Episode 4: Got Anxiety? Transform it with your new secret weapon.

Do you or someone you love have anxiety? You are not alone. Did you know that 40 million adults in the United States are living with anxiety disorders? Let’s break our silence about how anxiety affects our lives. And as we come together you’ll learn how to use a simple technique to shift your anxiety and improve your life. 

You can be free from anxiety; peace is as close as your next breath. 

Our guest, Sarah Gilbert, has bravely shared her personal story with anxiety. You’ll follow along through her early days as a frightened and overwhelmed mom to a newborn with special needs, to her social isolation and health problems, and to how she decided to break her silence and share her story. She’s a special needs advocate, Yoga for the Special Child and Yoga Spirit practitioner, mom to two caring and creative children, and friend to everyone she meets. Listen in on her journey and get inspired as she shares how a simple technique, a deep breath, is her back pocket tool for beating anxiety. 

Here’s your simple tip to begin to shift your anxiety using a deep breath.

  1. Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor

  2. Make sure your body is aligned and well balanced. Find a position where you feel like your skeleton can do the work of holding you up so that your muscles can relax just a little bit.

  3. Inhale deeply and allow your torso to expand with the breath. Think that you are filling up from the inside out, like a balloon. Breath through your nose. If you are congested, no worries, breathe through your mouth. This is your breath; make it comfortable for you.

  4. Exhale fully. Feel your torso relax and deflate like a balloon.

  5. Repeat. On the inhale, imagine you are filling your body with peace, health, joy, or any other word that speaks to your heart.

  6. On the exhale, imagine stress and tension leaving your body.

  7. Continue, with each inhale fill the body with positive messages. Exhale anything you no longer need.

  8. Repeat at least three times.

Remember that you can use this tool anywhere, anytime you need it. The more you practice, the better you’ll feel. Your neurological response to anxiety will change, one deep breath at a time!

Om shanthi, peace to you,


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Full transcript:

Gita: Hi guys and welcome to the Gita Brown show, bringing harmony into everyday life. Get inspired with practical tips for your creativity and spirit. If you're a musician, artist, writer, or just a creative minded soul, you have found your source for inspiration and guidance on Gita. I'm so happy that you're here with me today and I'm so psyched because I have distilled 30 years of teaching and creativity, yoga and wellness, and I have some amazing tips for you today because we are talking about anxiety. In fact, I today I'm going to give you a secret weapon to help you beat anxiety. So I'm guessing if you hit play on this episode is that you or someone you love suffers from anxiety. It's something like 40 million adults in the United States are afflicted with an anxiety disorder of one sort.

Gita: You know, it can be your garden variety, you just have a little burning in the pit of your stomach and you are feeling a little unsettled every day. Or it can literally be life limiting and crippling to the point where you feel isolated and alone. Let me tell you, friend, you are not isolated. You are not alone. And we are here today to not only break the silence about anxiety and how it affects us all, but to give you a practical secret weapon that you can have in your back pocket at all times. So that secret weapon is going to come at the end of the episode. I'm literally going to teach you something that you can start doing today to shift your relationship to anxiety. But you know what? I thought it would be really cool to bring in someone that I have personally witnessed change her relationship to anxiety. When I met this person, she was loving, outgoing and supportive, but kind of walked around with her shoulders up around her ears.

Gita: You could kind of see the anxiety around her a little bit like a cloud. And I've watched her over the past eight years or so completely change her life to the point where anxiety is something that she knows how to deal with instead of the anxiety ruling her. That shift has been profound and I thought why not bring her in and have her tell you guys her story, and at the end she and I can both teach you one easy thing you can do that will become your personal secret weapon to beat your anxiety. You don't have to be ruled by it anymore, my friends, and we are here to help you. So stick around. we are going to take just a short break and then the next segment I'm going to introduce you to this fabulous woman, Sarah Gilbert, a source of inspiration for us all. Stick around. I'll see you on the other side.

Gita: Hey friends, this is the Gita Brown show, bringing harmony into everyday life. Find me online at gitabrown.com and YouTube at Gita Brown. Also on social, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, @GitaCBrown. See you there.

