The Two-Minute Hug™.

When I was in my late 20s, I was a strong independent woman who don’t need no man.

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Surprise! I am Beyonce.

Let me rephrase that.

I was single and lived alone with seven cats. Just kidding. Zero cats. But definitely single, definitely living alone.

I partied a lot, obviously, because I was extremely popular. I led a very fulfilling life.

Shit. More lies. I got out, but my outings were limited to drinking at my friends’ homes.

Un-single friends, to be precise. I spent every spare minute with friends who were in devoted relationships. I had no single friends.

Before that, when my friends were single too, it was awesome. People wanted to stay out late and drink lots. We went to bars and lounges. I could crash in a male friend’s bed without it getting weird. I could go out with a girlfriend and not face the inevitable disappointment of having to unexpectedly be third wheel. Wait a second, you say. Inevitable + unexpected in one sentence…? Yup. Learning lessons is not one of my strong suits. And you’re right on another point: this is also another mediocre example of me incorporating a little foreshadowing into my post for ya.

It’s not like my life was shitty. And to be honest, my anxiety level at that point in my life was actually relatively low (although, I would later attribute my singledom to being too anxious to reveal any emotion to dudes). But there was a problem with my lifestyle. I was the single girl who hung out with couples, who all only knew couples, and who didn’t care to venture past their doorsteps. I never met guys anymore, and the couples physically clung to one another like two-way stage 5 clingers.

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Couples are so nice.

That meant there was no physical human interaction for me anymore.

And kids, I am not even talking about the dirty deed. I am talking about good clean fun. I’m talking about hugs.

Just that natural resource of human touch!

I didn’t realize it until one day when I found myself really, really craving a yoga class. Which is ridiculous because I have an exercise sensitivity. Like gluten, except with like, push-ups.

My yoga teacher always ended every class by massaging our temples during savasana. It was a simple thing, but I noticed after a while that it was the only physical human interaction I experienced like, ever. I started really looking forward to those 3 seconds where my meditation was sort of enhanced and the scent of lemongrass wafted through the air.

Sidebar: Please, seriously – be cool. Don’t ruin it by thinking for even a moment that there was any sexual element to my enjoyment of this whatsoever. There was not.

It was just those moments of human touch that touched my heart. Here was the woman who I knew on a very limited basis, who placed her fingertips on my temples after my workout, giving that to me. You’d think that there would be nothing to it. But for me, it was really important. I’ve often thought about emailing her anonymously to let her know this. But of course, I don’t want her to panic and (understandably) be concerned that she has a lunatic stalker on her hands. Ahem.

If you look into it, the human touch is actually pretty much vital to our being able to thrive. And even to our survival – I read an article that suggested that when babies aren’t hugged, even if they have all the nutrition in the world – they stop growing and can even die. You guys. Not to be super dark on Christmas – but orphan babies are dying because they aren’t hugged. Many large North-American cities have baby hugging programs where you can sign up to hug babies. YOU CAN VOLUNTEER TO HUG BABIES SO THEY DON’T DIE. They do not, regrettably, have this program in my smaller city. I checked.

Sorry, my ovaries took over for a minute there and *digressed.

There are studies that have found that human touch reduces anxiety. It slows down our heart rates. We feel protected, cared for, empathized with. We become calm.

And when we don’t get that key human contact? We can become pretty pessimistic, unhappy, unwell, and of course, alone. It’s a recipe for depression and anxiety.

Those few moments between me and my yoga instructor were helping bridging the gap between me and happiness, when you think about it. That’s because touch triggers a release of oxytocin – which is the neurotransmitting hormone that helps oversees positive social interactions. It’s essentially what is responsible for allowing us to create relationships.

Sorry, that was more science than I typically want to subject you to.

Personally, I have always been in the hugs > kisses camp. Because hugs can comfortably be longer, not sloppy, and they’re toasty warm. I’m obviously a hugger. I hug my best friends when I see them, even if I saw them yesterday. I hug Boyfriend when he gets home from work. I hug my very reluctant cats. It doesn’t have the same effect, but I hug my pillow at night.

Hugs are pretty much imperative to my recovering from a panic attack.

And that’s why I invented the Two-Minute Hug. 

All it is is a hug that lasts about two minutes. It is not complicated. You hug someone, and they hug you back, and then you just keep hugging for two minutes. It does not need to be exactly two minutes. Oftentimes it only takes 20 seconds or so for the effects to kick in. I call it ‘two-minutes’ because by accepting it, Boyfriend commits himself to two minutes and cannot wriggle free beforehand if I don’t want him to.

I can go from crying, hyperventilating, and hurting badly on the inside to experiencing feelings of warmth, calm, and love within a matter of seconds. It’s like washing anxiety away. A hug just makes everything bad run down the drain.

