I Wish I Had Understood More About Anxiety 30 Years Ago!
Have you or someone you know been told that you are anxious or are suffering from some form of mental health issue such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)or Panic Attacks? I was labeled with both more than 30 years ago and it took me many years to understand that what I was suffering with was not a disease but a nervous system that had a faulty alarm. This is the original reason I became a yoga teacher.
This past week, I listened to a fascinating talk from Dr. Russel Kennedy based on his recent book Anxiety Rx. Dr. Kennedy is both a neurologist who works with people with anxiety and an anxiety sufferer himself.
According to Dr. Kennedy here is what anxiety is NOT
Anxiety Is …
Not A Disease “It is a normal coping method that has gotten out of control,” according to Dr. Kennedy. When your nervous system that is designed to protect you has gone rogue, the alarm goes off all the time even when there is no fire or other danger.
Not A Feeling. This is a really interesting thesis made by Dr. Kennedy, particularly because of the horrible, uncomfortable, painful feelings one gets when anxiety hits. Dr. Kennedy contends that the anxious thoughts and the painful feelings are separate but inter-related. The thoughts can create an uncomfortable feeling, but often the pain in your body is from unprocessed traumas that are triggered by the fault alarm which then creates the anxious thoughts.
While this might seem like pulling hairs, the point is that you can actually treat the anxiety from either a bottom up or top down approach. I have tried both and find that bottom up works better and is longer lasting. The pain is real because it is a result of your alarm going off in the body, which is supposed to hurt to get your attention. But the anxious thought is not real.
Not Real Even Though it Feels Real. Dr. Kennedy contends that anxiety is a projection into the future that is based on the possibility that something bad might happen. In other words, the anxious thoughts are imagined, but feel incredibly real. “The more you fight with it or try to overcome it, the more real it appears,” he explains. The physiological reason for this phenomenon is that the resistence causes the nervous system goes into a fight and flight state which leads to less rational thinking. The higher cortical functioning part of the brain is bypassed in favor of the amygdala– the more primitive reactionary part of the brain.
Not A Weakness or a Character Flaw. This should make any of us who suffer from anxiety stop feeling so much shame. Dr. Kennedy contends, and I would agree those of us who have experienced anxiety are some of the mentally strongest people in the world. As he puts it, not only do people with anxiety “do things they are afraid of, but they do so with one hundred pounds of fear on their backs.” If you don’t believe this, read my story about how I did not fly for 30 years, but finally got myself on a plane when my son got married in Brazil.
You Don’t Have to Rely Solely on Medicines for Help!
I never did well on the anti-anxiety or pain medications, so I spent the past thirty years researching and developing other ways to deal with my anxious thoughts and accompanying chronic pains. This is what I offer in my Gentle Somatic Yoga Classes and private Yoga and HeartMath sessions. Find out more through my website by reaching out directly to me.
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To Your Health and Happiness,