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The Epiphany My Panic Attack Gave Me About Letting Things Go


This morning as I was driving to my job to teach yoga to elementary school students, I had a panic attack. I had to pull my car onto the shoulder and, while trying to control my hyperventilating, texted my colleagues to apologize and let them know I wouldn’t be making it in to teach today.

I’m not entirely sure what brought on the panic attack, but likely it’s the stress of working two jobs and trying to juggle all of the duties those jobs entail, while also raising my youngest son, who is still at home with me half of the time.

Recently, I took a job as an admin at a busy architecture firm for a few important reasons: the main one being health insurance. When my divorce becomes final, I will be without health insurance as my job as a yoga teacher is as an independent contractor. Without going into politics and how I feel about the limited access to health care in the United States, I will just say the situation has caused me a great deal of stress and worry. I also took the second job so I can earn enough to support myself as a single woman living in the increasingly unaffordable Bay Area, where I have spent my entire life.

I thought I was managing. I thought I was getting it all done and doing a decent job of taking care of everything on my plate. Today, the realization I might actually be doing a crappy job at all of them hit me like a ton of bricks after I dropped my son at school, checked in to the office for an hour and then headed to my teaching gig.

The irony in all of this is that the theme I’m teaching my yoga students this week is aparigraha — the practice of non-grasping. I have been talking to my students about learning how to let go of feelings and thoughts, and even tangible things, that aren’t serving us. We’ve talked about the importance of releasing the negative feelings, the grudges and the stress of living in the past and the future, rather than in the present moment.

It all makes perfect sense when you think about it. Truly, it’s great lesson for my students, but it’s also a lesson I need right now, maybe even more than my students. Perhaps it’s time for me to stop talking about these things and start living them.

Sure, that’s easier said than done, but I suppose realizing what I need to do is the first step. And taking stock of what I have been grasping at and holding onto is the most important thing on my to-do list right now. So in the spirit of practicing what I preach, here is what I need to learn to let go of:

  • The shame of my husband leaving me.
  • The worry that I’m not doing a good enough job at everything in my life.
  • The constant thoughts that I am not: moving on fast enough from my divorce, making enough money to support myself and my kids, able to access health insurance, being a good parent to my children.
  • The idea that something I did caused my husband to cheat on me right under my nose.
  • The shame I have about perhaps not making the right or most rational decisions in my divorce.
  • The belief I am a fraud.
  • The belief I am not good enough.
  • Living everywhere but the present moment.

The panic attack has subsided, my breathing has returned to normal and I’m not feeling as terrified. It’s probably time to start checking things off that list.

Getty image by Grandfailure