This week, I quit going to a counselor to talk about the anxiety I experience every time I read or hear the name of our President in the media or in conversation with friends. Talking to her was calming and I found some of her relaxation techniques — all of which I knew about, but never actually tried — helpful.
I decided not to see her again for three reasons. First, she’s hearing the same symptoms from many of her clients, has experienced them herself, and is running out of suggestions for solutions that don’t involve moving abroad. Second, I’m spending too many hours of my life at appointments, from physical therapy to chiropractic to pedicures. (And no, I’m not giving up the pedicures.) Third, I think I’ve found something better, namely putting my body through exercise hell, which forces me to focus exclusively on the pain and ignore politics.
I have enrolled in many fitness classes over the years. In my head I am still able to jump high, run fast, lift fifty pound weights, hike to the top of Mt. Si, and cross-country ski for miles and miles. These days, I am always shocked to find out that I can’t do any of these things.
This should explain my reaction when a trainer at my local Y suggested I try their “Chair Fitness” class. Chair fitness? Really? This woman and I took an impossibly difficult exercise class together years ago. Admittedly, she was much younger and stronger — and a bit of a show off — but I forgave her for besting me in every exercise drill because of her youth.
She handed me the class schedule and I took it from her with more enthusiasm than I felt, then crumpled it up when I got home. A few weeks later I thought about her recommendation again. Currently, all I do for exercise is walk. And I find I am having trouble carrying the hundred pound bag of groceries that the teenage box girl hands to me with a smirk and says, “Have a nice day,” which really means, “I dare you to get this one all the way to your car.”
Two weeks ago, I walked into Chair Fitness and glanced smugly at my new classmates, all of whom seemed downright elderly. One of them advised me to pick up my weights, ball and resistance band before we got started and to put some distance between myself and the person next to me so we wouldn’t be hitting each other. This sounded wilder than I expected.
Since then I’ve attended four Chair Fitness classes and two Chair Yoga sessions. These have disabused me of any thoughts that they are for wusses. We spend a lot of time out of our chairs and even when we’re sitting, we’re still moving all our body parts. And all mine are sore.
Anyone who’s practiced yoga is familiar with the tree pose. We do this standing behind our chairs, which are there to grab on to if we need them. The instructor says this pose is known to reduce anxiety since it calls for our complete attention. If our minds wander we fall. There is no way to do the pose successfully and think about national politics or anything else going on in our lives.
If I cannot sleep tonight I hope it will be from muscle pain instead of anxiety, though the email I just got from a friend about our president did raise the anxiety level. Maybe I also need to stop reading emails.