Self Assessment: True or False
“I worry more than I want to about the future, my health, my career, my loved ones, what others think, and/or all sorts of things I can’t control…”
“I’m afraid of speaking up and being the centre of attention.”
“I’m often so agitated it’s hard to relax.”
“Sometimes I can’t get to sleep or stay asleep because my mind is racing.”
“I often second guess myself and go over and over things I have said or done.”
“I find myself checking repeatedly to see if the door is locked (or the oven is off, etc.)
“I am afraid of having a panic attack, or losing control.”
“I get anxious and worried when I fly (or I avoid flying because I am too afraid).”
“I’m often irritable, tense, and have difficulty concentrating”
If you said true to one or more of the statements above you may need help with your anxiety.
Anxiety is a very misunderstood experience. We commonly think of anxiety as worry. But anxiety is much more than that. Anxiety is actually made up of three components: cognitive (or our thoughts), behavioral (or what we actually do), and physiological (or the sensations in the body).
The feeling of anxiety is uncomfortable. And when we feel discomfort we are motivated to avoid whatever appears to be the cause of that discomfort. When anxiety is a problem for us it is because we avoid. We not only tend to avoid situations and activities, but we also (very importantly) unconsciously go into our heads and leave what we are actually experiencing in the here and now moment in the body.
Anxiety feels like a message telling us we should avoid something. Behaviorally we avoid (or escape) situations associated with anxiety, which leaves us with a constricted, small life and robs our self-esteem. Cognitively we go into worry (stories about the future or “what ifs?”) and rumination (stories about the past or “woulda shoulda coulda’s”), which consumes our attention and drains our energy.
So our suffering with anxiety arises out of our thoughts and our behaviors, which are ways of avoiding what is happening in our body.
Anxiety problems are ways that we try to escape the discomfort of being in the body. We may not realize it but we escape situations and we go into our heads to avoid the uncomfortable physiology of anxiety.
But here’s the thing: the physiology of anxiety is actually normal and healthy. The sensations of anxiety are your friend, and they are your ticket to freedom.
Anxiety sensations are really just signals to bring attention to something that needs your care. In our work we will notice the moment-to-moment shifts in your body and I will help you become powerfully able to soothe discomfort by bringing awareness to what you feel.
The amazing thing is approaching the physiology of anxiety is not only the key to resolving anxiety problems, but is the key to our emotional growth, in fact it is the most growth promoting experience possible. That growth promoting experience is vulnerability.
Vulnerability is the sense of threat that arises out of the most fundamental human truth: we aren’t in ultimate control of many of the important things in our lives. Aging, illness, the economy, other peoples’ choices or feelings, and even (especially!) the flow of our own true feelings, are all things that are determined by more than just our will. And the vulnerability that arises from that truth feels uncomfortable.
If we are to be calm, grounded, and comfortable in our skin we need to grow our tolerance for the discomfort of the truth of our vulnerability. We need to be able to stay with what being vulnerable feels like: we need to be able to stay in the body and feel and deal with the sensations of vulnerability.
Becoming aware and taking care of the feelings inside the body when we are anxious is the most powerful anti-anxiety treatment there is. Together we can change your habitual patterns of avoidance, and help you find the freedom and power you deserve.
Good short video: Developing Emotional Awareness.
A great blog with tips on managing anxiety with breath awareness, visualization, mindfulness, healthy foods, exercise and more.
Good supportive website with articles, tips, blog and a downloadable app.
Some great tips for understanding anxiety.
Article on how mindfulness reduces anxiety at a neural level (I love this geek stuff…)
An hour long video with experts Jon Kabat-Zinn and Richard Davidson exploring how we can train the mind to become more flexible and adaptable.
Video on how visualization and mindfulness calms the mind.