Anxiety 101: Recognition of Reactions
This series is not intended to replace medical advice. It is based on my educational and personal experiences. Please consult a medical professional if you are suffering from overwhelming anxiety. I would be happy to help you find a good one.
End disclaimer that scares everyone off.
Next time you’re driving down the road and feeling stressed, STOP. Not the car! Stop yourself. Well… do stop the car if you’re at a stop sign or red light or some crazed squirrel is hanging out in the middle of the road.
Stop and take notice.
Start taking some mental notes: what is your body up to at that moment?
For me, I’ll notice that my hands are gripping the steering wheel tighter than they need to. I’ll feel that my shoulders are raised up toward my ears. My posture will be hunched over. My breathing is shorter and more shallow. Sometimes I’m bouncing my left leg.
So I loosen up my grip, I lower my shoulders, I straighten up my back, stop bouncing my leg, and I take 5 deep breaths. I breathe in through my nose for 5 seconds and out through my mouth for 7 seconds.
Our body responds to our mind’s fear. This is natural, but in cases of unhealthy anxiety, it is exaggerated. This can go both ways. Our mind can also act based on our body. So if your body is tensed up then your mind can actually respond by becoming more fearful because it senses the need to justify those physical reactions. Muscle tension also causes tiredness and sometimes even pain, which creates more anxiety. It’s circular.
The first step to relieving some of your anxiety is that simple. Just noticing how you’re responding and how often it’s happening. It might not just be in the car, though several of you will become aware that you feel most anxious there because you’re alone with time to think. It might be while you’re sitting at home, in your office, or even out with friends. But STOP and become aware. You might be amazed at how often you’re tensing your body up in response to your thoughts. Practice this for about a week. Write it down if you can. No need to write down what caused the anxiety just yet, just simply write that you felt it and how your body responded.
That’s the 1st step.