Welcome to everyone! This post is intented to be for informational purposes only, and is a product of my opinion and experience as a massage therapist and life coach. Please consult with a medical provider and do your own research with any tips or suggestions I present here, and do not disregard any treatment or advice given to you already. And also please do seek help if you struggle with anything I write about in this blog.
Shortness of breath, heart palpitations, a pit in your stomach, unfocused thoughts, cold sweat, shaky limbs: the symptoms of anxiety often seem like some type of disease. But for those that suffer from these things regularly, they can seem as close and familiar as the clothes we wear. But where do these symptoms, and anxiety itself, come from?
I didn’t know myself, but was always willing to help those that suffer from anxiety with massage. However, I soon found that people only experienced a temporary relief from anxiety, no matter how great the massage was. I had to realize that massage wasn’t the ultimate fix to every malady. Then, I started to look deeper and always encourage my clients to do so as well. You see, I believe that permanent results are found by digging into our own emotional psyche. And this advice I would extend to any readers now. I will provide some tips later in the post to start you on that journey if you have the courage to go there.
“If it’s not what you want, stop and change it. Don’t just keep going and expect it will get better.” -Bob Ross
Anxiety originates from one of two sources: genetic or environmental. And in most cases, it is the latter. Consider that it could be the result of a family culture, rather than your DNA, that lead you to freak out when things aren’t going well. If your parents couldn’t handle stress well, chances are you are in a similar boat, because that was modeled for you. So we could essentially rule out genetics, aside from a mere predisposition to anxiety. Either way, there is one thing that is the culprit: stress.
This is a common denominator in all that I read about anxiety: work, school, relationships, financial, unexpected life changes, car accident, divorce, children, car, home. All contribute to the mental stress that anyone and everyone experiences. The management of this stress will probably be the key to the solution to your personal anxiety. The most basic way of doing this is something that I recommend to my clients all the time: balance.
First, think of your life as a set of scales. If you are overloaded with stress, you can imagine that one side of the scales is being weighed down. The more stress, the more imbalance. In order to balance your life, you need to start doing things that remove the stress. Simple right? Well, not so much. Most of us get into a routine with our daily lives. So much so that changing things is very difficult. But, still possible. If you think that the routine is bad or unhealthy for you, changing things becomes something that is not only possible, but necessary. Now how this happens is up to the individual, but things like reducing work hours, keeping a tight schedule or budget, exercising more, eating healthy, talking with someone, or keeping away from someone or something are all examples of changes you can make.
Something else that I recommend to people is a simple meditation. Think about something that really triggers your anxiety. Hold it in your mind as the source, and even think about the times when you suffered in the past. Now, as you consider this person, event, or situation, think about all the things that could possibly go wrong if you encounter it in the future. (I feel that most symptoms are really a manifestation of fear of the unknown). You can take your time here and really get a comprehensive mental list of any possible outcomes for this encounter, even embellish or exaggerate a little. Got the list? Now, scan that mental list for the one thing that would be the absolute worst outcome for the situation. Once you have this, now think to yourself: “Could I live with this outcome?” If you can, then everything else on the list should be okay as well, since they are below this item in severity.
But what if you can’t handle or live with this outcome? If you feel like the outcome would be too much for you, why not make a plan? Planning can be something that could take the edge off your symptoms by reducing the fear of what is yet to come.
I will share an example from a client of mine who developed anxiety after a car accident that happened during a snowstorm. That event made her so nervous to drive after that, even during normal weather. I did this exercise with her and what she was afraid of was another accident. I helped her to see that she could do things to reduce the anxiety of driving, involving safe practices, making sure she has her seat belt on, etc.
Like her, you could create a plan of action if and when the situation calls for it, but another idea is to let go of the control that you have on your life. One of my favorite movies is Jurassic Park. One theme that can apply to anyone’s life is that of control and how much we have or think we have. In the movie, two characters are eating melting ice cream because the power went out in the park. One character mentions how the next time the park opens, they will have more control over it. Then the other character interrupts and says that “You’ve never had control, that’s the illusion!” Could it be that the more we struggle to control our lives, the more things slip from our grasp? The solution there might be a practice in letting go of that control.
Since I promote health on many different levels, I also want to bring up some more ideas that are pretty alternative. A change in perspective can bring about a change in your life. There is a theme to anxiety that relates to our mental state. This idea is that anxiety is linked to a tendency of looking too much into the future. That is to say, not living in the present time. Anxiety is summed up in what is unknown, the fear of something that hasn’t happened, yet influenced by our own personal experience (or even the lack of experience). This chronic looking forward can be a symptom of not loving our current life. The problem is that if you find your life unbearable now–too painful, too lacking, or too sad–all these situations will still come with you into your future. You may well find that if you get that promotion and earn more money, suddenly your expenses will also go up and you will still not have enough. Or if you long for the end of a relationship because of unhappiness, you might find yourself in another that still leaves you lacking. So all these hopes of a future that is better than our present are pointless if we do not work on our present. You know, the grass is always greener on the other side and all that.
I work with people that suffer from anxiety and help them find the source and the solutions for overcoming it. If the tips in this blog are not enough, you can reach out to me for a more detailed and personal plan. I believe that anxiety symptoms are much like the symptoms of any other disease: a message for us. Not unlike the “check engine” light in a car. Once you find and heal the source of the problem, the symptoms can abate.
If you want to learn more about my Beyond Balance program, you can learn more here.
And smile, you are always doing the best that you can in your situation.