Anxiety. So, what does it FEEL like in your system?
Physically it could feel like: tightness in the chest, a rounded, closed (to life) posture; difficulty breathing deeply; difficulty sleeping or oversleeping; increased heart rate; overeating or under eating; aches and pains in the physical body e.g. neck pain, back pain and headaches.
Mentally/Emotionally it could feel like: an overload of information; like you have been churned out by a washing machine; your feet don’t touch the ground; you are experiencing life only through your thoughts; you cant sit still or concentrate; confusion; irritability; a nervous energy surging through your system; uncertainty.
Now more than ever there is a lot of uncertainty circulating in society, a feeling of powerlessness and fear when we think about what is happening and could happen in our lives…
Many of us are not certain that in the future we can avoid painful experiences and gain pleasant ones. When we are not sure of ourselves we try to escape (usually into our thoughts) by stepping away from ourselves into an uncomfortable place. Without this basic human need for internal certainty/security, we experience anxiety.
Anxiety is the message we receive (that gets louder if we don’t listen) to tell us we are out of alignment with ourselves.
When we experience anxiety our physical body creates the ‘fight or flight’ response and releases the cortisol hormone. The cortisol makes us feel more anxious and therefore release more cortisol, which makes us feel yet again more anxious and release more cortisol. You see the pattern.
In our hunter-gatherer days it was simpler, cortisol was a necessary survival mechanism. When we saw danger we ran away or screamed, which burnt up the cortisol and released the anxious energy. Nowadays a threatening thought can create anxiety so we need create an outlet for the energy and find ways to empower ourselves.
Here are some of our recommendations for you to try yourself:
- Eating foods that decrease anxiety: Avoid fried foods, sugar, alcohol, refined carbs and caffeine. Some foods to eat are blueberries, nuts, dark chocolate, whole grains such as brown rice and chamomile tea.
- Get enough sleep. A minimum of 8 hours per night. Sleep is designed to reduce stress levels.
- Release your emotions by talking with someone or writing it down. Don’t judge what is coming up. Your body needs to release stress-FULL thoughts, whatever they may be.
- Breathwork: long deep breaths filling up the belly and lungs, keeping your attention on the breath. This helps reduce cortisol and focus the mind.
- Search for opportunities to laugh, when your body is laughing it cannot perceive danger. Watch a comedy; spend time with a funny friend.
- Meditation, visualization, relaxation, yoga, qui gong, tai chi will all lower cortisol levels. Grounding is a particular favorite (Please read about grounding in our post on grounding)
- Daily exercise: burns cortisol and releases accumulated energy. It also creates endorphins, which are naturally occurring opiates.
As it’s easier to see and experience the physical body rather than our mental thoughts it is possible to treat anxiety through physical therapy.
Here are some ways we can help you:
- Motivation: when we experience anxiety sometimes it is difficult to find the motivation in ourselves to exercise. When we need help a physical therapist is well practiced in standing beside you to help motivate and burn that cortisol.
- Guidance: when we experience discomfort in the body we try to escape into our mind. In doing so we disconnect from the body and stop listening to what our system is demanding of us. A physical therapist can offer you guidance that will help you reconnect to your physical body.
- Relaxation: Massage therapy is very effective in relaxing the body and reducing stress. Why? Because the parasympathetic nervous system becomes sedated when we are in close physical contact with other people. When we feel a sense of connection with them.
- Connection: When we form connections with other people we are reducing cortisol in the body. People with anxiety often have low self-confidence, which makes it difficult to face a ‘threatening’ situation effectively. For example difficulty expressing how you really feel. Sometimes we have people coming to see us with a ‘physical pain’ and only by talking during the treatment we form a connection and they are able to express freely as we are ‘outsiders’ to their current situation.
- Personalised exercise: A physical therapist will talk to you about all areas of your life in order to determine the best physical activities and exercises for uniquely YOU to do.
Although physiotherapy is primarily used for treating people suffering from physical conditions, via the physical body we all receive messages about what is happening in other aspects of our being. Therefore by listening to and treating the physical body we are also touching the mental/emotional aspects of ourselves.
We hope this post brings you some empowerment during these uncertain times!
Treating the easy to see physical body.