About Joanna Ciolek

Joanna Ciolek is a self-taught artist, recovering self-critic, and a firm believer in the healing and transformative powers of mindfulness. She runs a free 20-week mindfulness & self-discovery workshop. She is also the author The Art Of Untangling, a writing journal/coloring book for deeper self-inquiry, healing and transformation! Follow Joanna on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Move Your Body, Calm Your Mind: 5 Practices That Help Ease Anxiety

“Get out of your head and get into your body. Think less and feel more.” ~Osho   Do you want to meditate but the idea of sitting with your thoughts for twenty minutes gives you anxiety? Or maybe meditation seems like one more task you have to add to your ever growing to-do list, so you take a pass? As a working mother of three, I’m no stranger to daily stress and routine overwhelm. Life in the twenty-first century can be pretty hectic, especially for busy moms, and so many of us search for practical ways to minimize the stress and anxiety that are so common in our society. Meditation seems like a perfect solution. It’s “easy,” accessible, and it’s good for our health, both mental and physical. It reduces stress and improves emotional regulation, concentration, and sleep. It helps us develop more kindness and compassion, for others and ourselves. Sounds like a perfect cure. Except it’s hard. It can feel like a chore or a time thief. And it often triggers our fears and anxieties, especially if we have a history of trauma we’re still healing.  So why not adjust the traditional meditation practice to reflect our modern lifestyle and constrictions? Why not mimic the practice of mindfulness while moving your body? Instead of sitting still, why not focus on gentle, repetitive movements that are enjoyable, all while reaping the benefits of mindfulness? Believe me, you can have it both ways. I am a Type A person. I am driven, full of energy and ambition. I’m competitive, over-scheduled, and always on the go. And I don’t have much patience, or time to kill. Sitting still for twenty minutes is often the last thing I want to do. Another hurdle for me was anxiety, which often peaked when I opened up to my internal world of thoughts and feelings, as one does while sitting in meditation. I do better now, but in the first year of practice I often felt triggered and overwhelmed—precisely the opposite of what I was going for. This is common for people with trauma or chronic pain. We tend to numb, distract, or ignore distressing sensations in order to make it through the day. Mindfulness requires the opposite of such disassociation. When sitting in meditation, I was to focus on and “befriend” my body, along with the residue of trauma still lodged in it. Despite my best intentions I would become fidgety and agitated instead. Noticing my pain, both physical and emotional, seemed to increase it. I’d find myself trying to resist it, run from it, beat myself up for not being able to just “observe” my experience, and then criticize myself for beating myself up. It was a vicious cycle. I understood that the goal was to learn to be with my experience, and it did get easier over time, but often it was too much to handle. Needless to say, I’ve searched for alternative ways to meditate, ones that [...]

2018-11-15T19:05:38+00:00 By |

3 Tools That Can Help You Calm Your Mind and Let Go of Anxiety

“I vow to let go of all worries and anxiety in order to be light and free.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh  I've struggled with anxiety throughout my life. A difficult childhood and my highly sensitive personality meant I grew into an anxious kid—there was just too much pain and emotional overwhelm for my young brain to handle. My anxiety most often manifested as perfectionism and people pleasing, so from the outside everything seemed great. I excelled in school and I was a good kid who did as she was told. But there was a war inside me. I felt broken, unable to navigate these huge feelings of fear and uncertainty on my own. Full of negativity and self-criticism, I felt like an outsider, misunderstood by the world, scared and alone. Over the years, as I stuffed down these feelings of inadequacy and isolation, I internalized the belief that somehow I was not good enough, that there was something inherently wrong with me. Afraid of being found out, ridiculed, and humiliated, I became invisible. I masked my fears, shame, and feeling rejected with arrogance. I became rigid and controlling. I was super hard on myself. I felt restless, angry, and defective even more. In denial about all of this until my late thirties, my children finally cracked me open. Motherhood was full of its own challenges, and my perfectionism shifted into high gear—the image of a wonderful, ever caring, ever patient mother was front and center. Hell bent on giving my children everything I was missing growing up, I put an enormous amount of pressure and responsibility on myself. The stress was too high and I started breaking down. I began to unravel. Anxiety happens in the presence of danger you can't do anything about. Fear is a healthy and helpful response when you're in an immediate danger. It alerts us and mobilizes us into action. But if you're safe at home thinking about something that might happen or something that happened long time ago, you're suffering needlessly. Anxiety can show up in many ways and on many levels: physically, emotionally, and mentally. For me, it's being negative and super critical of myself—my anxious voice telling me I'm messed up not good enough, inherently wrong. I get easily stressed and overwhelmed. I become a perfectionist; I get restless, on edge. I'm unable to relax, sleep, focus. I'm so caught up in my head with worries that I'm not present, I'm not there for people who matter most. My chest is tight, my arms and legs tingly, headache and backache show up unannounced. And then I reject how it feels, wanting it to do away—my resistance only making things worse. Fear feeds on itself. I feel broken, I feel shame, and so I disconnect from others. Depression kicks in. I get stuck. 3 Steps Toward Healing Anxiety Anxiety is often embedded deep into the subconscious, especially if there is a history of childhood trauma or neglect. Past events [...]

2018-04-17T05:13:22+00:00 By |