Last week I was at a conference in Ottawa that began with a blessing by Elder Dan Ross. He ended with telling us a story, originally told by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai, about a hummingbird.
To summarize - there is a forest fire and all of the animals stand by, transfixed by the enormity of it all, and the hummingbird comes along. She says she is going to do something about the fire and heads over to the nearest stream to take a drop of water. Looking on, the animals say ‘what do you think you’re doing – your beak is too small, the fire is too big, and you are too little.’
Without wasting any time, the hummingbird turns to the other animals and says 'I’m doing the best I can.'
At a time in my life where I feel overwhelmed and completely bombarded, this was a good reminder. I am certainly guilty of forgetting to pause and take note of what I have achieved, how I have grown, what I have overcome and all of the other amazing aspects of my life. I have learnt that this
particular difficult season has been exhausting, creating an opening for anxiety to creep in and hijack my brain. Having never really experienced anxiety before, it took me awhile to identify and understand it – giving it more control and therefore what seems like an endless cycle of waking up to a tight chest, nausea, overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, panic and worst of all – a loss of sense of self.
I was learning to deal with it, tricks to alleviate any anxiety-inducing factors in my life and then I experienced a new, even worse kind this week. While in Ottawa, I started to overthink every single thing I said, each interaction I had, every expression and thought. At a place where I feel the most confident – discussing the power of sport philanthropy with my peers – was where I started to feel unsure of myself. Anxiety took me to a place where I questioned my career – my passion – and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I can’t describe what it feels like to have your brain go to a place where you start to believe that everything you have built and worked so unbelievably hard towards was all for nothing, except to say that I felt shattered.
I’ve been told that one of the best tricks for dealing with anxiety is to turn your attention away from your brain and towards your body, your senses. Fortunately for me, at the end of the second day Elder Dan was back to close the conference and reminded us of the hummingbird, which inspired me and was distracting enough for those thoughts to start to slip away. When my brain went back to the thoughts of uncertainty, I focused on my body – my heart – that was, as I like to say, feeling jazzed. I was now excited about the potential from the past two days, not defeated.
I do not like this year. I have been tested emotionally, professionally, mentally, physically, and personally. As I sat on the train ride home from Ottawa, contemplating the rollercoaster of thoughts that had taken over in the short 28 hours between Elder Dan’s opening and closing remarks, I was grateful that I had learned to identify the difference between real and hijacked thoughts. I also couldn’t help but think to myself, that some day, somewhere, I will speak about 2018, and that despite how hard it was, I was a hummingbird and did the best I could.