I learned most about anxiety through my menopause years. While I had compassion for my clients with anxiety before this, I didn’t really know what life was like for them before I experienced hormone induced anxiety. Of course I had the usual run of nerves before big events and I can even remember panicky moments in life; public speaking, flying off to new countries to live. But during my early menopause I would lie in bed awake, wondering why I was so wired up! Was there a relationship issue I should be attending to??? Did I have enough money??? What is going on??? Why me??? I shouldn’t be this anxious!!!
More worry about anxiety is clearly NOT the best strategy
It’s hard to think clearly when anxiety has a grip. More thinking is rarely helpful with anxiety. However, I did manage to remember that I have practiced yoga for a long time. It’s good for calming the nervous system!!! Light dawns for me; I too can use the practices I’ve prescribed over the years for my clients!
Yoga practices are as good for me as they are for my clients!!
Although the Stress Response of the Nervous System (Fight / Flight / Freeze / Fawn) is automatic, and we don’t, and nor would we want, for our own safety in the world, have complete control of it. Imagine if we could turn it off, and we did. Then we stepped out off the footpath, onto the road and encountered a bus less than 1.4 seconds away! We’d be squished before we could turn it back on! Nevertheless, there are some simple things we can do that may move us back to normal, engaged, but relaxed response of the Nervous System; from Fight, Flight and Freeze back through Tend and Befriend, so we may Connect, Stay and Play, Rest and Digest.
Yoga helps activate our nervous system relaxation response
We cannot speak to our reptilian brain, the amygdala, which activates our Survival Response of Fight / Flight, from our large and intelligent frontal lobe. “Never in the history of calming down, has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down”. “NO! DON’T TELL ME CALM DOWN!!!!” Anxiety is on another wave length. It responds to body, breath and environment.
Anxiety responds to body, breath and environment
This includes our inner environment. If we start getting anxious about the symptoms of anxiety or start to fight with them internally, we set up a spiral that feeds itself. Like a guard dog who catches sight of its own tail, we can spin ourselves into tighter and tighter knots. FIGHTING OR FLIGHTING about the FLIGHT creates the conditions for a Panic Attack. First, we need to let go of the internal struggle.
Let go of the internal struggle
Remember, we don’t have complete control, these strategies will not “work” on the Nervous System 100%, but especially won’t “work” if we engage them from a “fight / flight” intention.
Control is the problem, not the solution
These strategies are the key for cultivating a loving kindness and mindfulness approach to anxiety. They provide an anchor or starting point to developing mindful observation so we can take action in line with our values. These simple but powerful embodied strategies take 6 – 10 minutes and have helped me and countless people in my psychology practice. Be curious, see for yourself what happens when you engage these practices.
INTENTION IS EVERYTHING
Develop kindness towards your internal landscape
- Start Where You Are In Kindness – Pause, acknowledge your intention. Bring whatever Kindness you can to what is here! You are normal! Make the stress response your friend. It’s trying to help you survive! Despite that it may currently be unnecessary, thank it for trying to help you survive, with as much wholeheartedness as you can! Your first act of kindness is tending to your own being. With as much intention towards kindness as you can muster, please stand up if you’re not already… Yes, really, right now… There’s no other time…
- To practice these strategies, download the PDF here