Three Simple Steps to Overcome Anxiety – The Body Language of Relaxation
Our fear response, also referred to as our fight or flight response, is what gives us the symptoms which we commonly refer to as anxiety. The fight or flight response is instinctive and primal having developed over thousands of years of human evolution for one reason; to help us to survive. When triggered, the fight or flight response prepares the body to respond, to run from the threat or to confront the threat. Adrenaline is released and the heart begins to beat a little faster in order to supply the thigh muscles with fresh oxygenated blood, to help us to run. Blood rushes to the heart from the extremities, often our hands feel cold and clammy as a result. Vision is narrowed, to a point ahead of us, looking for higher ground, a safe place to run to having the effect of clouding our peripheral vision. Our muscles tense, primed ready to respond fast. Digestion stops, all resources are focused upon the need to flee as our body prepares to survive.
This primal, instinctive response has served us well, and continues to do so when confronted with a serious threat to our survival, consider how fast you can step back onto the kerb when you observe a vehicle travelling at speed. However, our instinctive fear response has little or no discernment and struggles to recognise whether we are facing a real threat (speeding vehicle) to our survival or a perceived threat (a deadline at work). This equates to a racing heart, clammy hands, dry mouth, body tension, irritable bowel and a feeling of tunnel vision, all as we are sitting at a desk under pressure, trying to think how we will get through the work required to meet a deadline.
The above feelings are what we may commonly experience as anxiety and it is on the rise with the many pressures of life that many of us recognise.
There are many methods to calm and control these feelings of anxiety and one very good method is to utilise the physical body as the fear response is predominately a physical one. The following three simple steps to overcome anxiety can be easily achieved sitting at the desk, or in most situations when anxiety strikes:
- Breathe long, slow deep breaths, breathing in for the count of three, and exhaling a little longer for the count of five. As you breathe in, know that you are filling your lungs and expanding your diaphragm therefore your abdomen will naturally rise. It can help to place on hand upon your abdomen and feel the rise and fall as you practice this method of breathing. By practicing this, you not only fill your body with fresh oxygenated blood which helps to relieve fatigue and muscle tension, you also send a message to your fight of flight response that you are breathing long and slow therefore you are not running or fighting. Your fear response “hears” this body language so the heart begins to slow down and your body returns to balance.
- Expand your peripheral vision, keeping your head up, still and straight and using only your eye movements to look as far to the right as you can with your eyes without moving your head, then again looking to the left. You can look up and down if comfortable and then you can even imagine if your eyes could roll all the way around to the back, what you could see behind you. This exercise “takes away the tunnel” and sends a message to your fear response that you are not looking for the exit. Your fear response “hears” this body language and the body relaxes and returns to balance.
- Check your posture, adopt open body language so uncross your arms and legs, place your feet upon the floor and bring your shoulders back opening up the chest and hold your head up tall and straight. This body language works due to the fact that if there were a real threat to your survival and it was not viable to confront the threat or flee, then the next instinct would be to curl up and over, similar to a foetal position as this would help to protect the most vulnerable parts of you, the internal organs in the centre of the body, and the arteries either side of your neck. When you unfold your body and adopt an open stance with head held high, your fear response “hears” that body language and registers the fact that you are actually safe and there is no longer any threat, the body relaxes and returns to balance.
Hypnotherapy is an extremely effective treatment for anxiety of any kind and is an area in which I like to specialise so please do get in touch if you would like to arrange to speak about booking in for hypnosis sessions. Alternatively, this MP3 Download is a hypnotic recording for you to listen to and is really helpful for anxiety management.