Anxiety is a common feeling which we have all experienced at times. It is the body’s way of alerting us to situations which may be dangerous, by preparing us for ‘fight or flight’. It is a normal physical response to many situations, in which the body releases certain hormones such as cortisol or adrenaline, leading us to experience physical symptoms. These may include an increase in our heart rate, sweating or loss of appetite.
Impact of Anxiety
However, when the body responds in this way even if the danger is only perceived and not real, and does so over long periods of time, we can develop anxiety disorders. This may mean that we feel unsafe in the body as we are going about our day to day life. This is often a result of trauma, or the cumulative effect of dealing with challenging life situations over time.
Because the sensations are present in the body, it may make it more difficult for us to do daily tasks which require concentration, or to sleep well at night. It may also be difficult to ‘switch off’ from thinking about those things which we believe are causing the anxiety. Chronic anxiety can impact on our mood, leading to depression, and over time it can even make the physical body sick.
10 Tips for Dealing With Anxiety
Other than taking medications, there are many ways to deal with anxiety, and they do work. It is important to be patient with yourself as you teach yourself new patterns of being and thinking, healing past stresses and building new patterns.
- When you notice anxiety in the body, Slow Down the Breathing. This simple technique can be effective, as it tells the nervous system that “everything is OK”. Try breathing in through your nose and breathing out through your mouth, making sure the outbreath is longer than the inbreath. Continue for a few minutes.
- Bring Your Attention to the Body, and Witness What’s Happening. Anxiety, especially when it’s chronic, can make us dissociate, meaning that we try to block out the feelings by becoming less aware of what’s happening in the body. Becoming more mindful of what’s happening within us can give us a chance to work with what’s there. A note of caution: sometimes, bringing attention to what’s happening inside can make the anxiety worse. In this case, start by bringing attention to what’s happening outside of the body by using the five senses.
- Don’t try to Push the Anxiety Away or Block it Out. It’s there for a reason and it’s trying to communicate something to you. The more you try to ignore it, the more it will keep coming back. Start practicing the mindful witnessing described above.
- Treat the Part of Yourself That is Feeling Anxious (or Sad, Irritated, Angry, etc) With Lots of Self-love and Compassion. Blaming or criticising yourself for feeling these things will just make them keep resurfacing again and again, leading to the same patterns playing out over and over. Notice what you are telling yourself about yourself when these feelings come up, and work on changing any negative self-talk to more loving, accepting language.
- As you practice witness consciousness, Notice Where You are Feeling the Anxiety in the Body, and be Curious to Ask it What it May be Wanting in that Moment. Is it love? Is it to be heard? Does it just want some space and rest? Give yourself permission to listen to those messages. Often we ignore or override them, because we are ‘too busy’ or we don’t want to upset others, as well as many other reasons.
- Develop a Self-care Practice. This may be finding more time for yourself, doing activities you enjoy or learning to have better boundaries and to say ‘no’ to those things which feel too much or too overwhelming for you to take on.
- Get Some Professional Help. In the case of trauma, chronic anxiety and depression can take some time to shift. Talking therapists can help to better understand where the anxiety originated, and suggest ways of dealing with it in day to day life. Bodywork therapists can also work with the whole body to help the nervous system to heal and feel safe again on a physical level. The two can work really well together.
- Shake the Body for a Few Minutes Every Day. If you watch animals, you will see that after experiencing stressful events, they will shake the body to get rid of the excess energy which has accumulated. As humans, it is often not socially acceptable to shake, especially if we are in public places! Doing so at home, whilst also making some sounds, can help to shift some of the stress which we may be carrying in the body.
- Develop a Daily Meditation Practice. Even 5 minutes per day of sitting in silence, observing the thoughts and the body (or the external environment around us), can lead to positive changes in the long-run. It helps to bring awareness to what’s happening within us. There are many free meditation courses online, if you would like to give it a go Australia’s meditation society have good free content: https://meditation.org.au/
- Explore Spiritual Philosophy. There are many spiritual teachings and paths out there that can help to see that the things we are worrying about, are not really worth worrying about. Nor is it in our true interests to worry about them. Understanding this can help to motivate us to want to let go of those beliefs that do not serve us, and find a more positive way of looking at ourselves and the world around us.
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