Understanding The Anxiety That Lives In My Body

I’m sitting in the dentist chair, waiting for the Dr Merryman to come in and drill out an old filling.

I am a tree, a tall sturdy oak, roots deep in the ground, leaves fluttering on my crown. I breathe in filling my belly and lungs with soft air.  I count to three then push the air out through my nose.  Slowly, I remind myself, make it last.

I’m looking at my boots, the pair with the wild design that looks like plastic toys or microscopic life. I can go into the image on these boots, they have space for me to enter.  Places for me to travel and dwell.

But I don’t see them.

What I do see is me as the oak tree.  I breathe again.  My mind is the fluttering leaves, my body that sturdy trunk and roots.

It’s been a long process, but I’m finally grasping the truth.

I always believed that I could  get rid of my anxiety by thinking about it differently.  And in some instances that has worked.  With those long held beliefs that don’t serve me anymore or never did.

But with the everyday anxiety that lives in my body, I now understand that when I change the way my body feels, my mind goes along for the ride.

I’ve probably heard it a hundred times before, but it was when Jon’s therapist suggested he try some Guided Imagery Meditations, that I really understood it for the first time.

The idea is that the body is behaving as if there is something to be anxious or panic about, when there isn’t.  By calming the body, by breathing mindfully, I can change what is going on in my body (slow the heart rate and the release of adrenaline).  Then when my body is no longer behaving as if there is danger, as if there is something to be afraid of, it sends a message to my brain letting it know it is safe.

Anyway,  that’s the way I’ve interpreted it so it makes sense to me.   I think I have the basics without the exact science.

So instead of trying to think my way out of my anxiety, I breath and feel my way out.

I have discovered that when my body is relaxed I am relaxed. It sounds obvious and simple when I write it, but it’s taken me years to get to this point of understanding.  I imagine my anxiety is one of the things that kept me from understanding.  It has had a hold on me my whole life.

But it  is so much better than it used to be.

I didn’t even know I suffered from anxiety until I was in my forties.  Therapy helped me to understand where it originated and why.  It helped me separate myself from the people who triggered a great deal of it.  But it still lives in my body and surfaces often enough for me to want to learn to deal with it.

And although I always believed it was cumulative, now I understand that just like changing the way I think, with practice I can teach my body to react differently or at least get better at making those changes in my body more quickly so they are more effective.

Basically, the more I practice deep mindful breathing to relax my body, the less anxiety I will experience.

I do understand it’s a lifetime practice. But I’m grateful to have this practice  and to finally understand my anxiety in this way.

I think Jon shared this meditation from Youtube on his blog, but I will share it too.  It’s very simple and has been very effective for me.

4 thoughts on “Understanding The Anxiety That Lives In My Body

  1. I took have experienced anxiety most of my life and trying to think my way out of it never worked, because it actually lives in my body.
    I am learning, slowly, that somatic therapy helps me find it in my body, describe it, and give my body whatever it needs. Soothing, rest, movement, etc.
    Maybe that’s related to your belly dancing – being truly in your body and letting it express itself.
    Just an intuitive thought .

    1. I think you are right LoisJean about Bellydancing. that makes sense to me. And as difficult as Bellydancing has been for me to learn, I think the idea of resting is even harder in some ways. Something to work on.

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