I work a lot with clients who deal with anxiety. Anxiety is a common human condition. In fact, we all experience anxious thoughts and feelings from time to time. It’s normal. However, when the anxiety impacts our day to day functioning or lasts for a prolonged period of time, then it becomes a problem. Many of us struggle with an anxiety disorder at some point in our lives. I personally have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I deal with many people who struggled with GAD or Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
Anxiety can manifest in different ways for different people. Some people report having panic attacks where their breathing is impacted. They may feel sweaty or clammy and have heart palpitations. In some cases, the individual feels as though they were having a heart attack. Anxiety can impact our sleep and disrupt our lives.
Many people know about the primitive responses to stimuli. These are our flight, fright or freeze responses. They are part of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and were very much a help when we were running for our lives from predators like lions. Nowadays, stress is everywhere. It’s on the news, in our jobs and families and pretty much anywhere else you can imagine. Stress is not generally life-threatening, but it is always on a slow burn, or so it seems.
What many of us don’t know is that we have an ancillary nervous system, housed in the vagus nerve of the brain. The vagus nerve is often referred to as the eighth chakra or the seat of the soul. It is where our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is housed and it wants us to be calm and at ease. The PNS is our alleviate anxiety, de-stress and digest response. I don’t know what it has to do with digestion. I’ll leave that to better scientific minds than mine to decode.
Basically, most doctors would want to give you a Xanax or a Klonopin to counteract your anxiety, but you may not need it. There are some interventions you can take – some of them in the moment and others daily – that can help you reduce your anxiety in the moment, bringing you from a level of overload back to a problem-solving level.
If you haven’t noticed, when you are overly anxious, your brain short circuits so to speak. You can’t engage your problem-solving part of the brain. It’s just not possible. You’re overactivated and your brain is like a pinball machine that’s all lit up. By doing some of these interventions you can reduce your overload and overwhelm and get back to problem-solving by throwing anxiety off its game.
I like to teach people about three specific techniques to quell their anxious brain.
- Laugh every day. Yes, laughter really is the best medicine for our mental health. When we laugh for up to twenty minutes every day. This is not forced laughter. It can be by watching a funny tv show, listening to a comedic podcast or reading a Subreddit of dad jokes. Whatever makes you laugh will work.
- Try the half-smile. This is a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skill. You take your tongue and press it gently against the roof of your mouth. Hold it there for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. At that point, you should fully smile or laugh. This will allow you to problem-solve. It’s amazing how well this works for some, but not others.
- Tap your way to mental health. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a methodology using specific acupressure points on the hands, face and upper body that helps to reduce anxiety and alleviate stress. I am certified in EFT and can teach you a two-minute routine that you can do every day as many times a day as you need to to build up your parasympathetic nervous system. However, before I teach my clients the full routine, I ask them to test out one special tapping point. This is located below your nose and above your lip. It’s where there’s a big of a dip or divot in the face. If you place your finger, preferably the pointer finger of your dominant hand, on this point and tap for about 30 seconds, you should feel a release of tension in your neck and shoulders. This can help you feel less stress or anxious. If this point works consistently then the larger tapping routine will be helpful for you.
Of course, there are other ways to access the parasympathetic nervous system such as deep or box breathing and using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to alter negative thought patterns such as catastrophizing. These are just a few ways you can intervene for yourself so that you can feel better in moments of high stress or anxiety.
If you’d like to chat with me in greater detail about these methods and others, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to working with you.
One thought on “Anxiety 101”
I find it so helpful too. 🙂 It really can be a game changer. Glad it works for you!