We are creatures of habit, the way we move, think and respond to our environment is a build up of years of learned programming. The neurological pathways in our brain become hard-wired for our habitual responses, which is why many people consider themselves to be ‘an anxious person’ because for years it has been their standard way of reacting.
Many people turn to medication to treat anxiety because it can feel as though we have little control of our inner world, so how do we reprogram ourselves when it feels as though we are hard-wired for stress and anxiety?
Taking a pill may work to ease the symptoms of anxiety, but it will never take you to the root of why it is happening and help you to overcome the problem in a lasting way. We are so much more than just a material body, and treating physical symptoms overlooks the emotional, mental and energetic responses within us. If we want to create LASTING CHANGE and move through the roadblock of anxiety in our lives to embrace a more calm and balanced version of ourselves, then we have to address the issue on a multi-dimensional level.
Yes, the body responds to stress and anxiety by flooding it with cortisol and adrenaline, which speeds up the heart rate giving us the ability to respond to the moment of danger, triggering our fight, flight or freeze reflex as a survival mechanism. The issue with this is that these responses are for handling a real-life danger, for example, facing a wild bear in the woods. However, the majority of our stress and anxiety stems from the perceived danger of what could happen, rather than what is happening, so although we are not face-to-face with the bear in the woods, our body responds accordingly, flooding us with the hormones to handle this stressful situation. The reality of what we could be facing is sitting in our car, worrying about being late for work, stuck in traffic unable to move. What happens in your body? Your heart rate speeds up, your breathing changes into a panic breath, your shoulders tense your jaw may clench, and your body tightens up unable to release this build up of energy because you are stuck behind the wheel of your car. Here’s what you can do.
Practice deep breathing
We take on average 20,000 breaths every day, and breathing is one major trigger and response to anxiety. Taking a few conscious breaths first thing in the morning can have a significant impact on releasing the physical reactions to stress and anxiety and opening up your body.
One great position is the Childs Pose from Yoga, breathing deeply into the sides and backs of your lungs and allowing your shoulders to be soft and your neck and jaw to release completely.
Shake your body
In a moment of stress the build of energy needs to be released and if you pause, physically shake your whole body out you simultaneously release the energy and tension from your body and allow yourself to reset. This is what rabbits do when caught in headlights, they freeze their entire body, and when the moment of danger has passed they physically shake out, releasing the build-up of stress, rather than hold on to the tension as we love to do.
Let’s go back to the car, once again stuck in traffic not only is our body beginning to respond, but our mind is spiraling with thoughts of what could happen and what we ‘should’ have done to avoid this situation. Listening to our inner dialogue is critical in reprogramming our responses. Words have power, and our body believes what we tell it. If we tell ourselves that we are an anxious person our body will accept it, if we tell ourselves we are peaceful, balanced, calm and loving, these words will affect the way we feel.
The power of auto-suggestion.
We are suggesting ourselves all the time, the voice in our head has power over what we believe ourselves to be capable of and how we carry ourselves in the world. If we tell ourselves we are an anxious person; we will accept it and respond accordingly. Writing an auto-suggestion uses the power of the mind against itself to override the inner dialogue and begin to rewire our thought patterns opening up a space for new learned responses. Try writing an auto-suggestion or a mantra along the lines of “I am peaceful, balanced calm and powerful” and say it fives times in a row five times a day.
Hear yourself out.
We all want to be heard, especially the stressed and anxious voices in our head. Pushing that voice down isn’t going to help, in fact suppressing our emotions often has the opposite effect, they grow louder because they want to be heard. Instead of trying to shut them out treat them as a child, listen to what they want to say and then talk some calming rational sense to it. Try using the line “thank you for sharing” to these voices of anxiety and then tell it how you are going to feel and respond.
Meditation is by far the greatest tool for coping with anxiety because it helps you to slow down and connect to the present moment. The simple act of connecting to the beats of your heart and the rhythm of your breath can slow down your thoughts, clear your mind and help balance your emotions.
Slowly, with regular practice and awareness the harsh reality of coping with daily stress and anxiety can soften, it takes time and practice but so does going to the gym. You have all the power within you to overcome anxiety and feel calm and balanced on a regular basis.
Here is a guided meditation for anxiety.