Reconnect to your Core.Chapter 7 - excerpt.
How to overcome anxiety.
To observe the body is the main anxiety regulating technique. When observing the body you’re not resisting or judging what the body is doing, you’re simply noticing and accepting what’s happening in this very moment. This calms the body because there’s no resistance to the physical activation, therefore the body can relax and find its equilibrium (homeostasis: normal state) again. The body will calm down by itself when you let go of resisting the experience you’re having.
This technique is very simple, but its application requires courage and willingness. Surprisingly few have that courage, because when a thought enters their mind they start to «think» rather than continue to observe the body. To observe is an act that uses the senses, not the thoughts. As an allegory you may observe a flower and observe/sense/experience its taste, smell, and texture. In other words, to observe a flower resembles a great deal «to feel the flower». To think about the flower is very different than to feel the flower.
The first thing you do while observing the body is to start noticing where specifically you’re feeling the anxiety. Be very specific while doing this. If you feel it in the stomach then where in the stomach do you feel it? What is the sensation like? Use your senses. Is it warm or cold, aching or throbbing, still or moving? Next you turn your attention to your chest, feet, arms, hands, face, or wherever you feel the anxiety. Repeat the observation and notice the anxiety without resistance and judgement. The key is to focus your attention on your body while the anxiety is there. I know this might seem like an impossible task, but it’s indeed possible. Even though you’re experiencing anxiety it doesn’t mean you can’t direct your attention. After all you’re not psychotic, you are merely having some anxiety and your body were made to tolerate it.
Thoughts will try to enter your mind and lure you into worrying, rumination, self-attacking thoughts, rationalizations, or intellectualization. Maybe you’re even tempted to withdraw, go passive, or distract yourself. Maybe you feel that you’re losing energy and are slipping into a depressive position. Maybe you’re tempted to give up the whole technique and denounce its effectiveness before you’ve applied it wholeheartedly and persistently. Avoid the temptation to be seduced by your defense mechanisms at all cost. In the beginning your thoughts will try to distract you every 2-5 seconds, so the key is to continuously be blocking the thoughts and refocusing on observing the body.
The observation of the anxiety might be uncomfortable and might be something new that you haven’t done before. But stay with it because you’re building your emotional muscles and reprogramming the UAM, which is something you’ve not been doing for a long time. What I’m encouraging you to do is to stay with the anxiety for just a few seconds longer. You’re able to do this if you’re willing for a brief period of time to experience some slight increase of anxiety. The trick is to observe the body, to not resist the bodily activation, and to block and ignore the thoughts that enter your mind. Then you will soon notice that the anxiety calms down and that you get closer to your feeling.
Repetition of this tasks is of ultimate importance. You will not get a six-pack of abdominal muscles by just going once to the gym and the same principle applies here. The more you’re willing to practice your ability to direct your attention, observe the body, and block the thoughts and other defense mechanisms, the faster your development will be.
Ask for more anxiety.
The final thing you do when you’re observing the body is to ask for more anxiety and remember to breathe at the same time!
Yes, you read correct. By observing and focusing on the bodily activation and asking for more of this sensation you’re surrendering the resistance of the experience. If you feel the stomach tightening, focus in on it and ask for more tightness. This will in fact lessen the tightness! Many people don’t know what «to surrender the resistance» means. To «ask for more» is the practical equivalent of this. The surrendering is the same as asking for more because in both instances you do not fight the tension. Allow it to come to you like a wave. Don’t worry, you won’t «drown in anxiety» or freak out. In fact your body will quickly become calmer.
Ultimately you must remember to breathe. A steady pattern of 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out (i.e. 6 breaths per minute) breathing with your abdomen, not with the chest, is believed to be ideal in order to calm the body.
Summary: How to regulate your anxiety.
- Observe the body.
- Block out any thoughts that enter your mind.
- Ask for more anxiety.
- Continuously repeat step 1-3 while you’re anxious and remember to breathe.
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