Moving Beyond Chasing Symptoms: Shift Your Focus Function to Enhance Your Healing

When I was 37 I had so many exciting changes in my life. I quit my last independent contracting job in the city to finally work full time on my own Physical Therapy practice. My partner and I were in that blissful and unmooring phase of our new relationship- and we split time between his beautiful apartment in the city and my place in sleepy Marin. We had just adopted a rescue pup we were both enamored with.

And yet, for the first time in my life, I could not sit still. When I would try to sit for my morning meditation, I would not be able to focus. When I tried to draw deeper breaths, it felt claustrophobic. and choppy.

I chalked these symptoms up to anxiety from all of the change in my life. I kept thinking of that stress scale- moving divorce, death. A new puppy, new relationship, new business had to be up there too? Outside of a couple of brief episodes during athletic events, I had never really experienced anxiety. I doubled down on my meditation practice and yoga postures for de-escalating the sympathetic nervous system. I cut down on coffee and other stimulating foods.

One Saturday, during this time, my good friend Georgia and I went with Andy and one of his friends to ride Tamarancho mountain bike trail, right near our place. It was a goal of ours for the year, and we had been riding pretty consistently and working on our fitness to do it.

On the climb, I lagged behind the others, feeling winded and low on energy. I was so short of breath, I couldn’t draw deep breaths. We all thought this was anxiety about the more technical switchbacks and roots. When we got to the top of the first set of switchbacks, I was shaking and couldn’t draw deep breaths. I felt so bone weary, I couldn’t imagine going on.

We decided I should go back, and Andy walked back with me, pushing our bikes until we got back to the trailhead and could ride the roads home.