Tag Archive: anxiety

Making much about nothing

 

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You have a goal in mind – something you want to accomplish by the end of the week, because you have other goals in mind that depend on accomplishing this particular task. But it means getting the cooperation, time and effort of others, without which that goal is not possible. Well, that’s worrying! Having to depend on the good will and cooperation of others! I don’t know about you, but it makes my stomach double in on itself: I immediately and automatically begin to think of all the things that might go wrong, that I have to cover somehow. It doesn’t take long before I feel completely overwhelmed and exhausted … without having made a single move towards getting the task done.

If it isn’t familiar to you at a personal level, then you have heard about it. There are books, papers, clichés, even movies made about this single thing: making much about nothing.

Self-fulfilling prophecy, building a mountain out of a molehill are 2 of those clichés. I still do it  – make something out of almost nothing – far too often. If I don’t snap myself out of it, I could end up making my fears come true. At the least, I might miss the opportunity I had, living instead in fear of something I’ve imagined.

It’s a mind game. I know it’s a mind game. And yet it happens again and again.  I really want to know how I can stop it, and move instead in a different and better direction. Even though it still happens to me, it doesn’t happen with the frequency or intensity that it once had. I’ve found a way of regaining control over my anxieties of future worrying possibilities. Here’s what I do:

  • Feel it. I’ve learned to know what it physically feels like to go into worry and “what if’s”: a body awareness that is unique to each of us, and that tells me when I’m going down that particular trail. For me it’s my stomach, and a clenching in my upper chest behind my breast bone.  When I feel this sensation, I gain a valuable awareness that I’m about to do something that will cause me pain.
  • Stop it. There’s one thing I know with certainty about going down that road: it’s a waste of time and will generate nothing good. So the best thing I can do is to stop the progression in its tracks. There are probably many ways to stop yourself: I do it by saying (shouting, in fact) “Stop it!”, or “Don’t go there! It’s useless.” That works for me; it gives me a breather. It gives me a few seconds to go down a different path: one of my choosing.
  • Change it. That other path is something I’ve built up for years, refining and reinforcing it over and over, until it’s smooth, stable, steady – able to carry heavy loads. A major throughway – autobahn – in my mind. Without that road, all I have is a void – a hole – that I don’t trust and that makes me nervous.  I need to replace that hole with a new path, then reinforce that new path until it is at least as well constructed as the old one. It’s called building a new habit. It takes time and persistence. At first, it’s astonishingly hard, but over time, it gets easier.  My way is to take a big breath, then bring out of hiding the fear that is always at the root of my worry. It calms me, and gives me the energy I need to do something truly constructive.

Feel it. Stop it. Change it. Making something about something, instead of much about nothing.

The 4 AM Mystery

 

Quote of the Week 

I love to talk about nothing. It’s the only thing I know anything about.”
― Oscar Wilde

Announcements 

If you like this blog, you’ll also like my newsletters for an sample. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up  for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Making much about nothing

 

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You have a goal in mind – something you want to accomplish by the end of the week, because you have other goals in mind that depend on accomplishing this particular task. But it means getting the cooperation, time and effort of others, without which that goal is not possible. Well, that’s worrying! Having to depend on the good will and cooperation of others! I don’t know about you, but it makes my stomach double in on itself: I immediately and automatically begin to think of all the things that might go wrong, that I have to cover somehow. It doesn’t take long before I feel completely overwhelmed and exhausted … without having made a single move towards getting the task done.

If it isn’t familiar to you at a personal level, then you have heard about it. There are books, papers, clichés, even movies made about this single thing: making much about nothing.

Self-fulfilling prophecy, building a mountain out of a molehill are 2 of those clichés. I still do it  – make something out of almost nothing – far too often. If I don’t snap myself out of it, I could end up making my fears come true. At the least, I might miss the opportunity I had, living instead in fear of something I’ve imagined.

It’s a mind game. I know it’s a mind game. And yet it happens again and again.  I really want to know how I can stop it, and move instead in a different and better direction. Even though it still happens to me, it doesn’t happen with the frequency or intensity that it once had. I’ve found a way of regaining control over my anxieties of future worrying possibilities. Here’s what I do:

