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Wriggling Away from Anxiety

It's a natural instinct to pull away from discomfort.  However, trying to wriggle away from uncomfortable feelings like anxiety, sadness, disappointment, fear, etc adds another layer of suffering to your experience. Trying to get away from anxiety can take several forms.

 
You might catch yourself in little internal battles. One voice says, "I'm really anxious." And another voice says, "There's no reason to feel anxious about this.  It's no big deal, just get it together." 
 
You might try to get away in a more physical way.  You tighten your body and try to create armoring against feeling the anxiety.
 
You might also find yourself desperately tossing about for some relief.  Your mind brings up a menu of possible quick fixes like, another cup of coffee, something sweet, a pain pill, staying focused on work, having sex, drinking alcohol, or smoking pot.
 
Ironically the most relief from anxiety or any uncomfortable feeling is found when you don't try to get away, but rather turn fully toward the feeling.  When you come to stillness, feel your feeling fully, and accept discomfort as a part of your experience in the moment, you get to experience more than just the anxiety and the battle with it.  You experience a bigger sense of yourself that can be with the anxiety.  Lastly, connect with the needs underneath the anxiety.  Let's look more closely at four steps in turning towards anxiety.
 
1.  Stillness   The moment you notice anxiety, come to stillness.  Come to stillness physically by literally stilling your movement, bringing your posture into an upright, relaxed, and centered position, closing your eyes, relaxing your face, and breathing deeply into your belly.  Having a regular meditation practice in which you practice coming to stillness helps you access this stillness when you need it most.
 
2.  Feel Fully   Feel your feeling fully by giving it mindful attention.  Ask yourself these questions to increase your ability to feel the feeling fully:
         -Where in your body does the feeling hang out?
         -Does it move around?
         -Is it deep in your body or more on the surface?
         -Does it have a color or texture?
         -What tone does it create?
         -Is it sharp and specific or dull and generalized?
-What are the actual physical sensations that you are labeling anxiety?
 
3.  Acceptance   Create a relationship of acceptance through the steps above and by simply saying to yourself, "It's okay to feel what I feel".  "Feeling anxious is okay.  There is no real problem."  Feelings are a powerful part of your experience and as such you tend to immediately create meaning from them.  Often the meaning sounds like this, "There is a problem!  I must do something!".
 
4.  Needs   Even though anxiety often arises out of habit, it can still be grounding to connect with the needs underneath.  Often the needs underlying anxiety are the core needs like safety, belonging, support, autonomy, and acceptance.  If you check in with each of these needs and notice how they are already being met or take action to meet them, you will likely experience relief from anxiety.  Unfortunately because anxiety is often habitual that relief may only be momentary.  Practicing grounding in needs and turning towards often enough that it becomes a stronger habit than the anxious pattern creates long term change and peace.
 
This week choose at least one of four steps in turning towards anxiety to practice.  Set up a structure such as an alarm on your phone or post it note to help you remember to practice.

 

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