestly, I didn’t notice any results, but I promised myself I’d persist. Plus, the half-hour of meditative calm wasn’t disagreeable. Then little by little, I started to notice changes in how I felt before and after acupuncture. There was a deep feeling of well-being that stayed with me for hours.
Hey, I don’t know if it will make me the most chill girl in the neighborhood, but on mornings when I’ve had acupuncture, I can tell you, I float around in a little cloud of well-being that I try to share with everyone around me.
Which is the state I’ve been trying to achieve forever.
The only negative is that with this kind of thing, you kind of have to keep going for life. And right now, I want to find quick solutions that can be activated easily.
I’ve tried yoga.
No need to write a thesis for you about yoga, yoga REALLY changed my life. I’ve already told you about that, even if after all these years, I’m still just as bad at it. I don’t have a “yoga” body (I’m not flexible enough, surprising given my temperament, right?) I don’t have the “yoga” competitive spirit (come on, of course there’s a crazy amount of competition in yoga, stop pretending)(or maybe it’s just a New York thing?) and I certainly don’t have the “yoga” self-discipline.
(Sometimes I stop doing yoga for a whole year).
(Right now I’m getting back into it and I’m back at square one. Hatha for beginners, haha!).
But even practiced like a loser from outer space, yoga has still changed my life, and like all things that are truly life-changing, it happens little by little, with no real warning, without me even realizing.
Yoga taught me little things that I use every minute of my life, like:
· How to quiet the noise around me. Balancing exercises, which are easy but require intense concentration, are an incredible way to calm the tempest inside.
· How to use my smile to calm myself. They often tell you in yoga to relax your face! Smile! At first it seems ridiculous. We’re so used to putting on our “making an effort face“ whenever we work our muscles – our eyebrows go down and our jaws tense up. But that’s the perfect time to put on a calm smile, and smiling has a direct effect on our emotional state. When I’m freaking out, I try to relax my muscles and smile. It works right away.
· How to meditate, of course…
But it’s a vast subject (and if you’re like me, you’re probably very tired of people talking your ear off about it) and I’m realizing this post is getting longer and longer and longer…So why not stop there for now, so I can get back to my ten thousand notifications, and I promise to share my other “secrets” with you (well, okay, they’re not really secrets, but just things that really WORK!) in an upcoming post!? What do you say?
And in the meantime, if you have any anti-stress techniques to share, I’m always super happy to hear them!
Translated by Andrea Perdue