Gita: Hey guys, welcome back. Let's welcome Sarah Gilbert to the show. She's an amazing woman, a tireless advocate for people with special needs, a licensed yoga for the special child practitioner. She is one of my dear friends and she's a licensed yoga for the special child practitioner and a licensed Yoga Spirit practitioner. This lady has experience in marketing management and business management. What else do you do? And she's an advocate for her daughter who has special needs. Macy is a beautiful 13-year-old girl who happens to have Down syndrome and I think Sarah has done just a tremendous job taking all of her business acumen, taking her passion as a parent, and taking everything she's learned also as a yoga practitioner and as a yoga teacher and using that to help influence and inform the community so that Macy can have the best possible life and future.

But you know, all of that is awesome, but I have personally, as I alluded to before the break, seen Sarah change a lot in the past seven and a half years that I've known her. You know, when I met her, all of that joy and passion and love was right there on the surface. You could see it in her dedication to her daughter. But a lot of times when I met her, her shoulders were like up around her ears. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that, but they really were, and I've really seen her change over the last eight years. So I thought how cool would it be for you guys to hear her talk a little bit about how she's changed, why she changed, and of course we are going to give you your back pocket tool that everyone can use to feel a little bit better. So this is where I say full disclosure, I have a lot of love for this woman, people. I teach her daughter, Macy, Yoga for the Special Child and that's how we met.

Sarah: Yes.

Gita: Yay. You can go to my YouTube channel and see videos of little Miss Macy Gilbert doing her yoga practice, and she is truly an amazing Yogini and is training to train to become a yoga teacher herself. So check that out, she's truly a wonder. But that's how I met you. I start teaching your daughter yoga and here we are almost eight years later and you've really changed, lady. You have. And so we were talking the other day about anxiety, how to beat it, and I was sort of asking you about the genesis of really when you realized that anxiety was becoming something that was getting in the way of your life. And you mentioned it was actually the birth of Macy that was kind of that little spark that turned something that had always been simmering and really turned it into like a forest fire where you knew you had to get help. So what was it like for you when that anxiety turned into something you could no longer ignore?

Sarah: That's for sure, I could no longer ignore it. It started controlling my life and my everything, every day, all day. It gnawed away at my stomach. I constantly had a nervous feeling in my stomach. I had a fear that something bad was always going to happen. When my daughter Macy was born with Down syndrome, we didn't know that she was going to have down syndrome until the day she was born. And so that came as a huge shock to my husband and I. Not knowing what to expect, not knowing anything about anything when it came to the world of special needs. And so that's what really fueled my anxiety fire.

Gita: The fear of the unknown.

Sarah: Exactly.

Gita: And combined with that mother's love and want to protect her.

Sarah: Protect. Exactly. So for a long time I soldiered through taking care of my daughter and advocating for her and giving her all the things that she needed in order to be healthy and thrive and all that. But then it got to the point where I really realized that I needed to also take care of myself. And it got to a point where I was able to actually acknowledge that what I was feeling was anxiety. And I needed to do something to fix it and get rid of it because it was just so overwhelming and it was just a huge bummer. it was recommended to me that I start to see a therapist in order to help sort of curb my fears and that feeling of anxiety that I had. So I did that. I also went on medication to help me get through it a little bit, which really did. It took the edge off and it helped me get through my days and I was a happier, more pleasant person to be around.

Gita: Can I back you up for just one sec?

Sarah: Sure.

Gita: I'd love to hear a little bit about what it feels like to be in a body that's experiencing anxiety. Because I know we've talked about this a lot of times people don't even recognize that what they're feeling is not normal or it becomes normalized that, "Oh, that's just the way I am," and they don't recognize that their body is sending them signals that something is awry and that there are potentially ways to change it. It's like these warning signs that we kind of just push past. So what did it feel like before you realized really and called it anxiety, called it for what it was? What did it feel like to be in that body and what did it do to your physical health?

Sarah: Well, I lived day to day from the minute I woke up in the morning until I maybe fell asleep at night, because I was an insomniac. I became an insomniac because this feeling of ... It's almost like having butterflies in my stomach all the time, but not the good, feeling butterflies.