Anytime I’m feeling even somewhat nervous, I yell/whine/blubber “TWO-MINUTE HUG” to Boyfriend, and he immediately opens his arms to me and holds me. It always works.

I recommend that everyone indulges in the Two-Minute Hug every single day. Take multiple doses. The more the better, actually. It’s addictive but in a super healthy way and your mother won’t judge you for it.

It doesn’t need to be from a boyfriend or girlfriend. You can hug your mom or dad, friend or sibling. Anyone who is willing (i.e. Do not hug your boss or young children you don’t know). I think hugging a pet totally works, too, although I would urge you to choose a pet that enjoys being hugged. Maybe a tree would work for you — I have no idea. The only requirement is that you need to feel the love.

Honestly, just go hug someone. They might be the one who needs it. You might be the one who needs it. But the lovely thing is that you both win.

So, it’s Christmas Eve. Get off the goddamn computer, and go hug your great-aunt Ida.

 


 

PS!! I was awarded the very, very prestigious Liebster Award by the beautiful blogger Pages of Paige.

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I want to thank all the little people who made this possible. Mostly my ex-boss.

I love Paige because she reads my blog, apparently, which is something that astounds me every day, and because she has a prima facie appreciation for puns. Also, because her blog is deliciously hilarious and I feel like we’d be BFFs in real life. I need to pass this award on to a few other amazing blogs – and I already know who I’m thinking of – but Christmastime = zero time for such endeavours. I mean, this post alone took me 2 weeks to write and I don’t even have a job. But I will do it, I promise, because I am so, so thrilled to have received a blogger award and I want to share that feeling.

So thank you, Paige. If you are ever in Canada, you can crash on my couch (or sleep in the guestroom if you’re fancy), and I’ll take you to see a cactus so you’ll feel right at home. Truly. Canada does have cactuses. And by Canada I mean any of Canada. My place is close to all of it. That’s how Canada works.

This also feels like a good opportunity to thank Damn Girl, Get Your Shit Together for featuring me on her blog this month. Lady, your advocacy for pumping other female bloggers’ tires is fucking wicked, and I thank you from the bottom of my black heart for choosing me, and for the new followers you sent my way, and I apologize to those followers for not having the answers to curing anxiety you undoubtedly followed me for. Although, in retrospect, I wish I’d provided DGGYST a link icon that said “FREE PORN HERE” or something, because I think it would have generated tons more traffic and I could have ended the year as a internet millionaire. Feel free to update my branding for the remaining few days of December. Also, you are also welcome on my couch/bed. We can both try maple syrup for the first time together.

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*Every blog says “I digress” at one point. I promise I won’t do it again.

 

 

Downward Dog.

I am really good at clicking and adding to cart when it comes to stuff like gym passes, manicure appointments, massages, and other personal appointments like that. In contrast, I am not good at calling the place afterward, making appointments if I can’t do it online or by email, or – God fucking forbid – showing up for the first time alone.

It’s too much. My mind is flooded with so many what ifs. What if the place doesn’t exist when I call? What if they refuse to honour my purchase? What if they’re completely booked? What if they never answer? What if I know the person who answers and it’s a humiliating appointment? What if they laugh at me? What if it’s ridiculous that I think I can get an appointment any time soon?

I can’t even tell you why I feel all of these feelings. Like honestly, “what if they don’t answer?” doesn’t even really evoke any truly horrible result. I know this. If they don’t answer, then….. well, nothing. It’s completely and utterly ridiculous and I know it. I guess that’s the reason why anxiety is such a fucked up syndrome. Anxiety is irrational.

Last week, I asked Boyfriend if he thought it was okay for me to spend money on a yoga pass. He said yes. (Note: I do not normally ask permission to spend my own money, but since he’s footing all of the bills while I am on leave, I figured it’s fair that we discuss me spending money on non-essentials).

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TBT that time I did yoga in a vineyard. So fetch.

I chose this particular location because it is a 5 minute walk from my house, or a 30-second drive. Let’s be honest. I ain’t walking down the street holding a yoga mat; people will judge me and I will combust.

The next day, I prepared for my first class. It was an easy class, evening time, had the word “candlelight” in it. I looked forward to getting my shavasana on. I’ve been dealing with a back injury for months, so a power class would be out of the question anyway, but since I haven’t done yoga in several months, I felt that this would be the perfect re-entry.

I chose my outfit carefully: all black and grey. I do not like to stand out in a class, especially since my ass isn’t what it used to be. I felt that I looked sufficiently blend-in-able. I gathered my mat, a bottle of water, and my keys. I was physically ready to go. Class was starting in 15 minutes.

