We often don’t realize that our body has been whispering (or perhaps shouting) clues to us all along. Caught up in our busy lives, we notice physical symptoms crop up that we commonly try to fix with medication. In a hurry to move on with our lives, we don’t always take the time to get to the root of the problem.
For example, you might realize that after months of pain in your right shoulder, your entire body has become incredibly tense, sending the message that you need to slow down. You might discover that your digestive issues that you spent a fortune trying to heal with probiotics and medication, were warning signals from your intelligent body that you need to attend to something else in your life.
Physical ailments such as these are just a couple examples of hundreds of conditions that people suffer from on a daily basis.
Overtime, many of these ailments actually fall under one of the single largest health issue our society faces. It’s commonly referred to as an anxiety disorder and it affects nearly 40 million US adults, which is about 18% of the population.
This number is too large to ignore and those who suffer from its unreasonable and spiraling nature know that anxiety is more than being nervous or edgy. Anxiety has a myriad of physical symptoms. It can be a rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, digestive problems, tensions in the body, difficulty breathing to name just a few.
There is a way to overcome this pandemic. If you have been proactive in your healing journey, and ruled out other sources of your physical problems, it’s important to be able to acknowledge that you may have been suffering from a form of anxiety the entire time. Once you are able to recognize that this might be at the root of your symptoms, try looking at how your bodily sensations, thoughts, emotions, and storylines have contributed to this problem in an interconnected web.
Often, as we begin to develop a relationship to ourselves in this way we come to discover certain thought patterns and behaviors that we have carried with us for years, maybe decades, that have perpetuated underlying fears, pain, and other intense emotions. This leads to physical symptoms in the body, and, ultimately, an overall feeling of anxiety or impeding doom.
To tackle anxiety at the core, we must face all the gritty feelings and sensations that we have ignored. This is where the practice of mindfulness comes in as one of the most effective treatments for anxiety. As a practitioner of the Hakomi method, a body-centered psychotherapeutic technique, I believe that the body is a reservoir of information and stored experience that can shed light on how to move forward in the present.
When you are caught in the middle of it, anxiety feels anything but good or helpful. It is likely anywhere from frustrating to intrusive to downright terrifying. Yet, anxiety has much to teach us. If we ask ourselves the right questions during moments of intense anxiety, we might discover some much needed answers.
The questions to ask yourself are: “Where do I feel the anxiety in my body?” and “What sensations, specifically, am I experiencing in this moment?”
Mindfulness as an antidote to anxiety requires remaining present to fully experiencing the symptoms of tension in the body. We might begin to notice how we attach meaning to these sensations, believing that our negative and reactive thoughts are the truth.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, fully facing the thoughts and sensations we associate with anxiety enables us to overcome and let go of what we are truly afraid of. Mindfulness is a training practice for the mind—as you become increasingly more confident in your ability to track sensations in your body and not getting jarred by anxiety in the same way, you will discover an incredible tolerance for disruptive thoughts.
By not responding to a sense of threat that doesn’t typically even exist, we break the cycle, and eventually overcome the chronic state of anxiety.
In other words, by accepting the uncertainty and confronting what’s actually bothering you, an entire world of possibility opens that is free from unnecessary suffering and self-imposed limitations. All you have to do is decide to do it differently. Mindfully.