Have you ever felt trapped in your head? Or overwhelmed by thoughts? How about feeling paralyzed or scared when trying to make a decision? I'm sure that we can all remember a time when life felt too overwhelming and the way forward was unclear. Anxiety is a very common and very human experience. People work with it to varying degrees, some experience it only in times of great stress while others struggle with it every day. I work with my clients to develop healthy ways to reduce their stress and navigate their anxiety. I also facilitate their decision making process by helping them get clear about what outcome they want and help them see a problem from different perspectives.
Anxiety is a very old response to an increasingly modernizing culture. When we experience anxiety our muscles tense up, our vision narrows, our blood pumps through our veins, and our minds run at a million thoughts per minute. Evolutionary, this response was helpful in dealing with physical stressors, such as being chased by a bear or having to hike through the night to find our camp. Anxiety prepares our body for action by activating our sympathetic nervous systems, fight or flight.
While this was a useful survival mechanism in the past it no longer serves us now. Most of our stressors nowadays are psychological, we worry about deadlines and social status instead of about predators and starvation. Unfortunately our body does not know the difference. Anxiety prepares our body for immediate action and yet many of our modern stressors require waiting. This results in a build up of anxiety which, if unaddressed, can lead to trouble sleeping, panic attacks, and even disease.
So how do we manage it? Well, by attending to our animal body. We need to meet it where it is. The easiest way to manage anxiety is to exercise. Physical exercise lets the body do what it was preparing to do. It sequences the anxious energy and lets it discharge naturally. Also, meditation helps us to change our relationship to anxiety, it allows there to be some distance between the mind and the anxious experience. Finally, talking about anxiety is very helpful, it can help us to determine what is in our control and what is not. Often, seeing the bigger picture helps to reduce stress.