That’s when my Ego kicked in and began to remind me of every little thing that could possibly go wrong. My Self and my Ego had a really nice conversation. Just the two of us.

Ego: This is a bad idea. Stay home.

Self: What? Why?! You have literally no basis for this.

E: Are you kidding me?! So many things could go wrong, and you are going to be humiliated. It’s probably canceled! You’ll be the only one there and they’ll look at you like you’re an idiot and tell you to go home.

S: Nope nope nope. I signed up 5 minutes ago! If it was canceled, it wouldn’t have been available on the app.

E: Can’t you see?! This is the first time you’ve ever gone to a class like this alone – you always have a friend with you. You can’t do this alone. You need someone to hold your hand. It’s not safe.

S: I trust myself. Having a friend with me doesn’t change the class.

E: Well, you’ve probably gotten the time wrong so you’re either going to get there and no one will be there, or the class will be half finished, loser! They will all snicker at you and exchange glances and you’ll have wasted $55 because you can never return.

S: *Rolls Eyes* I’ve checked the time three times, and the date too – because I know where you’re going with this.

E: It’s going to be one of those classes where everyone is folded into a pretzel and you’ll be the only one wincing during downward dog. They don’t know you have back problems – it’s not like you can tell them you’re injured! They are all going to think you’re so lame.

S: Ummm yoga is not about how good you are. It’s about honouring and respecting your body, and above all, compassion. Shut the fuck up already.

E: You’re going to get lost on the way and it’ll be too late to go.

S: It’s literally behind my house. I can see the building from here.

E: Well something will go wrong. You’re taking a pretty big gamble by going. This is a terrible idea.

S: No. It’s just a yoga class. I’ve been to 100s of yoga classes. This is a normal thing that normal people do.

E: Well, you’re not normal.

My Ego didn’t stop talking, but I stopped responding. Instead, I walked out the door and I got in my car. My mind was still going 100 miles an hour, but the only way I was going to make it out that door was if I put one foot in front of the other and went. So that’s what I did. I went through the motions, and let my Self simply observe the crazy. And before I knew it, I was in the parking lot right in front of the entryway.

That’s when an actual problem presented itself. My stomach tied itself in to a knot and a cold sensation ran through my body. I felt like my insides dropped out from under me.

The door was dark, the lights inside were off, and there was a “closed” sign displayed.

It was less than ten minutes to go-time; there was no way the studio would be closed at this point. Where had I gone wrong?! I grasped for my phone and checked the time and the date for the 5th time. It all checked out. I had the right address. The name of the studio was on the building. I felt panic beginning to rise.

Ego: Hahhahahahhahahah. I told you, idiot. I told you this would happen. Don’t you dare get out and try the door – it’s locked. And there are probably people watching you in the dark. They locked it because they don’t want you here. You’re not welcome. You’ll look like even more of a fool than you already are if you traipse over there with your mat, expecting to get in there. Turn around, and go home. We’re going to stuff our faces with candy and hide in bed. It’s safe and warm there, and nothing can hurt you. C’mon. You know I’m right. You never should have done this. Next time, listen to me. I know how to take care of you.

I put my car into reverse, and began to release the brake and clutch. I almost felt relieved – I wouldn’t have to face my fears. Luckily, the fear had materialized before I even got out of the car. I mean, thank fucking God right?

But I noticed something. A little sign where the studio hours were posted. It read “entrance in the back.”

I was in the front. This wasn’t the entrance. I smiled. My Ego was wrong. There was another door, and I was going to check it out.

I went to my yoga class, and just like my Self said, it was normal. Just like any other class I went to. Nothing funny happened. No one made fun of me, no one pointed at me, no one locked me out.

I’ve been back there 4-5 times since that first night. Every time, there is a slight boil-up of anxiety when I arrive there, and the parking lot is quiet, and I have to walk up to that door all alone. My Ego still whispers, what if it’s locked? But it never has been.

And even more importantly, I’ve been getting way more out of my yoga (despite my back) than I ever have before. I’ve been on a spiritual journey, and it’s really allowed me to tap into the spiritual side of yoga. Noticing without judgment. Being present. Observing my breath. Being compassionate with myself.

Every time I return to my house afterward, I feel so full of joy and hope. It far outweighs the uncomfortable feelings I encounter to get there.

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Learning Curve.

I’ve been trying for years to attack my anxiety, instead of it attacking me, without a whole lot of success.

The success I have had is linked to calming myself during a panic attack and not allowing it to completely take over. I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m quite good at keeping things together, but that’s because I’ve had two decades of practice.

