“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” - Charles Spurgeon
Ebola, Rabies, Smallpox, Influenza...these are some of the most dangerous viruses that our human race had to fight against. They spread quite easily from one person to the next and that is probably their most fearful trait...fast contamination of many people. While anxiety is not a “virus” per se, it can spread more rapidly from one person to the next and affects so much more our lifestyles than we would acknowledge. Today, we’ll talk about anxiety, how it impacts us, where it comes from, and how to reduce it in ourselves and our communities.
“Stress is caused by an existing [...] stressor. Anxiety is stress that continues after that stressor is gone.” - HeathStatus Team
First of, let’s get something clear: anxiety is not stress. Stress is a fight-or-flight response that our body has when it feels in danger of an immediate threat. Our body reaction of stress can help us survive a dangerous blow to the head, avoid a car coming at us, fight against an animal who wants to make us his dinner. Really, stress is a natural reaction that should not often come during one’s life; we’re mostly talking about a life or death situation here.
But what about anxiety...well that is quite a different beast. Even though the symptoms of anxiety resemble those of stress they don’t come at the same times, for the same reasons, or with the same impact. Anxiety is a psychological and physical response we have after the original stressor is gone: I avoided the car coming right at me, yet I still feel stressed hours after that happened. Anxiety is really the aftereffect of stress, and can stay there for a very long time. It doesn’t seem to have that much impact on our bodies...but when it stays for hours in us, it builds up with time and makes us fearful creatures, worried about each and every little thing happening in our lives.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” - Frederick Douglass
As I said before, anxiety can grow itself. When we sleep, we relax and reduce a lot of our anxiety, giving us a chance to rest and start over the next morning, but...while we reduce some of our anxiety that way, the next morning it will come right up.
The problem with anxiety is, unlike stress, it depends a lot on our thoughts and ways of thinking. We get anxious about being late to work, showing our true emotions in front of others, going after our dreams...and that anxiety builds up from one generation to the next.
Because our parents were anxious, they built this and that to prevent possible problems, yet the same tools they created to help reduce problems were leading to more anxiety. For example, we invented smartphones to help reduce problems in the world, yet now people feel more anxious than ever because they think that their smartphone is very very important...so they get a lot more scared than the generation before them.
Truly, anxiety is growing at a very fast pace and it is time to take action into reducing it...without creating more anxiety-prone tools.
“There's no future in spending our present worrying about our past.” - Tom Wilson
It is best to understand well our adversary, before making our next move. Anxiety is special, if we make decisions because we our anxious, then we’ll just end up generating more anxiety than there was before. So we need to...relax. Yes, that is what we need...to relax...to take some time off and relax our body and mind. Really the best way to reduce the anxiety in ourselves and others is by its opposite...relaxation of ourselves and others.
So...where does anxiety come from? We know that anxiety originates from our own thinking, for we know that there are no immediate threats when anxiety is there. Really, the threat that still exist is only left in our mind.
So we need to look at our own mind to understand when anxiety starts...and with much investigation we can start to see that anxiety comes from...our thoughts. Yes, thoughts have a huge impact on anxiety, if we think about the past...we might see a threat that is not here in the present...and if we think about the future we might worry about something that does not exist yet.
When we search through our past experiences or try to figure out what our future might look like...this is when anxiety can show itself. So the answer is simple...we have to stay in the present moment in order to reduce anxiety until it disappears.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” - Amit Ray
In the present moment there can be stress... but anxiety is not possible for it is a product that is generated in our mind, through our careless thinking. Anxiety cannot co-exist with the present moment because anxiety comes from not being in the present...from imagining threats where there are none...from being stuck in our thoughts instead of being conscious to what is really happening.
The present moment is just what it is...the present...what is happening here and now. We might think we are always in it, but that is false. To be in the present moment means to be conscious of the present moment, otherwise we “are” not. The present is always there but we might not “be there” for it.
We all have this difficulty to be in the present moment, and the more we have it...the more anxious we tend to be. Hopefully this condition of ours, of how our mind works, has been known for thousands of years...but the western science is finally catching up to it...to the simple fact that thoughts impact our bodies to a very great amount. So if you’re anxious, let me tell you that there are very efficient ways to reduce it, right now.
“Experience is the teacher of all things.” - Julius Caesar
You have been reading this article in hope of an answer to your anxiety, and here it is. Let’s reduce your anxiety right away then. As I said earlier, anxiety comes from our own thinking, so to reduce it we need to be more aware and conscious of our thoughts as they appear and disappear within us. To do that here are a list of exercises that you can do right now. I recommend doing them in the order specified, for a total of 30 minutes.
Sit comfortably on a chair or a cushion, in a peaceful location where you would feel at ease to close your eyes for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and feel your body from head to toe. Really try to be curious of the different sensations that you have throughout your whole body like so: head, neck, throat, chest, stomach, right arm, left arm, buttocks, right leg, left leg.
Try to be as thorough as possible during your scan of sensations, the more time you take to feel each part of your body, the least anxiety you’ll have left.
At home or in a private room do the following. When breathing in take a step..wait until it’s completed...take another step when breathing out...wait until it’s completed....repeat this process for 10 minutes. It is not so much a walk as it is a way for you to follow your breathing with the help of your feet. With each foot you mark the beginning of the air coming in, and the air coming out. Everytime your mind wanders to something else, it’s okay, expected and completely normal...just gently go back to the exercise when it does.
Our final exercise is the most effective one. Just sit on a chair or a cushion in a comfortable position and choose a point in your body where you can follow your breathing (nostrils, chest, stomach). Then follow the breath gently...when you inhale you know that you inhale...when you exhale you know that you exhale. Follow your breath for 10 full minutes, use a timer to help you out. Your mind might wander a lot during that exercice...many thoughts and emotions might bubble up...that’s okay. As soon as you notice that your mind has wandered, just go back very gently to looking at your breath again...no rush.
At headpause, we organizer a free meditation group every week to help you start the practice of meditation, do those three exercises with us, and greatly reduce your anxiety. Come join us to make a positive change in your life.
30 January 2018