I was speaking to a client the other day, and she was expressing how anxious she was feeling. She has a lot going on, including a construction project, some significant changes coming at work and her relationship with several co-workers. I agreed with her that these are events were “triggering” her experience of anxiety – but they are not the root cause. The root of our anxiety lies inside of ourselves, in our belief patterns based on old stories, past emotional experiences, or traumatic events. Our body holds physically in our bodies, and in our memory, sensory and emotional events. These can stack up as emotional “baggage” and bring up both physical and mental symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks when triggered.
When Anxiety Knocks
When anxiety shows up at our front door, it can barge into our house and take complete control of our home; our body and mind. If we prepare ourselves, practice greater awareness, and have a toolbox ready, we can meet anxiety at the door, say hello, and soften its chaotic impact.
- Notice when our anxiety is being triggered before it is a full-blown panic attack,
- practice strategies to calm and relax our physical body, moving from fight, flight, or freeze to a more peaceful, ease-filled state,
- and learn self-talk and mindset techniques to manage where we are focusing our thoughts and awareness.
Notice Anxiety in your Physical Body
Instead of focusing on the thoughts, or the events, that are causing your anxiety, practice being aware of how your body PHYSICALLY feels when you are anxious. Begin to ask yourself, “what are the first physical signs in my body that I am getting anxious?” You can also notice where your thoughts are going when you are beginning to feel anxious and ask yourself, “what is my brain doing? Or, “Where am I focusing my attention?” Practice OBSERVING your anxiety, rather than just BEING your anxiety. Over time you will begin to shift the attention off of the anxiety and onto strategies that can support you. You can diminish the power the anxiety has over you and take back control.
Learning to listen to our bodies and our minds is an essential ingredient for meeting anxiety at the door!
Three Breath and Movement Strategies to help Calm Your Body
- Even Counting Belly Breathing: Take nice big breaths, using the nose as a passageway and pulling the air in and out through your throat deep into your belly. Relax and fill the belly on the inhale, belly button to spine, empty the belly on the exhale. Use a 4-4-4-4 count; inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4, and continue.
- Practice a gentle and easy half-sun salutation. (See the illustration below) Do at least 6 to 8 rounds to relax the body and connect the body and breath.
- The Thymus Tap. The thymus is the primary regulator of your body’s immune and energy systems. Stimulating your thymus can help you release emotions. Take your fingertips and tap on your chest all over while saying to yourself, “I am releasing ______________ emotion. ”If you cannot pinpoint the emotion you are experiencing say to yourself, ”I am releasing any emotions that are currently not serving me.” Or, “what emotions do I need to release right now?”
Five Questions to Ask Yourself
Asking yourself the following questions can support a shift from BEING anxious to OBSERVING and LISTENING to your body and your thoughts.
- What is triggering my anxiety right now?
- What emotion am I feeling right now?
- What story am I telling myself about this event/circumstance/person?
- What is my anxiety trying to teach me right now?
- What is an encouraging statement that I can say to myself right now?
Is Anxiety Knocking on Your Door?
Take a moment and do a standing, grounding posture. Come into a standing mountain pose. Feel into your feet, relax your shoulders down away from your ears, and lift the crown of your head to the sky. Take 3 or 4 big breaths. Now, notice:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can hear
- 3 things you can touch (or imagine touching)
- 2 things you can smell (or imaging smelling)
- 1 thing you can taste (or imagine tasting)
When anxiety knocks – listen, lean in, and observe. When you invite anxiety in she just might let go of her grip!