Monthly Archives: November 2013

Love & Anxiety #5: Trusting vs. Tightening

Last week we spoke about worrying and how that brings up anxiety. Today I will talk about how when we enter a new situation, a new relationship, or experience a loss, a trauma, accident, or unpleasant situation; experiencing some anxiety is a normal response. Anxiety is physiologically hard-wired into our nervous systems. When we feel unsafe, it can flood our body like water from a burst dam. Deciding to trust that we will be safe and things will work out, in a new or scary situation is one means of calming down the anxiety response. This decision is part mental, but a big part of the decision is made in our physical body, in our muscle-skeletal system.

When we experience anxiety, all our muscles are tense and braced in anticipation of a threat or danger. This is a natural response and helpful, if there is something we need to fight, or flee from to get to safety. After we attain safety, our muscles should return to a loose, relaxed state. Sometimes this doesn’t happen. Some of us have lived for years with braced muscles, myself included. This causes physical problems, health issues, and lots of pain. Additionally, braced and tight muscles unfortunately keep sending the signal to the primitive brain (avoid mode) that we are still in danger. This vicious cycle, physiological anxiety, causes our minds to race to find the new trouble.

When we perform any of the tools mentioned in the previous blog, mindfulness, guided imagery, meditation, yoga, prayer, relaxation, breathing exercises, etc., we relax our muscles into a posture of safety and trust. We trust that all things will work out, or we will have enough strength to move forward. Relaxing our muscles shuts off the danger signal their tension had been sending to the brain. A tight muscle-skeletal system is not the only source of this signal, but it is one of the significant ones. Tightening against our lives and the events we experience, only increases our anxiety and stress levels. Resting into our lives and trusting in goodness, allows our body to re-ground. We go back down into our trunk & roots, (see previous blog) and the relaxation response reasserts itself. We rest in the goodness of the present moment where we are safe, and lack nothing. We can trust in God, our own body, the goodness of life, the love of our friends. There are many things in which we can trust. Your muscles at least will thank you, and so will your long-term health.

Going deeper:

1. What is your response to this blog? Is trusting an easy task for you, or do you live in tension and anxiety much of the time?

2. What do you currently trust in?

3. If you live in tension, which of the following tools would you be willing to begin to consistently utilize to bring relaxation to your body? I.e. Yoga, massage, acupuncture, stretching, relaxation exercises, breath work, etc.

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-wk anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.

Advertisements

Love & Anxiety #4: A racing mind is not your friend!

As I suggested in the series previous blogs, there are quite a few tools anyone can use to help bring the brain/body out of the avoid-danger mode; many of them target the body directly. Sometimes, we try to use our minds to logically think our way out of anxiety. However, if you have been anxious for any length of time, usually your Cerebral Cortex/logical system is not much of a deterrent to your worrying, or imagining future catastrophes.

Some people call the mind, a monkey in a banana tree, but I have another metaphor. If you will join me in your “right” brain for a few minutes and try some imagery. Please imagine you are a large and lovely, green, tree. Try it, I dare you, take at least a minute to see the grounded strong tree that is you. For another 30 seconds, enjoy your strength and solidness. Here, the branches represent your mind, and your brain/body is the trunk and roots. Now, see a huge wind sweep by you, notice how it whips the branches frantically about, but does very little to the trunk and roots. The wind is similar to stress and anxiety, it gets our mind so whipped into a frenzy that we can barely think straight, or calm down. This is the best time to ground down into the trunk/root system of your body.

When you practice the tools of mindfulness, guided imagery, meditation, yoga, prayer, relaxation, breathing exercises, etc., you will discover that as your body relaxes, your mind slows down and settles. The best way to reduce racing thoughts, obsessions, and worrying, is to ground yourself in your body (tree trunk) using any one of the above disciplines. However, for some, this can be scary. If you have been anxious for any length of time, you primarily experience your body, as a repository of anxiety and source of discomfort. Therefore, you are motivated to stay out of your body. We often want to stay far away from those sensations and upsetting feelings in the pit of our stomachs, chests, or throats. It is a paradox, or counter-intuitive perhaps, but experiencing those uncomfortable sensations without being controlled by them, is actually the route to relaxation and freedom. We need to relax, let go, and be with what is occurring, without fear or judgment. Fleeing from our awareness of anxious or unpleasant feelings is the problem. The more we fear them, the more they tyrannize our lives. So, do your mind and body a big favor, slow down, relax, and begin to learn to trust. It will all work out.

Going deeper:

1.)What do you do when your mind is like a monkey in a banana tree, racing about from thought to thought? What happens in your mind when you focus on your body instead?

2.)Can you take some time this week to pay particular attention to your body and see what changes you might experience? Write this down as a goal for yourself.

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-wk anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.

Love & Anxiety #3- Worry, a too familiar companion!

Before we discuss tools for turning off the hair-trigger Avoid system in your brain, I want to talk about the habit of worry! It’s counter-productive to put effort into learning to calm down if you just upset and trigger your avoid system 5 minutes later by worrying.

Many of us are our own worst enemies and consistently turn on our own Avoid systems by manufacturing danger that is not real, i.e. worrying. The people with the fairly constant danger signaling are people who struggle with worry. Have you noticed how tight and miserable your body gets when you worry? Thoughts are very powerful. You have an “immaterial worrying thought” enter your mind, but it leaves a material trace which impacts your brain, and changes your body. This process is very important to understand. When clients grasp this information, it signs the death warrant to their habit of worrying.

Worriers, almost always, focus on imagined worst-case scenarios. Many clients tell me this habit makes them feel more prepared in case of danger. However, being tense and braced does not produce quick reaction times, or allow us to go with the flow of events. A stiff tree cracks in a big storm, while a flexible one will just whip back and forth with the wind. Sometimes surrendering to the present moment is less traumatic than fighting against it.

When people are stuck in obsessive thinking, or worrying about worst-case scenarios, their Cerebral Cortex and five senses will attempt to send the message that life looks ok. But because their avoid system is on high alert, their body experiences the physiological consequences of too much adrenaline and cortisol racing through it, like a NASCAR driver. So, to make sense of the body sensations of high anxiety, the worrier focuses on the next bad event she is sure is around the corner. She will often find one, because, we do see what we are looking for a majority of the time. Or, in a marriage, the worrier will often project the problem onto the spouse, more about that in another blog.

The good news is that worry is just another bad habit, and if you learned how to do it, you can unlearn how to worry. Of course, calming down the body and the mind will help put you in an atmosphere that will make it easier to fight off the worry. You can’t control every thought that hits your brain, but you get to choose to give each one attention, or to ignore it and let it pass on without having it stick. Another helpful tool is to talk back to the ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts), to stop worrying. Use your grown-up logical brain to refute the imagined horror that is just a figment of your imagination. Your body and brain will thank you, and so will your bank account. People who live in consistent stress and worry have 147% higher health care costs.

Going deeper:

1.What do you worry about? Especially, is there a consistent worry about something that never happens, but the fear of it stays stuck in your mind?

2.What are your ANTS? Write down a statement that refutes each one of your ANTS to use when the worry hits.

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-wk anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.