Understanding Anxiety

I have many people come to me wanting help with their anxiety. I know all too well what anxiety feels like and it’s not fun to live with. I, too, have experienced a panic attack, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It was awful.  

In my opinion, anxiety is not an emotion. It is the physical sensation that we feel in the body when we are blocking an emotion from moving through us. Simply, it is a physical response to an unfelt, blocked, or suppressed emotion. 

Think of a hose with water flowing through it. What happens when we kink the hose? The water becomes blocked and pressure builds. The water is like the emotions that flow through each of us. When we’re in a state of anxiety, this same kinked hose pressure builds across our chest, in our throat, or other areas of our bodies when we are not allowing our emotions to flow freely. 

So what’s the remedy for anxiety? For starters, we must learn how to feel our emotions. Sounds easy enough, I know. The problem is that most of us aren’t keen on feeling our emotions unless they are happy. The good news (and a huge bonus), is that when we learn how to feel our emotions, we are able to experience deeper emotions on either end of the spectrum. 

Think of our emotions being on a yard stick, with love on one end and fear on the other. Every emotion that we feel falls somewhere between the two ends of that stick. If we only allow ourselves to feel happy we are actually pretty out of balance and living only in the middle of the yard stick. But when we can open up to our feelings of unworthiness, being not good enough, and even shame, we are pushing into the deeper reaches of our emotional reservoir. And the more we experience one side of the spectrum, the more we see the other side open up. When we come to understand our fear more clearly, the depth and amount of love, happiness, and joy that we can feel becomes more clear as well. 

Most of us strive for happiness. When we venture into anything less, we find accommodations in our lives to return to that equilibrium. This may include manipulating others in attempt to create that feeling of happiness, or numbing out with vices like alcohol, TV, shopping, golf, tennis, and so on, anything in order to keep ourselves from drifting toward negative emotions. 

How do we relieve anxiety?  

We must become better at letting our emotions in, and allowing them to run through us. If you need a good cry, bawl it out. Do you need to go and punch a pillow? Hammer at it with feeling! Do whatever you need to do to get the emotion out, to express that emotion physically and allow it to move through you and watch what happens to your anxiety. 

From there, we must condition ourselves to breathe properly. When we breathe from our belly, we are able to activate our parasympathetic nervous system which takes us out of fight or flight. When breathing from our belly, endorphins and other calming hormones are released which helps us to relax. Take a look at this quick video for specific guidance on breathing correctly for wellness!

For my anxiety, in addition to allowing my emotions to run through me while breathing consciously, I step fully into moment and sit in my Adult Chair. 

It is only when I sit in my Adult Chair that I am able to feel my emotions, to become the observer of my thoughts without judgment, and let the sources of my anxieties go. 

After I began to implement these tools, my own anxiety began to fade. Of course, this isn’t to say that I don’t experience anxiety at all — after all, I’m human! But now that I have internalized the experience of freeing myself from it, I’m confident that I can move through it and find peace.