The tyranny of the blank page – ALSO controlled breathing skill training

Today was a difficult one for a lot of different goals. For example, it’s 10:12PM and I’m just now sitting down trying to figure out what I want to write. I also woke up at 4AM, my heart racing and my breath short – for no reason that I can come up with, other than that my anxiety seemed to be on high alert today.

I didn’t want to get up to run and I almost didn’t. But I reminded myself that running is like medicine for my anxiety and not something that I can skip because it helps work off some of the anxious jittery feelings caused by adrenaline. It also feels like taking actual care of myself, while staying in bed would have felt like avoidance and caused those guilty, ashamed voices in my head to fire up their critical voices for the rest of the day.

So I ran. It was not a good run. But I felt good about doing it. Then the day went a bit off the rails. Things were busy and we had family over, which proved a bit overwhelming and emotional when politics intruded. I took my daughter out tonight and when I got home, I remembered that I hadn’t written anything today.

Like this morning, I almost let myself skip it. But here I sit. Trying to figure out what to write that’s meaningful and worth saying. The tyranny of the blank page is rearing it’s ugly and insidious head telling me to just skip it since I’m not sure what to say.

But that’s not the point of this exercise. The point is to write each day. No matter what. To work to find my voice as a writer and to re-discover my style and creative spark. I know I used to be able to write meaningful things in college, but time and daily life have erased the memory of those stories from my mind. The desire for respect and admiration have grown in my heart as I’ve aged and has stifled some of my creativity due to fears about how it will be perceived.

So I want to write again about taking steps toward goals, even if they don’t feel like meaningful or successful steps. Sitting down to write, even if it’s not earth shattering content is a step towards becoming someone who writes. If I wait until the circumstances are perfect and I want to do it and the perfect idea is formed, I’ll never write.

Sometimes meeting goals is a struggle, a mental fight against self way more than it is a bolt from the blue or divine intervention. So I relied on my anxiety coping skills a bit more than usual today. I needed to engage in my controlled breathing and push through the anxious voice telling me it’s not worth it and that I’ll never get there.

Also, so this post has something actually useful to someone other than me: Controlled Breathing is a practice to calm the physical symptoms of anxiety (tightness in chest, racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, foggy thoughts). When we’re anxious and our fight or flight reflex is activated, our nervous system is sending far too many danger signals to our whole body. We need to turn it off. Breathing out is actually our somatic nervous system (basically the internet of the nervous system)’s off switch. SO, when we’re activated and anxious, the best way to calm our bodies quickly is to focus on breathing OUT for longer than we breathe IN. I start by breathing in through my nose and out through pursed lips. Generally, I close my eyes and sit upright in a chair (if possible) and rest my hands palms up in my lap (this is called willing hands, try it, just sitting with palms open and up can change the way you see any situation or encounter and can be somewhat unnervingly vulnerable). I then focus on my attention on my breathing for a period of about five minutes (or until I notice myself start to calm). When thoughts come into my head, I gently acknowledge them: I’m aware that I’m worrying this is useless. I’m notice that I’m worrying about what I’ll make for lunch. Then redirect my attention to my breathing.

Published by alexm1008

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor practicing in Houston, Texas. I specialize in helping clients develop skills and strategies to feel more in control of their emotions and behaviors. I am also a wife and mother of two who loves to run and travel (particularly to Disney World with my kids and without).

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