So have you tried it? Yoga or meditation to fix your anxiety. And if you did, did it work? Did it work any better or last any longer than alcohol or sex or cake?
Let me back up a step here and clarify. When I talk about anxiety in this context I’m not talking about worrying about what you’re going to wear today or the ups and downs of everyday life. In nervous system speak we would call this the normal activation settling cycle of the nervous system. This is called being human.
I’m talking about debilitating anxiety – the sort that keeps you awake at night, that surges through your system when you first wake up, that inhibits your ability to focus, to relax and to carry out everyday tasks. That knot in your gut that just won’t go away. That tightness in your chest that makes it difficult to breathe. Those unbearably uncomfortable sensations that cause you to be on constant alert. That feeling of nameless dread. Believe me, I’m speaking as someone who knows. This sort of anxiety is as a result of a severely dysregulated nervous system which is a result of unresolved trauma.
And as Buddhist Teacher, Pablo Das states “You may be surprised, for example, to learn that meditative interventions which are helpful for a person with a nervous system which has not been impacted by trauma might be counterproductive or even harmful to a person with a trauma history.”
So what’s causing anxiety?
Anxiety is sympathetic arousal of the autonomic nervous system resulting from an incomplete defensive (fight or flight) response. According to Peter Levine, PhD., neurobiological research shows that fear and panic are triggered by the amygdala, our brain’s natural alarm centre. And trauma causes the amygdala to keep firing even when a threat is long past. This is because traumatic events are stored in procedural memory as if they are ongoing and happening in present time. As Peter says, “the result is an alarm system that seems to be randomly firing, but is actually firing due to unconscious cues from the past.” (Levine, 2012, p.37).
The good news
The good news is there is a way to turn this over active alarm system off so that it only fires in response to present dangers. It begins with getting to the root cause via the bodily felt sense. We work with the body to re-establish a sense of safety in the body. We complete any defensive responses that didn’t get to complete originally. And we build the capacity to experience difficult sensations and integrate split off emotions. And the nervous system slowly but surely comes back into regulation. Back to a baseline of peace and calm. And you are able to experience spontaneous relaxation. That has been my experience and the experience of my clients.
“I found working with Jo around my anxiety amazing. She helped me understand the underlying source and where it stemmed from and also gave me the tools to deal with it.” – N. Williams
Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share some tools to support your body to resolve anxiety. So hop on over to my facebook page to check them out.
And if you want to get beyond managing anxiety (which, let’s face it, is exhausting) to resolving it at its source, then book a complimentary session with me to learn how. Book now.
Levine, P.A., & Phillips, M. (2012). Freedom from pain: Discover your body’s power to overcome physical pain. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.