How do you know you have anxiety? Anxiety is considered an emotional and a mental state, but still how do you experience it? The Mayoclinic.org, a renowned non-profit educational and research clinic, describes there are common occurrences, as listed below. The more the anxiety, the more intense the symptoms, until it consumes you. It does not matter which type of anxiety it is – general anxiety, mood disorder, eating disorders, social anxiety, perfectionism, depression-anxiety, the body reaction is similar. So the mind or the events may have been the trigger, but it is in the body that the struggle is played out.
How can you get on with life, when the heart is racing or your breath is hyperventilating, or the head is throbbing? Everything else in life gets eclipsed!
Mayoclinic.org, (2018) list of common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly or hyperventilation
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Having difficulty controlling worry
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
The body cannot be ignored. That is why the reverse is also true, taking proactive care for the body in times of peace, the range of intensity of anxiety attacks can be narrowed, over a lifetime. I am drawing on the eastern wisdom of yoga and Ayurveda, where preparing and strengthening the body as a lifestyle therapy, which can mitigate anxiety to a great extent.
Did you know, that according to the current statistics as per Mood Disorders Society of Canada (2019):
- chances of having a mental illness in your lifetime in Canada is: 1 in 5.8
- chances of having a mental illness or a substance use disorder in your lifetime in Canada is: 1 in 3. 8?
On an average, that means 1 out of 4 will be unable to balance out or cope with some mental disorder in their lifetime! Let me explain anxiety or mental disorder as being caught swimming in a choppy ocean, with rough winds. A single life jacket can increase the chances of survival multifold. And that is what lifestyle therapy is – a lifejacket, that you keep handy and in usage, as the ocean of life will inevitably get stormy every now and then.
Air vs Earth: How do you do lifestyle therapy?
There is a very simple premise that explains anxiety from the eastern wisdom model: the air element or moving parts of the body increase the propensity to be subjected to greater anxiety. As you will note, breathing rapidly, heart palpitations, knotting of the stomach, trembling, all of these can be clubbed under excessive movement of the various body parts.
While the water and earth elements are the protective factors. These elements provide moisturizing and a braking effect on the very same body, making the body processes slower and more measured. So how does one access these elements within their lifestyle?
These are some of the air elements that we undertake within our lives:
- Insufficient sleeping, or not sleeping through the night
- Too much screen time
- Not eating enough foods loaded with the water/earth elements, for instance bitter beverages like coffee increase the air element within the body
- Too much talking, gossiping
- Excessive mental work
- Too much raw, cold foods increases foods loaded with the air element
- Malnourishment through imbalanced meals
- Allowing the skin and tissues to become dry and dehydrated over time
- Never allowing the mind to take a break from stimulation
- Being a loner: not being able to access emotional support within a relationship network
- Feeling isolated: not being able to access strength from a higher divine power
- Excessive travelling or car travels
- Drying out: not enough hydration
- Associating with sensory stimulations of fear, anger, horror through games, movies, media. Overly employing the eyes – watching, and ears – listening, and voice – talking.
These are some of the water/earth elements that we undertake within our lives. These elements provide heaviness, stability and structure, which in turn becomes a supporter, like a ladder:
- Mental vacation from chatter and overstimulation – meditation, nature walks, sleeping, resting
- Sleeping properly and soundly through the night
- Having foods rich in water/earth elements like ghee or ashwagandha milk latte
- Herbs like brahmi and ashwagandha are grounding
- Oiling the skin and keeping the inner tissues hydrated
- Slow and deep breathing – pranayama like the alternate nostril breathing or nadi shodhana technique is very supportive
- Being able to access emotional support through family and community
- Living a slower paced lifestyle
- Being able to access emotional support from a divine higher power. Cultivation of a corruption-free and manipulation-free faith is a great investment. In short I call it – prayer, building a relationship with a higher power.
The water and earth elements provide stillness and stability. How do you experience this in the very same body that can hyperventilate and go into panic mode? You experience it as a slower heart rate, as relaxing of the knots in the guts, as more space and comfort in the lungs. This in turn translates into a greater feeling of safety, and a gut connection to some faith and hope, that events will take a turn for the better eventually. It allows you to see light within the dark envelope. Yes, it is a skill that can be sharpened through training and practice!
Before you question your anxiety symptoms, ask yourself:
- Does my GI tract feel supported?
- Does my breath body feel supported
- Does my emotional body feel supported?
- Do my muscles feel supported?
- Is the head space not jam-packed with a tangle of thoughts?
- Does my mind feel rested, clear and supported every morning?
If the answers to all of the above is negative, then how can you ever fend off an anxiety attack? Building up resilience is a rippling effect. From the body it spreads inwards, into the emotions, into your faith, into your higher self.
And how do you deepen your connection to the part of the self that can access faith and hope? You can do that by my holistic counselling sessions where you can explore your somatic body triggers embedded in the body and your subconscious dynamics. As you learn more and more about your hidden fears and beliefs, you are then free to release them.
If you choose to do so…
If you would like to learn more or book a session click
Mayoclinic.org, 2018. Anxiety Disorders -(https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961)
Mood Disorders Society of Canada, 2019. Facts on Mental Illness & Addiction in Canada – (https://mdsc.ca/edu/quick-facts-on-mental-illness-addiction-in-canada/?gclid=CjwKCAjwp9qZBhBkEiwAsYFsb6VKpeJ5sCy4DiNetE_LfvAvrNNRKMDAWjUutVIAQfGdmZ5JsW8YABoCluMQAvD_BwE)