  • Feel it. I’ve learned to know what it physically feels like to go into worry and “what if’s”: a body awareness that is unique to each of us, and that tells me when I’m going down that particular trail. For me it’s my stomach, and a clenching in my upper chest behind my breast bone.  When I feel this sensation, I gain a valuable awareness that I’m about to do something that will cause me pain.
  • Stop it. There’s one thing I know with certainty about going down that road: it’s a waste of time and will generate nothing good. So the best thing I can do is to stop the progression in its tracks. There are probably many ways to stop yourself: I do it by saying (shouting, in fact) “Stop it!”, or “Don’t go there! It’s useless.” That works for me; it gives me a breather. It gives me a few seconds to go down a different path: one of my choosing.
  • Change it. That other path is something I’ve built up for years, refining and reinforcing it over and over, until it’s smooth, stable, steady – able to carry heavy loads. A major throughway – autobahn – in my mind. Without that road, all I have is a void – a hole – that I don’t trust and that makes me nervous.  I need to replace that hole with a new path, then reinforce that new path until it is at least as well constructed as the old one. It’s called building a new habit. It takes time and persistence. At first, it’s astonishingly hard, but over time, it gets easier.  My way is to take a big breath, then bring out of hiding the fear that is always at the root of my worry. It calms me, and gives me the energy I need to do something truly constructive.

Feel it. Stop it. Change it. Making something about something, instead of much about nothing.

 

Announcements 

If you like this blog, you’ll also like my newsletters for an sample. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up  for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Time Travel – it’s exhausting!

 

time

I’ve been having trouble with US customs lately that apparently stems from a comment my boyfriend innocently made when he had crossed on his way home.  He’s American; I’m Canadian. In that comment, he mentioned my name, and for that reason, it appears, my name was written up. Since that time, I have been stopped, questioned, searched, etc.. It is aggressive and I don’t deserve it. And yet, as with many other travellers, it’s happening.

I tend to dwell on things that scare me, and unreasonable behavior scares me.  What’s happening at the border is to me unreasonable. So I find myself attempting to make it make sense, going over and over in my mind what could possibly be behind it.

The truth is – and I know it – that I might never know. So why dwell on it? The past events are past; the future events will be whatever they are going to be.  I have put into action what I can, and now it’s time to let it go. It’s out of my hands and will be whatever it’s going to be.

Well, it isn’t that easy.  I find myself asking: have I looked at every angle? Is there anything I haven’t tried? Then, at some point, I’ll think of something and won’t let it go till I try it out. I’m like a terroir latched onto its favorite bone, gnawing away relentlessly.

Then for some inexplicable reason, I’m tired.  Too tired to see friends, or work out, or even go for a walk. This gives me something more to worry about: my health.

It’s a pattern that you might be familiar with in your own life. If you were to begin to journal every time you found yourself worrying and dwelling, you might be astonished to find that the reason you’re so tired is because of all the energy used up on this activity.

It’s a form of time travel, the kind that uses up energy you could otherwise put to good use. It’s exhausting.

There’s a way of disconnecting ourselves from this pre-occupation. It isn’t easy. It involves coming to terms with our fears; in my case, it’s a fear of what isn’t reasonable, or seemingly logical. For you, it might be a fear of the unknown; of what’s around the corner that you can’t yet see.

It involves letting go of our plans, or our need for understanding and certainty, or for justice, or whatever it is that we feel is missing. It also involves retraining ourselves to re-focus on what we have the power to influence instead on what is out of our hands. Looking at new possibilities that we might otherwise never entertain.

When I begin to think that way, the fear that grips me disappears.

What about you?

The psychology of your future self

Quote of the Week

There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.”
-John Lennon

Announcements 

Need more? At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co .

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co.

Time Travel – it’s exhausting!

 

time

I’ve been having trouble with US customs lately that apparently stems from a comment my boyfriend innocently made when he had crossed on his way home.  He’s American; I’m Canadian. In that comment, he mentioned my name, and for that reason, it appears, my name was written up. Since that time, I have been stopped, questioned, searched, etc.. It is aggressive and I don’t deserve it. And yet, as with many other travellers, it’s happening.

I tend to dwell on things that scare me, and unreasonable behavior scares me.  What’s happening at the border is to me unreasonable. So I find myself attempting to make it make sense, going over and over in my mind what could possibly be behind it.

The truth is – and I know it – that I might never know. So why dwell on it? The past events are past; the future events will be whatever they are going to be.  I have put into action what I can, and now it’s time to let it go. It’s out of my hands and will be whatever it’s going to be.

Well, it isn’t that easy.  I find myself asking: have I looked at every angle? Is there anything I haven’t tried? Then, at some point, I’ll think of something and won’t let it go till I try it out. I’m like a terroir latched onto its favorite bone, gnawing away relentlessly.

Then for some inexplicable reason, I’m tired.  Too tired to see friends, or work out, or even go for a walk. This gives me something more to worry about: my health.

It’s a pattern that you might be familiar with in your own life. If you were to begin to journal every time you found yourself worrying and dwelling, you might be astonished to find that the reason you’re so tired is because of all the energy used up on this activity.

