Do you feel stressed beyond belief these days? You're not alone.
Day 3: Your Body
Yesterday we discussed how your breath plays a primary role in the anxiety response, and how, by making inroads on calming your breath, you can get immediate results in anxiety reduction.
Now, let's take it further and see how you hold anxiety in your body as a whole.
All of us carry anxiety physically; that's the way we were designed. Anxiety actually serves some positive purposes. And our stress response is meant to prepare us to respond to threat-- so by definition, stressful situations trigger reactions within your body that are significant and noticeable if you know where to look.
These reactions were originally meant to help us escape threats or mobilize to fight (the classic fight-or-flight-response), but when they happen in situations where we don't need to fight or take flight, they can get in our way. (They often can make us freeze, as well.)
So, how can we find our calm? What if we're just giving a work presentation, having a difficult conversation with our partner, or reading some upsetting news online—and we don't want our stress response to be triggered in such uncomfortable ways?
The first step is to notice. Pay attention to your unique signs of anxiety within your body; no two people are exactly alike in how they carry stress, so get to know your own reactions. In time and with practice, you can then target those responses and counteract them to help yourself feel better, not worse.
Here are some common ways besides breathing that stress shows up physically:
Compression and tightness in the shoulders and neck
Tension in the jaw and face
Pain or heat in the chest
Fluttering sensation in the stomach, and nausea
Numbness or tingling in the extremities
As you identify your own reactions, think about potential counter-reactions. What can you put into practice that directly reduce the original symptoms? Everything from rolling your head from side to side to tensing and then releasing your fists, from opening your jaw wide and then releasing, to lying down with your feet elevated, is fair game.
Of course, the breathing techniques that you learned in the last installment will also directly reduce these anxiety sensations, by targeting your overall agitation and peripheral nervous system arousal.
Think about the pros and cons of the stress response in your own body.
Notice your unique bodily markers of anxiety, paying specific attention to individual sensations and where they occur.
List and attempt some actions that you can do that directly reduce those bodily markers, and incorporate breathing techniques in as well.
Do you know someone who would love our Guide to Overcoming Anxiety?