Gita: Not the first kiss butterflies.

Sarah: Right. No, no. Not even close. And almost like just a pit in my stomach and right in the center of my stomach. And it just sort of gnawed away constantly at me. I had sweaty palms all the time, I found my foot was always shaking, I was always tapping my toes. I was very irritable. I was very snippy with people for no particular reason at all. Just things like that. Just really unpleasant. And to the point where people started to call me out on it, and to the point where my health was compromised. I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition. It was an autoimmune thyroid condition that I will deal with for the rest of my life. And they say that major, major stress over long periods of time is probably what brought it on. So who knew? I had no idea.

Gita: Wow. That is profound. Are you listening out there, people? Because I think this is something that particularly, to be a little gender biased, but particularly women, we tend to just sort of put up with it and we just manage things and we just sort of, as you said, we power through, particularly if you're a parent. And we sort of ignore a lot of those warning signs until the body literally in your case screamed at you and said I'm going to make this unignorable at this point.

Sarah: Yes.

Gita: So you get to that point, so now you're on medication. Things are normalizing a little bit for you, and I think that it's like a puzzle piece, right? It sounds like you did a combination of talk therapy and some western pharmaceuticals. And then what other things did you put in? What about your social circle? When you are in the worst moments of the anxiety were you reaching out to people or had you become more insular, and if so, how did that shift for you?

Sarah: I absolutely became more insular. I mean, part of it had to do with the fact that I was learning how to take care of my daughter who had special needs, but that then just sort of became an excuse. But it was really more the anxiety that took over my body and it was just easier for me to just stay home, not talk to people. Yeah, I really insulated myself. My social circle became very small and it was lonely. It was very isolating and very lonely. And until, like you said, my body was just screaming at me, because up until that point I never lived my life like that. I was a very social person. I was very involved in the community, and before I had children I worked. I was motivated. And all of those things just sort of disappeared. My motivation, my wanting to be with my friends and my family and the people I cared about the most, But that all kind of went away. And when I finally realized that something definitely needed to shift.

Sarah: So I did. I went the talk therapy route, which is, which was wonderful, and the medication route, which is what I needed at the time. And then as time went on and life goes on and life continues to throw curve balls at you, it happens in everyone's lives. And also to watch the connection between Macy and you working together over so many years and practicing yoga. And yoga becoming something in my daughter's life that was so meaningful and was so therapeutic for her and it helped her immeasurably in ways that I never would have imagined. And although it took me a few years, the light finally went off in my head at a time when I really needed it most, another curve ball had been thrown at me in my life and I realized that maybe I needed to do something really from within to really get at the core of why anxiety was such a present part of who I was. And so I then turned to yoga.

Gita: Aha. So pause for a moment before we get more into yoga and some specific techniques, because I can just reflect back to you a little bit about what I saw sort of changing. When I met you you were very focused on your daughter obviously. That was the focus, focus, focus. And I remember after many classes I would think, "This woman must think I'm a crazy person," because I would sit there, and Macy was very patient, she would go off and play with instruments. She was still a little kid then. She wasn't a teenager. She'd go off in the corner and play with little pianos and drums. Remember that?

Sarah: Yes.

Gita: And you and I would talk.

Sarah: Yes.

Gita: And I would do all of these crazy yoga poses that Macy had done in the class and I was explaining the benefits to you. "This is going to help her core strength. This will help improve oxygenation to her muscles, " and on and on and on and on like that. And you were wonderful and patient and listened to it all. So many times I'd be in the middle of a yoga pose, Macy over there playing the drums and Sarah sort of in her chair nodding at me, sipping her coffee. And I'm thinking, "This woman must think I'm nuts." But clearly things were sort of filtering through there. And my point here is really for those of you listening who are maybe at that tipping point and feel a little bit isolated and alone, that you did something really crucial in that moment that I want to highlight, is that you were still open, even though you had perhaps become a little bit insular and part of you had still sort of closed off and just you're really in survival mode. Because your nervous system at that point you're in fight or flight.

Sarah: Absolutely.

