For the most part, I'm a pretty laid back individual compared to the average person. The times you might visibly see me upset are likely when I get frustrated, irritated, or angry, and it's usually because I'm driving my car, or I've burnt myself out, or because I'm hungry. Other than that, I'm not overly excited about much, at least not on the surface.
I get my fair share of anxiety, but more times than not you wouldn't know it by looking at me. The things that make me most anxious? Large groups of people and being late. I hate everything about being late, which explains the frustration and anger while driving, because I drive like I'm half a day late, even if I have a 30 minute buffer.
On Monday morning, I had orientation for a new job, but before that I had to go get a TB test at occupational health, which opened 30 minutes before orientation started. I've been cutting timing close recently, so I decided to be extra punctual on my first day, and arrive at occ health 30 minutes before it opened. As more and more people arrived, I felt some relief to know I wasn't the only one with a lingering TB test to attend to, but mostly I felt anxious as I envisioned everyone pushing through the doors and crowding me out despite the fact I had been there first.
A kind, older man had arrived shortly after I had, and by our shared glances it seemed as though he felt the same concerns I had. Right before they opened the doors he had made his way to the front of the group, and kindly stood there to let me go in first. I sat down, watching the long line of people check-in, feeling quite proud I had made it on time and been the first one here so I could make it to my first day on time!
Of the long line of people, there were 4 of us that needed to wait to get a TB shot, while the rest simply needed their arm checked before they were on their way. The girl that checked in after me was called back first, which instantly made my body tense and my face heat up as I felt slighted and confused as to how that happened. The girl that checked in last got called back next, which further increased my physical tension and brought on a new layer of frustration. Another girl that wasn't me was called back, and now I felt angry. It was getting harder to hide my irritation, but I gripped my phone and honed in on instagram hoping that pictures of beaches in paradise and amazingly angelic puppy dogs could bring me back to my baseline. But it wasn't working. All I could think of was showing up late, the whole room of orientees turning around to give a smug and dirty look to the poor soul who showed up late on the first day. What could be worse than that? It didn't stop there. I also had visions of the doors being closed and locked, with no possibility of entering, and being forced to wait 2 weeks until the next round of orientation. Dramatic and catastrophic, right? This demonstrates the problem of thinking the world "should" operate in a particular way. I got there first, I should get seen first. That line of thinking is problematic, because life doesn't always work how we think it "should." But anyways...
The last girl got called back, and by now orientation was about to begin in 5 minutes. I was furious and upset. My passive-aggressive sighs and shifting in my chair were getting harder to hold back. Finally, I went to the desk to ask them if everything was ok, and to let them know I had orientation like everybody else did, and to see how much longer it would take. I wasn't rude, but my cheer and friendliness was definitely gone.
Now for some of you, this may sound entirely trivial. Had someone said that to me at the time I may have snapped. It was the first day of work! And I was going to be at least 20 minutes late. I was also going to miss breakfast, and I hadn't brought anything with me, so now I was picturing being a starving maniac before lunch time, also not a good state of being on the first day. I was livid, and I needed to do something to fix this level of anger before I started to become rude.
I took a deep, long breath and repeated the the following phrases: "I know I will be late, and there's nothing I can do about it at this point. They know where I am because they told me to come before orientation. This is nobody's fault but mine, if I hadn't procrastinated I wouldn't have had to do this this morning. This isn't the end of the world." I continued to breath, trying to relax the tension in my body, repeating the phrases that stuck out the most when the "angry thoughts" started to creep back in. The two that were most helpful? Recognizing that it was past the start time of orientation, I was already late, and there was nothing I could do to change that. Second, focusing on how my actions contributed to what happened. I completely forgot I had to get my TB test, but if I had been more organized and proactive I could have avoided the situation I was in.
Yoga isn't exactly a quick wave a magical wand. I was still frustrated, and I still didn't understand how it came to be that the first person there was the last to be helped, but I was back in control instead of having my emotions running wild. I still felt anxious- I'd never been in the part of the hospital I had to go to, and I'm pretty much directionally impaired, and I don't like walking into a room full of people. But all of that was okay. I didn't need the frustration and anxiety to go away entirely- those are natural emotions and reactions, and breathing and repeating calming phrases was keeping them at a level that wasn't going to interfere with anything.
I managed to get through the TB test and drive to orientation without losing my mind, and as it turned out I wasn't the only one walking in late. Not only that, but the breakfast options weren't anything I would have eaten anyways.
Moral of the story? The thoughts we have in any given situation influence how we feel, which leads to a whole host of emotional, physical, and behavioral reactions. Taking a deep breath and relaxing the body signals to our brain that we are safe and things are okay, which is enough to work on reframing our thoughts to things that are neutral and helpful in choosing how to respond to the situation, as opposed to the thoughts that are reactive and emotionally charged.
Yoga isn't just moving on the mat. It's a big part of it, but the next time you're in a situation where anger and frustration are rising, take some deep breaths, relax your body, and find a few new thoughts that are neutral and serve to lessen your emotions.
I thank the universe every day for yoga, and this day especially, because how bad would it have looked if the new EAP therapist for Riverside went off in the occ health office?!