Everyone feels worried sometimes. Whether you describe yourself as worried, nervous, stressed or anxious – you know the feeling. When you feel too much anxiety and cannot calm the sensation and feel better, you’re stuck in a feedback loop between your anxious body and your worried thoughts.
Anxiety Happens in Your Body.
Your Sympathetic Nervous System creates that anxious feeling. According to Polyvagal Theory, 80% of nervous system fibers transmit information from the body to the brain and only 20% communicate from the brain to the body. This means that your body nearly always feels anxiety before your mind knows why. Your body detects a subtle cue of “danger” and then your brain tries to create a meaning for this feeling.
Instead of creating thoughts about the anxiety, practice treating anxiety like you handle other cues from your body.
For example, you know that when you feel cold or hungry, you warm or feed your body.
When your body indicates, “I'm anxious”, instead of pondering or assuming: “Why am I so worried? Something is wrong,” address the sensation in a more practical manner.
Because Body Anxiety is a Normal Response, Your Worried Mind Can Relax.
Breathe, slow down and get curious when your body feels fight, flight or freeze. Remind yourself that it’s okay. Your body is supposed to have this instinct. That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything urgent happening. Check for an obvious imminent danger (like an oncoming car). If there’s nothing, take a minute to offer the anxious feeling a little physical care without interpreting. Here are a few suggestions to physically calm anxiety:
- Place one hand on your face and the other on your heart.
- Relax your shoulders as you slowly, gently inhale through your nose. Hold it for 3 seconds and exhale very slowly and completely. Hold the exhale for a few seconds and repeat.
- Look around and find any three things you appreciate. Smile at them.
- Picture the anxiety in your mind’s eye as a child or pet. Offer it a hug.
Remember: Your anxiety is not trying to hurt you. You are not broken and you can help your anxiety calm down.
Treating your anxiety this way may feel counterintuitive at first, but with practice, you’ll realize less stress and increased calm. Additional therapy can help you lessen cues of danger that trigger your sympathetic nervous system.
For more help today, pick up your copy of Calm Your Worries: Unlock Your Secret Code to Lasting Stress Relief and Self-Confidence.