It’s a form of time travel, the kind that uses up energy you could otherwise put to good use. It’s exhausting.

There’s a way of disconnecting ourselves from this pre-occupation. It isn’t easy. It involves coming to terms with our fears; in my case, it’s a fear of what isn’t reasonable, or seemingly logical. For you, it might be a fear of the unknown; of what’s around the corner that you can’t yet see.

It involves letting go of our plans, or our need for understanding and certainty, or for justice, or whatever it is that we feel is missing. It also involves retraining ourselves to re-focus on what we have the power to influence instead on what is out of our hands. Looking at new possibilities that we might otherwise never entertain.

When I begin to think that way, the fear that grips me disappears.

What about you?

 

Announcements 

If you like this blog, you’ll also like my newsletters for an sample. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

That Darn Inner Critic

At a recent conference, standing in front of her peers, Maria had a moment of panic: she found herself wondering why she thought she could impress these people in any way; that if they only knew, she’d be exposed as a fraud.

Never mind that she’d been in practice for over 40 years and was well respected in her field.  In that moment, she felt like a phony, an outsider, unable to belong.

It also didn’t matter that she was mature, astute, and knew what was going on. At least, it didn’t stop the voice – the inner critic.

Our inner critic is powerful – awesomely so. Unchecked, it can and will run our lives. Even Maria’s awareness and experience couldn’t stop it.  But, that awareness did alter its power.

We all have an inner critic, but it isn’t same as being that inner critic. You might say that our inner critic is that part of us that keeps us safe. Some call it our lizard brain. It’s a pre-logic part of us that we share with all other animals. Its only function is to keep us safe. As a result, it sometimes ends up undermining us in order to protect us from shame and possible failure.

That darn inner critic isn’t bad. It isn’t something we need to get rid of. In fact, we never could – nor should we. But it is something we can learn to use in a way that works for us and for it.  Think of it as a little person who is under our protection. That little person lets us know right away when it’s feeling unsafe. When that happens, if we pay attention to it and are aware of it, we can learn to heed what it’s feeling and take action that makes it feel safe again.

Back with Maria, she reassured her inner critic by reviewing what she’d done to prepare for her talk. She’d done a lot, really knew the topic, and had something to say that she knew would interest her audience. That calmed her critic. In fact, what began as fear and anxiety suddenly turned into excitement.  That little critic of hers – in that moment – became her ally.

Self-Compassion

Quote of the Week

We are all failures- at least the best of us are.”
― J.M. Barrie

 

Announcements

Need more? At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co .

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up atwww.thejoyofliving.co.

 

That Darn Inner Critic

At a recent conference, standing in front of her peers, Maria had a moment of panic: she found herself wondering why she thought she could impress these people in any way; that if they only knew, she’d be exposed as a fraud.

Never mind that she’d been in practice for over 40 years and was well respected in her field.  In that moment, she felt like a phony, an outsider, unable to belong.

It also didn’t matter that she was mature, astute, and knew what was going on. At least, it didn’t stop the voice – the inner critic.

Our inner critic is powerful – awesomely so. Unchecked, it can and will run our lives. Even Maria’s awareness and experience couldn’t stop it.  But, that awareness did alter its power.

We all have an inner critic, but it isn’t same as being that inner critic. You might say that our inner critic is that part of us that keeps us safe. Some call it our lizard brain. It’s a pre-logic part of us that we share with all other animals. Its only function is to keep us safe. As a result, it sometimes ends up undermining us in order to protect us from shame and possible failure.

That darn inner critic isn’t bad. It isn’t something we need to get rid of. In fact, we never could – nor should we. But it is something we can learn to use in a way that works for us and for it.  Think of it as a little person who is under our protection. That little person lets us know right away when it’s feeling unsafe. When that happens, if we pay attention to it and are aware of it, we can learn to heed what it’s feeling and take action that makes it feel safe again.

Back with Maria, she reassured her inner critic by reviewing what she’d done to prepare for her talk. She’d done a lot, really knew the topic, and had something to say that she knew would interest her audience. That calmed her critic. In fact, what began as fear and anxiety suddenly turned into excitement.  That little critic of hers – in that moment – became her ally.

Announcements

If you like this blog, you’ll also like my newsletters. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up  for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

Don’t take it personally

 

The February edition of Psychology Today has a piece by Toni Bernhard that speaks to me titled “It’s Not About You”. It’s worth reading. Last week I travelled to Michigan to see my friends and partner, as I do pretty much every month. I have a Nexus card for exactly that purpose, and have been using it with no issue for the past 9 years.  This time, I was interrogated for over an hour, threatened, and my car searched.  It was ugly and traumatizing.