When panic starts to boil, I know the things I need to do to not pass out or totally lose my shit. I need to be alone, and I need to breathe. Those are the two main objectives, and they aren’t too overwhelming. I can remember those. They’ve become second nature. I can stamp out attacks before they come full tilt, which is very, very helpful in leading a regular adult life.

So I’m pretty okay when it comes to like 60% of my attacks.

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See? I’m fine.

The remaining 40% of my attacks? I fall victim to them. And since I still have attacks despite medicine and my past therapy sessions, it means I do need to work on myself.

I need to figure my shit out.

In the past, I’ve spent time with more run-of-the-mill, scientific psychologists. They tend to remind me that anxiety is a caveman response, which I do believe. Our minds have not changed as quickly and as drastically as we have – our evolution has not kept up with our discoveries. Nowadays, we are at the top of the food chain and rarely need to run away from hungry predators or defend our homes the way we did thousands of years ago. Back then, we needed that response to escape, say, a hungry bear. Our adrenaline rushed, our heart beat fast, we zeroed in and focussed on the object of our stress, and either ran or fought. Even our digestion slowed because we needed that energy elsewhere. It saved us.

We needed the fight or flight response, we used it, and then when it was over, it disappeared. The danger was gone, and it’s in part because our response did its job. But the society we’ve created and scientific achievements have eliminated a true need for the fight or flight response. Now, it turns into a disorder.

When we feel unsafe, even for stupid present day reasons (like having to meet new people), our fight or flight response is still hardwired into our brains and comes into play. Even though it’s not exactly that useful. That tunnel vision and racing heart aren’t helping us, it’s making us worse. There’s no where for that energy to go, especially when you’re strapped to a desk, or in the grocery store, or anywhere in public. We can’t run and we can’t fight. It’s all in our heads.

But I know all of this. I understand that my reactions are just evolutionary responses. I know my triggers. I know where my anxiety came from. I have all of the answers.

I needed to see someone who could give me a new approach. And I think I’ve found her.

I’ve been seeing a psychologist who is a little more progressive when it comes to dealing with panic and anxiety.  She has her PhD, so I trust her, and she’s not suggesting that I try and deal with my issues with crystals and Himalayan salt lamps.

Not that there’s anything wrong with those avenues, but they just aren’t for me.

But she’s got some really good ways of dealing with my own mind, and that’s by shifting my Ego out of the way. My Ego, I’ve discovered, is taking centre stage and ruining everything. Because I let him do it.

The single most important thing I’ve learned so far is to detach myself from my anxiety. It’s been kind of a game changer for me. Anxiety is not ME. It’s like a really bad accessory to my Self.

Yes, that’s a capital S “Self”. I’m getting into that Buddhist, yoga, meditation-y kinda stuff. But it makes so much sense. And it’s so beautiful.

My Ego and my Self are very different. My Ego is a maniac who thinks everything is black and white. Good or bad. He’s an extremist. He is the one who chatters on and on in my brain about all of the worst case scenarios, and can’t just BE. He is the worst.

My Self is my conscious self. She is my awareness. She just chills and observes and I equate her with love. She is Me.

Think about it for a moment.

Say something in your head. Say “I can’t shut up”. Say those words in your mind.

You ‘heard’ it, didn’t you? That was your Ego. It wasn’t you. You are the one who heard it, so you aren’t the one who said it.

The first step to realizing this stuff is just to listen and become aware of that chattering voice in your head. Your Ego is the one who responds to ev-er-y-thing out there, and makes flip-flopping judgments in regard to pretty much everything. He’s full of opinions and responses. Just listen to him rattle on:

“Okay, John didn’t text me back. He must be angry with him. I know he’s probably just busy, but, no, I mean he looked at me kind of funny yesterday so many he’s pissed. He’s definitely angry. It must have been something I said… what was it, what was it…. Who knows. John is like everyone else in my life. He doesn’t truly love me anyway, so I shouldn’t even care because….”

I mean, isn’t that how our minds tend to go when you’re anxious and come to the worst conclusions?

The key to starting on this journey is to just notice it. Don’t do anything, don’t try anything, and don’t think too much into it. Just notice that voice rambling on about everything. You’ll start to notice, like I have, that it’s there. And he just has a stupid opinion on everything. It’s almost never true – it’s almost always a distorted perception. A leap to conclusions based on almost no facts.

I am by no means an expert on this stuff. I am a beginner. But I do strongly believe that this might be a major step in the right direction for me. Maybe it’s the key to getting better, and to handling stress better in the future.

My learning will be ongoing. I don’t think it will ever end. I don’t think I’ll turn into the Dalai Lama any time soon, or ever. But I think I might be able to tap into a few things that just might help me perceive life a little differently.

Hopefully my ENORMOUS fan base won’t mind reading about it from time to time 😉

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