Anxiety takes us out of ourselves, it takes out of our ability to engage with others. It takes us away from the warmth and safeness of connection with others, and it can show in a myriad of ways.
How it affects us
Anxiety can affect your mental health, your emotional well-being, your physical body, your energy and your connection with the divine, the anxiety can make you anxious of anxiety and where does it stop?
If we experienced attunement, safety and comfort when we were babies then our life trajectory is one where perhaps anxiety will feature less because we have that fundamental sense of having our needs met, however, during this world cOVID-19 lock-down our anxieties have become heightened without even realising it and we can felt downhearted because it’s as if we will never be able to get that job we have always wanted or that relationship, or start a family or join that group. Life has changed and our fundamental level of okayness has become disorientated.
Many people tell me how they just cannot imagine that their anxiety comes from being bullied when they were younger or from being a woman and unable to speak up or from ‘i just don’t know it just feels like there is something wrong with me’
In all of these people time and time again I witness their innocence, their vulnerability and their difficulty in dropping their defences because their defences are what has helped them survive today. The person bullied from has learnt from such a young age to ‘armour up’ or has simply given up. The woman who has suffered abuse has learnt to blame herself in one way or another and feels shame at the root of her existence and the woman who ‘just does not know but knows something is wrong believes that her anxiety equals ‘something wrong with my brain’.
The feeling of loneliness
Anxiety takes us in to the flight and fight systems and we feel alone, we feel this aloneness like an alarm and we become activated in ourselves. We breathe more shallow, our heart rate goes up and our brain tries to figure out the solution. When we feel anxiety we feel afraid and we feel lonely and this can become extremely difficult for people. The fear of what is going to happen? What can I do ? The fear of death, the fear of life. The deep feeling of loneliness.
During this second lock-down people are experiencing more anxiety, it’s as though there ‘old issues’ are being heightened in subtle ways and being unable to identify this deeper stress they are looking at themselves and panicking. They are looking at the world and panicking. We are all doing this to some degree because there is uncertainty everywhere! Donald Winnicott the British Psychiatrist called panic ‘primitive agony’ and it is this ‘primitive agony’ which happens when there is a break in the mother and baby bond that is being stimulated here and this is what can take us out of the warmth and love of life.
To some degree anxiety is a normal part of everyday life because we have work stresses, financial stresses; we have medical issues, relationship issues; pressure in social situations and we just need to turn on the news and boom, we are feeling anxious. Some symptoms of anxiety are headaches, wobbly tummy, palpitations, sweating and also a feeling of numbness and there are different forms of anxiety too:
Social anxiety – is when you have overwhelming difficulties in social situations and can make people overly self conscious
PTSD – can be the result of a traumatic experience, a terrifying experience that may include violent assaults, natural disasters and accidents
Panic disorder- Is generally characterised by intense fear which is accompanied by chest pains and heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizzy head and abdominal uneasiness.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder – when repetitive behaviours called compulsions and unwanted thoughts just take over in the form of rituals which if not performed cause greater anxiety.
General anxiety disorder – is chronic anxiety, worry and even when there appears nothing to cause it.
Anxiety effects both your brain and your body and Its almost like we need to ask what is it that is difficult to feel, what is it that the anxiety is afraid to feel? Because, if we could feel what it is that is difficult, then the anxiety would have no place. However, when it becomes chronic, then it may show a deeper problem and medical help is needed.
At the heart of your anxiety
Is something very difficult to feel and even beginning to think about it is difficult. This ‘primitive agony’ is very difficult. When you feel the pain of anxiety in your chest, in your heart because you have lost your relationship or you feel it through having difficulty expressing yourself to others or you feel it in not being able to be at peace with yourself and the world, it is hard to imagine that this all has a place, what you feel has a place and does not equal something being fundamentally wrong and off with you. Perhaps we don’t have to ‘armour up’, or ‘hide away’ or ‘convince ourselves that we are crazy’. This is what anxiety looks like, and it is how it shows up and lives through us when it feels impossible to feel our emotions.
Practical ways of coping with anxiety
- Taking exercise
- Eating healthfully
- Journaling your thoughts and feelings
- Getting a good – enough sleep
- Relaxation and breathing techniques
- Finding a therapist to work with
- Confiding in a good friend
A big key is to not overwhelm yourself, you have had enough of overwhelm, enough of ‘primitive agony’ and so another approach is needed.
Moving back into a warm and tender connection
– For 2mins a day make friends with your breathing pattern, focusing on the air entering your nostrils and circulating down into your lungs and heart and out again. Do this with a tender and warmth that says ‘you are so important to me’, ‘I have time for you’, ‘I will take care of you’.
– If being with a particular person gives you warm fuzziest inside, then spend more time with them.
– Speak to yourself tenderly and remind yourself that this anxiety is not me and begin to be gentle toward yourself. Do activities you love, work your working hours and then stop, spend time tending your garden, cook the food you love, give yourself an Epsom salt bath with rose oil, start that project you have wanted to do.
– Bring to mind a newborn baby or tiny animal that makes your heart warm and focus that feeling all over your body especially in moments when you find yourself triggered and down on yourself.
– Place your hands on your heart and remind yourself that this is the place in your body where you can move out towards the world and others. Practice this and when you are triggered because your partner looks at you in the wrong way ask yourself ‘how can I move out towards connection rather than contract in away from connection and life.
– Play with your animals and notice who says hello to you when you are out walking and what it’s like to say hello back