Let’s talk about trauma for a second. Trauma is a brain thing, not a mental thing. That is, it directly impacts the brain nerves, and as such, when experienced, there is no way to prepare mentally or emotionally for it. That’s why the best treatment for trauma is lots of support to help the person get through the physical assault to the brain, and get back to a sense of normal balance (for a video presentation you might want to watch Dr. John Rigg explain it.

I experienced trauma, and as such wasn’t functioning well. Within 2 days, I was late for something important, completely missed another thing that was equally important – letting many others down – found myself incredibly tired, and finally had a melt down 24 hours later that lasted another 24 hours.

In that time, I blamed myself for everything and tried to work out what I could have done differently – until I had a talk with my supervisor and friend, who described what I was going through and emphasized that it wasn’t my fault. There was and is nothing I can do to prepare for a traumatizing event, and the physical outcome of that event is also not something I can change.  The only thing that is in my power to do something about is to seek support once I understand what’s happening. AND, to avoid ruminating and blaming myself.

I did apologize to my friend for missing her event, and I sent a note of explanation to the person whose event I was late for. Then I rested and let my body heal. Once my head was clear, I took the kind of action available to me that could best realistically address the issue.

I’d like to say that I avoided ruminating and self-flagellation. Alas, that was too much to ask. However, I did manage to limit it. I am a person who routinely takes on the responsibility of a situation that really isn’t my responsibility. Are you like me?

Who knows what was going on with the border guard, or why they did what they did. I will probably never know. It wasn’t for anything I actually did – my record is clean.  So it had to be something in their lives that did it. In other words, it wasn’t about me!

It’s hard not to take such an event personally, but that’s the point: it really isn’t personal. So don’t take it personally. It was unfortunate, and there was and will likely be fallout. But it isn’t personal.

In Toni Bernhard’s research, she discovered that when we take things personally, we undermine our ability to feel good about ourselves, which in turn, brings on depression and anxiety. It’s associated with greater rumination – that downward spiraling into darkness.

Here’s another example from my life – in this case my young life.  I was testing for a swimming level and was kept back and asked to repeat certain strokes.  I immediately assumed it was because I’d done something wrong and was being given another chance. This thinking made me hyper aware and I nearly drowned.  Even so, what really happened was that I got an extra commendation for excellent form.

The best kind of support for those of us who ruminate is this:

  • Develop and use your own “doubt shout”: Once you recognize that you’re ruminating (and this might take a while), find a way to stop it. I use a “doubt shout”, because it really is about me doubting myself. My particular doubt shout that works for me is “Don’t go there! It doesn’t really matter if there’s some truth in it. It’s simply a waste of time.”
  • Treat yourself to kindness and compassion. Realistic positive reinforcement is a far stronger and more effective approach than negative punishing reinforcement. I think we all know that, deep down.
  • Be clear about what you are actually responsible for. I’m reminded of the Serenity prayer here: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” What I can change is me, my approach and my circumstances. That’s all!

The Power of Reframing

 

 

Quote of the Week

Life picks on everyone … don’t take it personally.

-Steve Gilliland

Announcements

Need more? At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co .

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co.

Don’t take it personally

 

The February edition of Psychology Today has a piece by Toni Bernhard that speaks to me titled “It’s Not About You”. It’s worth reading. Last week I travelled to Michigan to see my friends and partner, as I do pretty much every month. I have a Nexus card for exactly that purpose, and have been using it with no issue for the past 9 years.  This time, I was interrogated for over an hour, threatened, and my car searched.  It was ugly and traumatizing.

Let’s talk about trauma for a second. Trauma is a brain thing, not a mental thing. That is, it directly impacts the brain nerves, and as such, when experienced, there is no way to prepare mentally or emotionally for it. That’s why the best treatment for trauma is lots of support to help the person get through the physical assault to the brain, and get back to a sense of normal balance (for a video presentation you might want to watch Dr. John Rigg explain it.

I experienced trauma, and as such wasn’t functioning well. Within 2 days, I was late for something important, completely missed another thing that was equally important – letting many others down – found myself incredibly tired, and finally had a melt down 24 hours later that lasted another 24 hours.

In that time, I blamed myself for everything and tried to work out what I could have done differently – until I had a talk with my supervisor and friend, who described what I was going through and emphasized that it wasn’t my fault. There was and is nothing I can do to prepare for a traumatizing event, and the physical outcome of that event is also not something I can change.  The only thing that is in my power to do something about is to seek support once I understand what’s happening. AND, to avoid ruminating and blaming myself.

