Many people in today’s world struggle with chronic anxiety and stress. The youth are no exception.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking to a mother-son duo who had firsthand experience with my program, Breathwork for Anxiety. They’ve given me permission to share their story of how it helped the son go from chronically stressed to being able to find his center whenever he needs to.
A Lifetime of Anxiety
19-year-old Sam is finishing up his first year of college, where he’s studying Engineering. He admits to always having anxiety — to the point where he’d experience painful physical symptoms (though it wasn’t until our conversation that he put two and two together.)
“I mean, I've always kind of had this anxiety thing. I get very tense and everything just becomes pretty confusing. I guess my mom would obviously notice that. If she's asking me questions, I just don't really know what to answer. I'm just kind of all over the place. But I feel like she has always kind of sensed that thing. My feet would curl up and end up cramping up like muscle cramps. I guess that would be a physical symptom of the anxiety.”
He admits that it was during the latter half of his high school career that his anxiety started to intensify.
“I would say my junior/senior year of high school where I was taking harder classes. I was feeling like I had to do everything. I felt like everything I do affects my future and I was having to make big decisions. I tend to get stressed out very easily. I put a lot of responsibility on myself to do everything quickly. I'm kind of the opposite of a procrastinator, where I'll rush to do everything as soon as possible rather than later. So I guess that's kind of how I usually feel. I just try to do it all at once, then have it all done. That can get overwhelming.”
Starting College in a New Country...During a Pandemic
When it came time to choose which college he wanted to attend, Sam made the choice to head to England — which is a long journey from his home in Burbank, California. He admits that he’s struggled a bit with that decision
“I don't feel like I regret it. But it was a lot of feelings kinda like regret. Like “Should I have stayed there? Should I have stayed with my friends?”
To make matters more challenging, he also began his college career during the middle of the pandemic in September of 2020.
“It definitely wasn’t like the experience it was supposed to be. I knew it was gonna be mostly online. But it’s all kind of changed.”
A Mom Looking for a Solution
Sam had been talking to his parents, who were still back home in California, about how he was doing. His mom, Debbie, felt concerned about how he was adjusting and about how he was coping with the stress.
“When he went over to college, it was right in the middle of the pandemic, so it was not a normal freshman experience for him. As soon as he got there, he had to quarantine for 14 days. Nobody is there other than his grandparents. And then, when he went to college, they had to isolate in their rooms for another 14 days. That, in and of itself, is anxiety-provoking.”
Debbie actually teaches breathwork and had done a bit of breathwork with Sam in the past. She believed that it could be really helpful for him during this new chapter in his life.
“He's had an experience with me, in that he did it once or twice and had a really positive experience when he needed to move emotions. But it wasn't something that he necessarily wanted to do with me, because I'm his mom.
At the time, I'd heard about your program, and I thought “You know what? I'm just gonna buy it for him for Christmas, and I'm going to gift it to him. Obviously, he knows the benefits. It will be up to him when he chooses to use it.”
A Temporary Respite from Anxiety Followed by a Crisis
Despite having already purchased Breathwork for Anxiety as a Christmas gift, it wasn’t until February that Debbie gave it to her son.
“He came home at Christmas and he was in a really good place because his vacation was extended, he was seeing all his friends, and he was back with us. He was not suffering the anxieties of college. So I didn't actually give it to him, because I didn't want to present it to him and say “Oh, you're anxious. So have this”.
To cut a long story short, he went back to college in February and within two days, he was calling me saying “Mom, I think I've made a big mistake” All these anxieties were coming up again. He was isolated and very under pressure because he's doing an engineering degree.”
Breathwork to the Rescue
Debbie decided this was the perfect opportunity to present Sam with Breathwork for Anxiety. She believed that it would help him develop the tools he needs to manage his emotions and not be triggered by outside events — especially since she and his father couldn’t just swoop in to save him.
She presented it to him, explaining how she thought it would help him, and then let him decide whether he would use it. Sam admits that he didn’t really know what to expect, but he tried it and actually enjoyed it.
“I was slightly apprehensive at first because she sends a lot of reading material and stuff. Sometimes a lot of it is a little bit overwhelming. But I thought I would give it a go and ended up really liking it and finding it really helped.”
Throughout the course of the 7-day program, they would chat about how he was doing with it. After day 1, Sam told Debbie that it was really good and that he felt a bit better. By the time she checked in with him on day 3 with a reminder to do that day’s meditation, he told her he’d already done it. What’s more, he said it was great, that his mind was clear, and that he looked forward to doing them because he knew they would help him get out of his head.
Talking about his experiences opened up a dialogue between the mother and son pair about the whys behind his anxiety. Not surprisingly, Sam had been thinking hard about the future — and that was at the center of his anxiety. He was constantly worrying about what came next. Not just the immediate future, but months and years down the road.
“He was trying to go way too far in the future to look at “Oh, my God, have I made the right decision? Is this for me? Do I need to change now? What am I going to do about our accommodation next year? What if I don't find the people that I like to live with? All of these things were just spinning in his head.
Breathwork for Anxiety took him out of his head, into his body, and allowed him to just let it go just for a little bit. And that was enough for him to have a shift so that he could sit in a place of actually being able to work out what he wanted to do. To give him something to support himself to move through when he was in that space.”
A Tool to Last a Lifetime
To this day, Sam still revisits the guided meditations to help him get grounded.
“I still go back and do some of the ones when I feel like I've got too much stuff. I find it really helps. I'll just set a timer and be like “After I've done this, I'll take half an hour”. I know a couple of the ones specifically, like the one where you empty everything out in your head. I really liked that one. And the one where you tense and relax your body. [With] those two, I feel like I've cleared everything out and I can reset and go back into it.”
He’s even noticed that he’s using some of the tools he’s learned from the program in his day-to-day life, like having the awareness of when his body’s starting to tense up. He’s able to bring himself back to a state of calm without having to go back to the guided meditations.
“If my mind just starts going, then sometimes I'll just hit pause on the lecture, and then I take a minute, take a few breaths, and I start to feel calm.“
Sam got so much value from Breathwork for Anxiety that he even recommended it to his close circle of friends.
“I did actually post about it on my personal Instagram. I was like “If anyone struggles with anxiety this is a good meditation course”. No one replied to my story, but I’m sure people looked into it.”
When asked about the biggest thing he’s learned about himself through Breathwork for Anxiety, here’s what Sam had to say:
“I definitely learned that I can do it by myself and bring myself [to a calm state more]. I learned that I could do that by myself just laying down — taking a moment — and it doesn't take that long to really just kind of reset. And it's easier to go back into doing stuff rather than back-to-back and just piling everything on. I really like it, to be honest.”
I’m so grateful that Sam and Debbie shared their story with me — and that Sam is able to use the tools I teach in Breathwork for Anxiety to reclaim a sense of calm in his life.
Is there a young person in your life that you think could benefit from learning how to manage their anxiety? Learn more about Breathwork for Anxiety to see if it might be a good fit for them.
I’d love to hear what you think. Share your thoughts with me in my facebook page!