Gita: You feel like you are being chased and you are about to die. I've had panic attacks myself and even though you know it's not rational, you feel as though you are about to die. It doesn't matter if it's rational or not, so you were living in that state. But even though you were in that state, you still took in lots of new information. You took in information from your primary care physician. You took in information from your psychologist or your therapist. You took in information from this crazy yoga lady who was over there on the floor doing all these poses. You were open.

Gita: So for anyone listening who is at that sort of tipping point where they feel like, "I don't know what it is that's going to shift this for me," I think that's a great takeaway. Just be open to things because you never know what crazy idea is going to be the one that's going to hook you and be the tipping point for you. It may be yoga, it may be meditation, it may be talk therapy, it may be something we haven't even mentioned here, but as long as you're open and curious there is a possibility to change. It doesn't have to stay this way. So you found yoga?

Sarah: Yes.

Gita: And there's lots that we can say about yoga. Just keep on following me, people. Hop on over to my website, there's tons of information about yoga there. But there's one thing specifically I know I've heard you say for years in yoga that you're like, "Oh, that's the thing. That's my go-to. I love that." What is the thing in yoga that you think helped you, as you say, shift from the inside out? Changed your relationship to anxiety a little bit?

Sarah: What I found when I started practicing yoga was that breathing, the breathing exercises and the breathing techniques that I learned, were everything to me. And they still are to this day. Breathing is a way where you can calm that horrible pit you have in your stomach or the shallow breathing you're feeling because you're so fearful or nervous about something. It's something you can do quietly to yourself. You can do it driving in the car. I could do it sitting right here while I was listening to Gita talk.

Gita: Maybe perhaps we're going to do that.

Sarah: It's something that you can literally use anywhere at any time and it has saved me. It is my number one tool. It is the one thing that I will never teach a yoga class without focusing a lot on breath, because for me it's like a lifesaver. And you really can feel when you regulate your breath or when you take that deep breath in or you use some technique that you are taught. You can feel the change from the inside out and it just makes you a more pleasant person to be around. I'm saying that only about myself of course.

Gita: I can't imagine her being anything less than pleasant. But yes, we have our moments, don't we?

Sarah: Yes, yes.

Gita: But I think this is profound what you're saying, this change from the inside out, because so many times, my friends, when we're anxious, we feel like we have to fix our mind. We think we're broken and we have to fix something, a thought pattern. But when you're in that fight or flight moment, it's not always possible to change a thought pattern. So if you come at it from the breath, your mind can still be running in those thought loops, but by altering the breath you alter the chemistry of the body, which affects the brain patterns. So you don't have to change your mind to become less anxious to take a deep breath. You can come at it in through the body and the breath and that changes the mind. People tend to think of it's all brain first, but you can come at it through the body and then the brain goes, "Oh, you mean I'm not being chased by a saber-toothed tiger? Perhaps I could actually relax a little bit."

Gita: So we're going to do this little back pocket tool right now. You gave a great plug for it. You can take it anywhere with you, nobody has to know you're doing it. It's yours and yours alone. It's as unique as your fingerprint and everyone has a different pattern. So I just want to give you a few quick benefits to this breathing stuff we're talking about and then we're going to lead you through just a short, simple exercise. And don't worry if you're driving a car listening to this, you can do it while you're driving. It's totally fine. So a deep breath, obviously it calms your racing mind, but did you also know it will give you more oxygen to your brain? I think that's kind of a good thing, more oxygen in your brain. And it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of your nervous system that's responsible for you resting and digesting and relaxing a little bit.

Gita: So instead of being in this fight or flight mode where you feel like your life is about to end, your body goes into an automatic calmer state. You literally are changing, as you said, from the inside out. Your blood pressure decreases. Do this before your next blood pressure test. Every time, the nurse asks me, "Do you meditate? Do you do yoga?" So let's do it right now. So wherever you are, we're just going to take some deep breaths and I'm going to give you some ideas of how to take this little tool and maybe expand it in your life in ways that you can work on it. So we're just going to do it together.