I did apologize to my friend for missing her event, and I sent a note of explanation to the person whose event I was late for. Then I rested and let my body heal. Once my head was clear, I took the kind of action available to me that could best realistically address the issue.

I’d like to say that I avoided ruminating and self-flagellation. Alas, that was too much to ask. However, I did manage to limit it. I am a person who routinely takes on the responsibility of a situation that really isn’t my responsibility. Are you like me?

Who knows what was going on with the border guard, or why they did what they did. I will probably never know. It wasn’t for anything I actually did – my record is clean.  So it had to be something in their lives that did it. In other words, it wasn’t about me!

It’s hard not to take such an event personally, but that’s the point: it really isn’t personal. So don’t take it personally. It was unfortunate, and there was and will likely be fallout. But it isn’t personal.

In Toni Bernhard’s research, she discovered that when we take things personally, we undermine our ability to feel good about ourselves, which in turn, brings on depression and anxiety. It’s associated with greater rumination – that downward spiraling into darkness.

Here’s another example from my life – in this case my young life.  I was testing for a swimming level and was kept back and asked to repeat certain strokes.  I immediately assumed it was because I’d done something wrong and was being given another chance. This thinking made me hyper aware and I nearly drowned.  Even so, what really happened was that I got an extra commendation for excellent form.

The best kind of support for those of us who ruminate is this:

  • Develop and use your own “doubt shout”: Once you recognize that you’re ruminating (and this might take a while), find a way to stop it. I use a “doubt shout”, because it really is about me doubting myself. My particular doubt shout that works for me is “Don’t go there! It doesn’t really matter if there’s some truth in it. It’s simply a waste of time.”
  • Treat yourself to kindness and compassion. Realistic positive reinforcement is a far stronger and more effective approach than negative punishing reinforcement. I think we all know that, deep down.
  • Be clear about what you are actually responsible for. I’m reminded of the Serenity prayer here: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” What I can change is me, my approach and my circumstances. That’s all!

 

Announcements

If you like this blog, you’ll also like my newsletters. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

Maryanne

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

Enlightenment always tastes of freedom

“Enlightenment” is a term I hear used a lot these days.  It’s often in the context of gaining some kind of spiritual excellence.

I do wonder about this: it comes close to smacking of superiority and so I’m suspicious of it. So, is this something real and something worth moving towards?

I think so.  The Buddha said that you will know enlightenment because it always tastes of freedom, just as you know the ocean because it tastes of salt. This implies that I achieve enlightenment every time I can flow with the process of life, without feeling triggered or reactive in any way.

Sometimes, I do feel that way. And, no doubt, you do too.

One thing for certain, then, is that when I’m anxious, or stressed, or lost in worry, I’m not in a state of enlightenment. I’m in an opposite kind of state: frozen in time, fighting off inner daemons.

I’ve been there too?  What about you?  If you’ve been in a place of anxious stress, were you able to find your way to a better place?  If not, you may find my online course Burning the Candle at Both Ends worthwhile.

It’s starting now.  Click here if you’re interested in learning about it.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

Excitement without oxygen

 

Dr. Margherita Lobb, in a recent talk on Anxiety, defined anxiety as “excitement without oxygen”.  In a visceral way, we can all relate to this: if you’ve experienced anxiety, it’s hard to breathe.  In fact, when anxious, a person either stops breathing, or begins to breath fast and shallow, filling only the upper part of their lungs.

We are excited, and we aren’t filling our lungs with oxygen.

Ms. Lobb then goes on to lay out what happens to our body when we’re in this state: when we deprive our body of oxygen, we must necessarily disconnect. This means we detach our bodies from our brains. To understand this, remember when you were last anxious and what it felt like. The rapid heart-beat, sweaty palms, shallow breathing; but also the mental preoccupation that begins to take over and spirals out of control if we let it.  This is what disconnection feels like. The mental take-over.

Knowing and understanding this is power, because this knowledge is key to reversing the effects of anxiety.

Here’s how:

  • Slow and deep: If we detach through shallow breathing, we can counter it by breathing deeply and slowly.
  • Bra-strap breathing. A “trick” I learned a few years ago and now share with my clients is to do what one client dubbed “bra-strap breathing”: imagine breathing into that area of your back where a woman’s bra strap usually sits, just below the shoulder blades; then breathe out slowly, pushing the sensation down to your belly button. If you take more time breathing out than you did breathing in, then you will also activate your parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for calming and relaxing.
  • Ground yourself… by focusing on your feet connecting with the ground beneath you. This will literally lower your centre of gravity and provide stability.

The next time you experience anxiety, try these three things – slow and deep breaths, bra strap breathing, and grounding your feet – and feel the difference.

 

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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

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