Today I’m going to address a topic that is out of my usual realm. You might ask what qualifies me to talk about anxiety, and my answer is absolutely nothing. I feel some form of anxiety on a daily basis, but nothing like the debilitating panic attacks I’ve observed in my husband. I studied anxiety as part of my training as a massage therapist many years ago, have taken a course in mental health first aid, and as a yoga instructor I teach people to be present in their bodies and breathe. I have done extensive self study on managing thoughts, emotions and directing actions. But, I’m not a doctor or psychologist, and anxiety is a medical condition that may require treatment to address a chemical imbalance in the brain.
So, before we go any further, I want you to take 10 breaths. Observe each inhale and exhale, how it moves
your body. Count them as you move
through each breath cycle. Now
intuitively answer this question: “Do I need medical attention for my
anxiety?” Go with the first thing that
comes to your mind. If your answer was
yes, get your phone and make that phone call now. There is no shame in getting treatment for a
medical condition. If your arm was
broken, would you be arguing with me about booking an appointment?
Still with me? Let’s drive on then. I just want to clarify that this is an
opinion that I have about anxiety.
Please feel free to disagree, and stop reading if you wish. But, this post was keeping me up last night,
asking me to give it a voice. I usually
try to honor this type of urge to create, so I’m coming to you from a sincere
place, but like I said, not my usual thang.
I’m going to cycle back to my own experience with anxiety. I think I got my version of anxiety from
observing my parents anxiety. I would
describe it as low to mid level. It is a
generalized feeling of doom, dread, insecurity and fear. I have had times in my life where I barely
slept more than 3 hours a night if that.
I never stop jittering, and can be oversensitive to physical and non
physical stimulus. In short, garden
variety anxiety, except for the sleep thing, but that is resolved for the most
part. Common, unremarkable, annoying
anxiety. But, not uncontrollable. I just choose to give it its head most of the
time, but I’d never admit that out loud if you know what I mean.
Let’s contrast this with my husband’s experience. He would be offended that I call what I
experience anxiety. Panic attacks,
severe sleep disturbances, uncontrollable thoughts about death/illness, nausea
and vomiting and whole bunch of other unpleasant sensations are part of his
daily experience. So I want everyone to
understand that anxiety falls on a spectrum, and what I have to say may not
help everyone. I have been binging Brook
Castillo’s podcast lately. I didn’t even
know she existed until about a month ago, and let me tell you: Life
changing. Much of what I’m going to talk
about relies heavily on her and Byron Katie’s work, so if you want more after
this, check out those 2 sources.
So, ask yourself this.
What is the worst that can happen?
Anxiety takes the worst case scenario, and plays it out in your
mind. Using those scenarios (that have
not yet, and probably will never happen, or thought cycling around a problem
from your past) to torture yourself with.
Imaginary scenario, amped up by emotion creating a physical
response. Garden variety anxiety at its
best. Short of bodily injury and death,
the worst that can happen is an emotion.
And when was the last time anxiety caused you bodily harm or death? Just sayin’
If thoughts create our emotions, which stimulate our actions
that create our results, where in this cycle can we manage our anxiety? The level of thought. Circumstances can trigger our thoughts, but
in and of themselves the only thing that gives circumstances power is our
thoughts about them. If you examine any
circumstance, it is neither positive nor negative until our thoughts get
involved to qualify it.
In the case of anxiety, I’m usually thinking about
circumstances that have never, and realistically will never happen. Even at my worst circumstances, I have never
been homeless, hungry and alone. But,
that’s what I worry about. Its what I
fear will happen. It is the thought of
this that causes anxiety. So what? None of this helps you when your brain has whipped
you into a fight or flight frenzy. If
you’re there, or next time you get there, take a moment of pause. Experience the emotions that are stewing in
your body. Emotions create physical
sensations. Scan your body for the first
thing you feel. Is it in your head,
belly, chest? Now exhale. Count 3 more exhales. Begin to describe the sensation in your mind. Is it vibrating? Hot? Empty? Tight? Give the sensation a
quality. Describe it in your mind as
fully as you can then move on to the next sensation and do the same. Now consider this. Does that sensation have any power to harm
you? It is just a physical
reaction. Even in the midst of it, it is
just a vibration in the body.
Kind of takes the
wind out of your sails doesn’t it? I’m
going to stop there for today because I think that’s enough, but I will be
posting part 2 very shortly. To
summarize: anxiety is a feeling in the body.
It can be described and located as a sensation. Doing this can help you come back from the
edge of the sensation of anxiety. I’m
going to do a second post on how to lay the groundwork for gaining some control
over anxious thoughts when not in the thick of it. So, stay tuned.