Letting the Emotions Pass, a Horse-Girl’s Perspective on Anxiety in (and out) of the Show-Ring

This will be the title of my second book.

But, on the edge of my current emotion, a little peace, a little excitement, a can of Pepsi, (I drink 2 a day right now. Sponsorship?) I thought I’d type out the thoughts I had while cooling my horse off from a good cross-country school.

A few days ago, I was scrolling through Instagram, and I saw one of those quotes from “E News,” or something like that, from a celebrity talking about mental health? The quote essentially said, you know the way I handle my emotions is knowing they are temporary. I was recently reading this great book on Break-Ups (Why? I haven’t been in a relationship in years…) at the beach this summer, and it touched on some really similar themes.

Essentially, (because I think we’re all 10% apart from one another and you may relate) when I suffer from anxiety, or sadness, many times I spiral. The initial “feelings” which start as a little uncomfortable, get bigger and bigger. The uncomfortable-ness which at first may have started with tensing my shoulders, feeling tight in my lungs, become overwhelmingly uncomfortable, crying, heavy-breathing, you feel it. Even if you aren’t in touch with the bodily effects of the “bad” feelings, you subconsciously feel bad to worse. Why? There are real, chemical reactions snapping. And this is where my science lecture ends.

Why do they spiral? In the moment, the “feelings,” at least I tell myself, feel so real. I don’t see them as short-lived. I fear the worst. In those moments, I fear that the initial discomfort will stay. So, I don’t see the way out of the emotion that I feel, and some form of panic ensues. Maybe to the outside eye, it’s not a visual panic, but a subconscious panic that snaps even more brain reactions! And when I say brain reactions, I mean a flood of chemicals. Are you following?

Scientifically, an “emotion” should last about 90-seconds. The chemical-snaps, you feel it, then unless you keep re-stimulating the circuit, it ends.

In some of my own research and reading, apparently there is some link to the way you learned to cope as a child to the coping mechanisms you use as an adult.

90-seconds, isn’t that long guys. That’s a minute and a half.

In both my personal life and in the middle of competitions I’m trying to implement strategies that cut the circuit on negative emotions. It’s not necessarily removing them, and I think they’re good to have. Your body is telling you something, but in the moment I can feel it, know that for a minute and a half I can feel uncomfortable, and then I change my setting. It might be from one room to another, a shower, a walk, this crazy deep breathing “thing” the breakup book told me about, or I call a friend. Something, to get a new healthy chemical circuit started. I even find comfort knowing that some of the initial discomfort I have is from a physiological response, and implement strategies to turn on a different response.

LOL, brain science. This isn’t something crazy new. You know, when you’re sad, you should call a friend. If you’re nervous, take a deep breath. These are things we’ve been told, but adding a level of science to the process, I “think” I can become more self-aware to unravel the hold anxiety has taken on both my day-to-day life and in the ring.

You know, I had some trouble this spring when I quite literally started panicking on cross-country. Oh my gosh, I thought it was the end. I bawled to my Dad, that’s not a good sign. You know I invested a lot, at least more than anyone would recommend someone of my financial status, on the training, the little horse, and myself to “fix” it. Several months later, I’m back on cross-country, really enjoying the ride. 100% worth it. That process alone, we came back, it’s fine. I may have ridden a B- to B-Average today, while my gem of a horse skipped around happily, but the normal terror of a mistake wasn’t there. Ugh, a little annoyance, that was uncomfortable. Good, I need to feel a little uncomfortable with myself if I make a poor jumping decision. And that uncomfortableness, maybe it brings attention to my position or a need to schedule an extra jump lesson before my competition. Then, the uncomfortable feeling can pass, and I can move on.

Socially, I say all things that aren’t horse-stained, “social,” I have two, well three topics of anxiety. (I feel comfortable sharing 2.) One revolves around a loneliness and seperate-ness from where I feel a successful southern late-20s should be, ex. I don’t have invites to fun brunches in the city every weekend, and the next is that the reason I don’t yet have a large diamond on my hand is because my own “self” is not good-enough at the skills to develop a relationship. (Ok, still deep stuff.) Ok, those are some deep things, maybe a bit deeper than choosing a long-distance to a jump. But, the science is still there. The emotions and circuit still can be cut off.

Perhaps, the intial “feeling” indicates something. Well yeah, I kindof find other women terrifying, why don’t I invest in some of my closer friendships that are more fulfilling. Yea, you know creating the fake phone number to see if that really toxic guy would text back before texting me back, was not a healthy skill. Don’t do that. But ok, 90-seconds commence, feel it, then go run, go dance in your living room, or that breathing thing. CUT THE CIRCUIT.

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