.Anxiety & Mind.
Sometimes it seems like there's no warning. Suddenly you are acutely aware of your heart beating in your chest, and an invisible hand grasps your throat, choking off your voice. Your mind runs in circles, and you can't seem to slow it down. The feeling is crippling and you begin to micromanage your every move, analyzing and judging your every step. You intellectually know that things are okay, that you have "no reason" to feel this way. Yet you still do. Guilt sets in at this point, and depression isn't far behind.
Anxiety is not easy.
I don't remember the point when I realized that I was suffering. As I look back, it's clear that for at least a decade of my life, I was running from the anxiety; hiding it, and creating an addiction to find relief from it.
I kept doing more. Filling my days with activities, forcing myself to get better grades, to be more fit, to do anything I could think of to make myself "better". I believed that if I could just be smarter, sexier, or more talented in every way, then I could relax, and the anxiety would disappear. These thoughts weren't conscious but I see it now. The anxiety would arise, and I'd search desperately for an escape and I continued to choose these ways of attempting to get away.
I pushed myself, wore myself down to my breaking point, and then I pushed some more. On paper I was smarter. I was accomplishing more, I had gotten thin, and tanned, and toned. I tried my best to make everyone happy, thinking that it was the way to love them. I gave people what they wanted, suppressing my own values in the process, hoping their happiness would be synonymous with my own. But the anxiety did not dissipate, in fact it only grew bigger, and louder.
It took me 5 years of hard effort - self observation, trial and error - to finally feel free of the sensation that was once deeply entrenched in my bones.
Uncomfortable emotions such as anxiety, anger, or fear are not uncommon. How many days a week do you struggle with them - how many times a day? What drives your behaviours daily; these emotions and a desire to change them, or your chosen values?
Anxiety, anger, and fear are strengthened by non-action. Doing nothing in the face of these, allows the emotion to grow, eventually becoming all consuming.
"Oh but I do take action when I feel anxious. I go to yoga, I eat nutritious food, I get my work done, I check all of the items off my list; but I STILL feel anxious. No matter what I do, the anxiety doesn't go away".
I did the same things.
All of this "doing" is not what is meant by taking action. This kind of doing is rooted in the false idea that the emotion comes from "out there" in the world of "stuff" - projects, work, or other people. With this idea you go into the world "to do more stuff", hoping that the result will be a change in your internal experience.
Taking action by doing more things "out there" in an attempt to change the emotion "in here", is only going to make a small dent in your experience, if it makes any at all.
This kind of action is not what I'm speaking to. More DOING in this way actually strengthens the fear of the emotion itself. Resistance to it grows stronger and you feel more uncomfortable.
Taking action involves 2 things: Body & Mind.
STEP #1: Move your body. Even small actions can result in big shifts - sit up tall, roll your shoulders back, relax your face. Your posture causes different chemicals to run through you; depression, fatigue, joy, or bliss, can be accentuated strongly depending on how you carry yourself. Tony Robbins often says, "turn your emotion into motion". Exercise. This is an obvious way of taking action. It pumps endorphins through your blood and moves Qi which helps to metabolize those chemicals of fear that course through you.
But, this is just the beginning. The real shifts happen when you take action in another way. Life altering shifts occur when you change the focus of your mind.
STEP #2: engage your mind. If you use your mind intentionally, and focus your energy on purpose, the emotion will lose intensity. Immerse your mind energy into something, anything, and let go of the stories in your mind that carry the stress. Focus. Put your attention on something and keep coming back to that thing every time your mind moves away from it.
This is what yoga uses the breath for. We breathe in yoga to increase the oxygenation in the body, yes. We breathe to release CO2 which aggravates the blood and causes restlessness, yes. But most importantly, we use breath in yoga as a way to strengthen the ability to focus the mind. This mental ability is an incredible life skill that can be applied to ANY area of life - relationships, work, achieving goals & staying motivated, happiness, etc!
If focusing on the breath is difficult for you, find something else. Hold a flower and pay attention to the details of sense experience under your fingertips as you run your fingertips along the stem. No matter what thought, feeling, or urge arises, know this: it is the result of a pattern of your brain. There is nothing more important in this moment than focusing your mind on the sensation of the flower in your fingertips. Whatever "problem" needs solving, whatever you think you need to become, or get, or do, let it all go for the next 3 minutes. Focus on your breath, the flower, the sound of the ocean - whatever it is - for 3 minutes. Set your alarm.
After the 3 minutes is up, take another look at your situation and see if you have a new perspective. This is not a technique that will do something to you. If you go through the motions physically, expecting a result to just happen, it won't. This requires engagement of your mind - that is the action.
Your life experience becomes what you focus on, and focusing is a skill. Most of us go through our lifetimes battling our same issues. We continue to try ways of forcing ourselves to take certain actions or experience certain feeling states.
No coercion is actually necessary. Besides, how effective is it really...? Are you ready to try something new?
No grand war needs to take place to overcome your struggles.
These struggles are rooted in mental patterns and unweaving them is a skill. You just need to learn it, and practice it.
Mental focus is something that can be strengthened.
It is one of the keys to overcoming the noise of the world, or of your own mind, and finally having the ability to choose your actions, free of emotions that pull you off course.
If you desire the ability to work with your emotions, your life goals, the stories in your head, or your life circumstances, learning to focus your mind is key.
Freedom from suffering is possible.
And when it's still difficult to focus the mind, and you are awash in a sea of anxiety, riddled down to your bones with crippling emotion, there is acupuncture, herbal medicine, and nutrition for support 💛
I'm always here for support and information.