With anxiety-related “disorders”, there is a real risk of damaging relationships by projecting on to present experience fears that that have nothing to do with the current scenario. The following are tools and techniques I have gleaned from my own journey of managing the symptoms of anxiety, which in my case were stemming from severe past trauma. I use the word “disorders” lightly because from the shamanic perspective there are not so much disorders as “spiritual conditions”, which is a more fluid way to approach a genuine situation in a pragmatic way without labelling, hence leaving room for spontaneous and instantaneous healing and evolution beyond the challenge of existing circumstances.
This is perhaps the number one tool I have used on my healing journey, and which can be used for absolutely anything that needs to find a voice. The journal is a “safe space” where you are free to express all that has never been able to be expressed elsewhere, it’s a way of progressively strengthening the quiet inner voice without censorship or fear of judgement, it’s purely your personal sacred container. During my early stages of healing I used this method to literally walk myself out of mazes, filling multiple thick journals per year. The progress can be quite extensive in its detail (more like writing a diary), or simply brief notes to self, which was the method I used.
During these most challenging years some of my journal entries would read as simply as follows:
“I am stronger and stronger every day. I am beautiful. I am lovable. I have so much potential to give to the world, I am worthy of love and I believe in myself…”
Very very simple, and yet this is the exact process that enabled me to gather my strength enough to finally walk away from all the experiences that didn’t serve me. If writing like this, always use the prsent tense “I am” rather than the future tense, to crytalise desired results as having already happened. As we write we are recalibrating our own neural pathways to accept the truth of a higher vision of myself than what we had been led to believe, which is extremely empowering. Journalling is good for anything that “flashes up” in consciousness, not merely for healing purposes but a whole load of other purposes too, and I still use it to this day. The act of simply writing is immensely powerful.
Writing letters what won’t be dispatched
Like with journalling, writing letters that aren’t intended to be dispatched is a powerful way to express all that we need to get off our chest, without putting our loved ones in the position of constantly having to be a therapist role for us. Much as we may have people around us who love us very dearly and want to help, there is only so much “offloading” that it is reasonable to expect another to handle before feeling burdened. Writing letters is a great alternative that also bypasses the guilt we might feel when we accidentally burden others too much by emotionally spilling over. A letter writing practice also helps to ensure that when it is time for something to be verbalised, the pressing urgency of emotionality from pent-up expression has already been assuaged, because we have provided an outlet for ourselves. Thus our interactions with others can progress much more lightly and joyfully and our relationships have a far better chance of thriving successfully.
The act of simply moving around is another amazingly simple and effective way to release pent up emotional energy. Oftentimes when we feel stressed, we tend to become more rigid and seize up, so these are the times that it is particularly useful to stretch ourselves out. The best form of physical exercise for actually healing anxiety is something that allows both a combination of yin and yang movements, but for the purpose of just releasing it in the moment anything will do. When all else has failed, the most simple method I have use is to just get up and jump around! Or to put some music on and dance by moment, however uncoordinated. We don’t need to know how to dance, the goal is just to move the body. Dancing is excellent because it both promotes the free-flow of energy and emotional expression, but is also fun and joy-promoting and likely to lift us very quickly.
In terms of longer-term managing of anxiety through physical exercise, keep in mind that purely yang movement (such a weightlifting) will help us to feel stronger, but it won’t help to iron out the underlying tension. Purely yin exercise will allow energy to flow freely, but it won’t necessarily help us to build stability. A combination that I love is intuitive dancing (very yin) and body-weight exercises (much more yang), both of which can be researched. Another great option is of course yoga, which balances energies very nicely. Really it’s about finding the form of movement that works for us uniquely.
Mastering just one or two breathing exercises that you can refer to easily even in a moment of panic is invaluable, and can avert a lot of potential catastrophes. The most simple of these is to imagine your breath being drawn from deep within your belly, a deep well of nurturing presence, and drawing it up to fill the body. This might take some practice is there is particular tension in the breathing muscles, as is often the case with deep grief. Don’t worry if you can’t manage to fill the whole lungs, just focus on finding the feeling of being centered and grounded that breathing from lower down in the body brings. Another option is to close your eyes and imagine yourself breathing deeply into the heart center, if necessary using a mantra such as “I am safe and supported”. If all else fails, just focus on breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth for a few counts to still racing thoughts and emotions in an emergency.
Giving Yourself a Hug
Often when we are anxious, all we really need is for somebody to hold us and tell us that it’s ok. Unfortunately, this can become neediness, which has a very negative affect on our relationships. Making a practice of stopping to give ourselves a hug, holding ourselves deeply and reminding ourselves that we have everything we need right now, right within us, goes a very long way towards conquering this. Imagine holding yourself the way one would hold a small child in a state of distress – lovingly, tenderly and compassionately, with great understanding and intimate presence. This is something we are wholly capable of giving to ourselves. Each of us has this small child within, that needs to be nurtured on a continuous basis in order to feel happy, whole and healthy. Next time you feel anxious, try this very simply technique and see what big difference it makes.