Most of us know anxiety, the one that manifests with excessive worry, negative self-talk, and even palpitations, headaches, or stomach problems.
(Not the clinical one)
When I’m anxious or overly worried, I get stomach aches: a burn in the pit of my stomach.
I have the tendency to think the cause is physical (and yes, it’s good to rule out medical conditions). That’s our societal conditioning.
I would ask myself: What did I eat? Did I have too much coffee? (I probably did!).
But I have come to learn when my stomach burns is mostly because of some form of stress I’m not aware my body is carrying.
Of course, we all have some form of stress.
Our biology -our body- is very equipped for short-term/acute stress. Our biology dates to a time when danger was a matter of life and death: Getting chased by a saber tooth tiger, dying by starvation, or being ostracized by our clan (which in effect meant death).
The outer world has changed drastically and rapidly.
The common modern threats are more long-term/chronic stress: fear of getting fired, having a fight with a loved one, getting an illness, battling traffic, saying yes when you want to say no, political antagonism, not feeling good enough, insecurities, etc.
But our body is not designed to deal with long-term/chronic stress without adverse health repercussions.
Our body reads those stressors as constant attacks.
That is something I learned the hard way.
It wasn’t until my body caved in due to apparently this or that physical problem, that I learned at the root of those conditions was the accumulated unprocessed stress my body was carrying.
Unprocessed stress in our bodies results in a host of problems like chronic inflammation, higher levels of glucose, digestive problems, tension headaches, back pain, etc.
And that is where anxiety comes in… as a safety alarm.
Anxiety is not just in your mind or brain. It’s in your body.
You can’t outthink anxiety. You can’t analyze it away.
Anxiety is requesting that you pay attention to your body.
And perhaps, it’ll be uncomfortable.
But choose discomfort.
A psychologist once told me that under anxiety often there’s a more vulnerable emotion like sadness or fear.
I’ve noticed this is true for me and for many I’ve coached.
Your body needs your attention. Your emotions need processing.
And processing emotion is nothing complicated. You don’t have to understand them or explain them. You just have to feel them, in your body.
Emotions come in 90 seconds waves. So, the discomfort wont’ last long.
When you feel anxious instead of analyzing it or avoiding it, go to your body and get curious.
How does the anxiety feel in your body? What else is present? Fear? Sadness? Anger? Just let it be. Don’t judge it.
And let it move through you.
Start small. A few minutes is enough. Consistency is key.
This practice will create a sense of SAFETY in your nervous system.
That safety will activate your parasympathetic system to “rest and digest,” an antidote to long-term/chronic stress (and its symptoms).