I began to have trouble breathing about two weeks ago. In and of itself, this wasn’t a huge cause for alarm, given that I’ve had mild asthma ever since I was a child. But in the wider context of a worldwide pandemic, where respiratory issues are a key sign of very bad things to come™, and ventilators have become an everyday topic of conversation, it felt a little more pressing than usual.
To be clear, I didn’t have any other symptoms. No fever, no cough, no body aches that I hadn’t accepted as part of the ageing process, but as each day passed, I started to worry more and more that something was seriously wrong with me.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that this made me feel a million times worse. Every time I felt anything out of the ordinary with my body or my breathing, I would feel a small surge of panic.
In no time I found myself reading the news a little more obsessively, noting the minute fluctuations in my body a little more neurotically, and having daydreams about ventilators and full-body immersion in hand sanitiser, that it’s probably best not get into here.
It wasn’t until I focused on what was actually happening with me, not on what I was imagining, or what was going on in the rest of the world, until I acknowledged that my inhalers were doing their job, that I’d been through this exact same thing many times before, and that I could expect it to clear up in a week or so (it did), that I was able to deal with my symptoms as calmly and easily as I’d been able to in the past.
And given that many of us are dealing with a heightened sense of stress around our health at the moment, I thought it might be useful to share a few of the key insights which helped me to do this.
Suffering is all in the mind.
A lot of people treat this fact as if it’s some sort of “gotcha”. As if pointing out that pain and suffering are in our minds suggests that they are any less real. Or that because they’re “only” in the mind, stopping them is as simple as deciding to do so.
The problem with this line of thinking is that everything is in our minds. Everything we see and feel and experience is happening in our minds, yet we don’t imagine…