Most of us can identify with the word anxiety. We know what it means. We can describe it. And in describing it, we are going into using words. Responding to the concept of anxiety by talking and thinking our way through the anxiety. Anxiety is a state of being. It is a feeling of over activation in our nervous system that is usually beyond what is appropriate for our current situation. Although anxiety is experienced in our minds and our body, it is an emotion – a feeling.
Traditionally, we have learnt to respond to anxiety by thinking and doing in order to feel safe. We have gotten so caught up in the causes of our anxiety that we lose sight of the feelings underneath the anxiety, which only makes our anxiety even worse. Unfortunately, talking doesn’t do much to alleviate our anxiety, in fact, it often makes it more acute. We know that our mind’s job is to move us away from danger and towards safety. But when we ignore our body and its signals because we are disembodied and caught up in our thinking brain’s dialogues, the survival brain (amygdala) perceives this as even more threatening. What happens, is our anxiety is exacerbated . Out system is on even higher alert for us to get the message – “Danger!! We are not safe.”
When we become focussed on the thoughts in our head, and the external reasons why we shouldn’t feel anxious we move further away from how we are feeling. And unfortunately, we cannot think our way to feeling better, we need to feel our way to feeling better. Feelings and feeling safety exist in the body, not in the mind alone. When our body feels grounded, our heart is calm. When we are embodied our thoughts can then slow down and that feeling of safety will ensue.
By connecting with your body and learning to self regulate, you can lower your anxiety and calm down. Simple strategies like walking barefoot on the grass or on the beach help the body to feel grounded. Holding an ice cube or running your hands or feet under running water. Stroking an animal. Yoga, Tai chi, QiGong. Having strong personal boundaries. Practicing the Emotional Freedom Technique and Mindfulness. These are all good examples of ways to self-regulate and embody. Tuning into our feelings , noticing what is happening in our body, paying attention to the sensations we are experiencing. When you move into your body and out of your head, you feel your way out of anxiety