Anxiety – my stomach in turmoil, like little animals were crawling around in there, my chest tight, and breathing a challenge.
Anxiety – my head feeling like it was going to explode, tension like a vice-grip at the base of my head and in my jaw.
And yet, in the midst of these ugly sensations, I couldn’t help but notice: It’s been a long time since I felt this way.
I had spent the day painstakingly going through receipts and statements for a tax audit for the year I opened my practice in Nova Scotia: 2014. The hardest year of my life, hands-down. The year that uncertainty was a daily part of life. Trying to sell my practice in Ontario, not knowing when we would move, keeping our family – our kids especially – in painful limbo. Where would we be that summer? Would the kids be uprooted mid school year? Or – worst of all: what if it takes too long and we can’t move? And then, in the midst of it all, losing Dean’s dad to a sudden heart attack, mere days after my Nanny passed away. Forced deeply into questioning everything. Working through fear, sometimes debilitating grief, and struggling constantly with the uncertainty of it all, and the complete inability we had to control the circumstances. Anxiety was something that hit often and required me to find many coping tools to keep my mental state strong and healthy – or on some days, just to keep going.
2014 – the year we moved home. The act that required more trust in life than anything that I’ve ever done. Welcoming such incredible uncertainty into our family – but moving towards something we wanted so deeply that it overrode everything else.
2014 – the year that was the best and the worst of my life. I won’t even go in to what the second half of the year was like. We were here – but now facing nearly insurmountable challenges with starting my new practice, unforeseen obstacles with buying the house that was to be our home as well as my practice. Forced to gamble it all or walk away. (But that’s a story for another day).
I thought I had put 2014 to rest. Until I received a letter from Canada Revenue Agency that required me to go through every receipt, bank statement, and credit card statement relating to starting my practice that year. And it was a mess – we had moved, changed bank accounts, business accounts, and credit cards – so going through to prove that all of my expenses were legit was taking weeks. Awful, brain-numbing, eye-blinding work – going thru every detail with a fine tooth comb.
So, I had spent yet another day going through this audit. I realized that I had to change my thoughts about it – because it was literally causing me such stress that my whole body was reacting. Headaches and neck pain seemed to strike any day I would do this work. Yes – I was sitting, and that’s not a normal part of my usual habits. But I know enough about stress physiology as a chiropractor to know that these pains were being triggered by the mental stress.
So instead – this time – I tried to switch it – finding gratitude in the situation. Gratitude for living in Nova Scotia. Gratitude for living in Canada. Gratitude for having a new practice. And even gratitude for keeping my paperwork in order (albeit not good enough to submit… yet). It seemed to work, as this time when I sat to do my tax audit, pain did not set in. Win.
Later that day, however, the anxiety came on in an instant – nearly suffocating me. I was sitting in my new accountant’s office looking at the computer screen with him. Nothing related to 2014 – this was to file my 2016 taxes. And the number he was showing that we were required to pay was nearly triple what we were prepared for. That’s when the anxiety grabbed me. The sensation of “Am I going to cry in this accountant’s office?!” The pit in my stomach, the vice grip around my head.
The funny thing about life though – it doesn’t stop just because you’re stressed, upset, or trying to cope with anxiety – life goes on: business as usual. I still had to get home and get dinner, get to Audra’s soccer game, coach her team, pick up Ethan from his soccer practice – talk to people, be normal. Put it aside.
Now, as this story goes – it was a short, 4-hour blip. Between Audra’s game and Ethan’s practice, I had an email from my new accountant – and an apology. After meeting with me, he went through my return with a fine-tooth comb, as it had been his team that had worked on it up until that point. (Some of this was understandable, as I had switched accountants at the last minute before my taxes needed to be submitted. It was kind of a ready-fire-aim type of situation).
Some relatively large details had been missed – and my amount owing was back in the range I had expected. The range that wouldn’t have me questioning: Would we ever dig out of this hole? Would I have to drive our aging truck for another year and not get a new vehicle as planned? Should I have booked our flight to Ontario to visit our best friends this summer? Will we ever be able to build a house like I’ve always dreamed of? (Yes, first-world problems, I know – but still relevant and important to us.)
The thing is – life throws curve balls. And this was another near-miss for us. Small peanuts, really, not life-threatening or world-changing. But it did have me questioning some of the things that we want to create in our lives.
We have plans for expanding my business. We have an impact we want to make. We dream of experiences and travel as a family. We want to build our dream home one day.
So no, this blip of anxiety wasn’t one of whether we could survive it – we would have, even if things had turned out differently. This blip was about interfering with our dreams. The things that fill us up, help us strive to grow, imagine, and get excited. The feelings that are uplifting and expansive. The feelings that bring breath deep into my lungs, lightness into my head, and clarity into my vision.
The road out of anxiety for me has always been two-fold:
One: Get into gratitude. Find the light in every situation.
And Two: Keep an eye on our dreams, even when we have real life challenges to wade though.
In this case, the circumstances changed. I wouldn’t have to make keeping a healthy mental state as much of a full-time job as I had foreseen.
However – one of my daily practices is to start and end the day with gratitude, finding that expansive place in my mind and heart, even when it takes effort. My mind and my emotional state take as much daily effort and awareness as my physical training, exercise and movement, and as much as my food choices, supplementation and schedule for healthy sleep. As a matter of fact – those things come easier. Flexing my mental health muscles takes more effort – but is ultimately the most important work I do for myself (and everyone else in my life).
Otherwise – I don’t know how to show up as myself in any of my roles: mom, wife, chiropractor, soccer coach, employer, friend, sister, daughter.
So when our day ended, and I was saying goodnight to our kids, Audra reminded me that we had to do our ‘questions’. So we went through the three questions I ask myself – and them – almost every night:
What did I do well today?
What was my favourite part of today?
What am I grateful for?
We all offered up our answers, and my heart was full. No matter how today had gone – what truly matters is good. So good.