Gita: Wherever you are, my friends, if you're standing or sitting here and laying down, get comfy. Make sure you're kind of aligned a little bit, where your head is kind of relaxed and your shoulders are relaxed. Sometimes it can help to wiggle a little bit and just get rid of any tension. And you can just think of your torso now as being a little bit like a very relaxed balloon. Not a tight balloon but a very soft balloon. And when you inhale you're just going to fill yourself up with breath, and when you exhale you're just going to let that deflate. Simple, right?

Sarah: Simple as that.

Gita: We're going to guide a couple, like three breaths, but know that everyone has a different breathing pattern. So if your breath doesn't match ours, it doesn't matter. It's not important to match the inhales and exhales as it is for you to find whatever your deep breath is. I'm just going to guide some now because I'm the one in charge of the show. So wherever you are just sit nice and relaxed. If you can today, breathe through your nose. If you're too stuffed up, breathe through your mouth. It doesn't matter. Let's just take a nice gentle inhale and then you can just slowly exhale and let that body just sort of feel like it's deflating a little bit. Pause in the in-between and then inhale and feel your body opening and filling with that nice breath, sending that oxygen to the body. Then exhale, releasing any stress and tension. Take another deep breath in. Fill that body with peace or joy. And exhale, stress, tension, fatigue.

Gita: Let's just do one more together. Whatever your own pace is, you just take that nice inhale, fill your body with positive energy. Exhale. Let everything relax and release. Now imagine doing that while you're laying down listening to a very relaxing piece of music for 10 minutes. How different you would feel. Or imagine sitting on a park bench after your lunch break and gazing at a beautiful tree and just doing that 10 times. Or in your car after you get to your destination, instead of rushing right in, sit for a moment, take three deep breaths and then go inside. Imagine doing that before speaking to your husband, your wife or partner. When you want to react, stop and take a deep breath and then react from that space. Life can change, right?

Sarah: Absolutely.

Gita: You look like you're zenned out. She looks like she took a Valium right there. So this is your secret weapon to beat anxiety. I use it. Miss Sarah Gilbert uses it and her beautiful daughter, Miss Macy Gilbert for sure uses it.

Sarah: Absolutely.

Gita: So she goes into a trance in her yoga class during the breathing parts, she's somewhere else. So remember that you have this at all times. If you want more instruction, of course you can always hop over to my website. I've got a lot more videos there. You can find a meditation teacher to teach you this, a wonderful yoga teacher like Sarah. You can go to a wellness center nearby. I believe you work out of Whitman Wellness Center, correct?

Sarah: Yes, yes.

Gita: So you can find yoga teachers all over who will teach you how to breathe in a way that works for you. And of course there's many more advanced techniques, but it's simple, people. Take a deep breath and start to shift your relationship to anxiety. So that's your homework, take deep breaths. Comment, let me know how it's going, please. And just remember you're not alone. Anxiety is not an easy thing to deal with. It can be very isolating and debilitating, but we've got them, don't we?

Sarah: We sure do

Gita: We've got them. And there are yoga teachers and people all over the world who have your back. Therapists, counselors, doctors. Start reaching out today. You are not alone and you can just take a deep breath and feel connected to us. So we're going to close with a little chant for peace because we're yoginis and that's how we roll. I'll give you the English translation after, my friends. So let's do our little chant for peace.

Gita and Sarah: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Gita: May the entire universe, and you my friend, and you my dear friend, Sarah Gilbert, and Macy be filled with peace and joy and love and light. Om Shanti. Peace to you. Now my friends, if you liked this episode please leave a comment wherever you are watching or listening. Leave a rating and please hop on over to find me at gitabrown.com. I have tons more information there for you. Lots more information. Lots of videos too on anxiety, because there are so many episodes we could do on this. So please know that you're not alone. We're connected, we're here for you. And please follow me also on social, @GitaCBrown. And check out those videos of Miss Macy doing yoga on Youtube. Just go to my YouTube, Gita Brown, and look up Miss Macy. You will find them. She's truly a wonder and an inspiration. So thank you so much, Sarah.

Sarah: Thank you, Gita.

Gita: For sharing your story. Really, really powerful. And thank you, thank you, thank you. And please, she's a wonderful yoga teacher, so go find her. Thanks everybody for watching. Take good care. Om Shanthi. Peace

Sarah: Om Shanthi.

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