I Didn’t Know Anxiety Did That to My Body
People are often surprised and dismayed by their anxiety symptoms. Regularly, clients will report to me physical symptoms that are concerning and confusing to them. It is commonplace for people struggling with anxiety to sometimes be unaware of having anxious thoughts until an uncomfortable physical symptom presents itself.
Physical Manifestations of Anxiety to Look For
Physical, or somatic anxiety symptoms can be subtle or scary. Below you will find a list of common symptoms. I have heard descriptions of these plus others.
When Anxious Body Triggers Anxious Mind and Anxious Mind Triggers Anxious Body
Physical anxiety symptoms can be a frustrating cycle in which you may feel one or more of the above symptoms and then experience anxious thoughts. Your mind may run away with these anxious thoughts and then your body may become more physically uncomfortable which spirals into a repetitive cycle. All of this can leave you confused and scared wondering if what you are experiencing is real. Thankfully, there are things that you can do in your everyday life that can help reduce anxious thoughts as well as somatic anxiety. Here are some techniques that could help you cope with the symptoms listed above:
Find a Therapist You Trust to Explore Different Counseling Modalities
Try some of the above techniques, but it’s also a good idea to seek out a mental health professional for further support. There are many different types of therapists and approaches for treating anxiety including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and EMDR. CBT helps you identify your thoughts, challenge negative thoughts, and then replace them with more helpful thinking. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing), works by weakening the effect of negative thoughts with eye movement. These are just two approaches and there are others for those who struggle with the all too common symptoms physical and otherwise of anxiety.
Throughout my years in private practice I have spent a lot of time teaching people about boundary setting. Knowing the difference between empathy and sympathy goes hand in hand with healthy boundaries. Preserving your self energy is key to help you be healthy. Learning how to be there for someone versus being in the thick of a struggle with someone is a very helpful tool. This video animating Brene Brown's words regarding empathy versus sympathy is an easy way to understand the difference. Enjoy!
Some things to do when you are in a mood funk in no particular order:
1. Go for a walk or a run.
2. Call a friend who makes you laugh.
3. Get outside when it's sunny.
4. Listen to music that makes you happy or brings back good memories.
5. Watch a funny or uplifting movie.
6. Meditate or pray
7. Go to the gym.
8. Make an appointment with your therapist.
9. Have a good healthy meal.
10. Make your bed.
11. do yoga.
12. Practice smiling in the mirror.
13. Write in your journal.
14. Think of all the things that you are thankful for.
15. Call someone and thank them for being great.
16. Call someone and ask them for reasons they think you are great.
17. Look through old pictures that make you happy.
20. Spend time with animals or children
These are just a few things you can do, I am sure you can come up with more. :)
"Be courageous, be courageous!" This is the statement that Pope Francis recently made to a young student he was urging to sing to him. She had just shared with him the story of her childhood and the struggles she had overcome. At his request she shared with him and the crowd watching a very vulnerable part of herself and something she stated helped her get through the hard times in her life. Music had uplifted her and helped her be strong. She was hesitant at first and you could tell that she was feeling shy about singing in front of everyone. She was possibly thinking that people would judge her and she would be embarrassed. Turns out she had a beautiful voice with a heart and energy that was sweet as well as comforting. Singing in front of the Pope and an audience was hard for her, but when she finished she had uplifted others through sharing her joy and she was uplifted as well by their support.
Every one of us has a gift. Sometimes these gifts are things that we feel make us different than others and we are shy about sharing. Everyone is different and that is miraculous! My sweet grandma used to love to say, "If we were all the same life would be really boring!" What is unfortunate about us not sharing our gifts and being afraid of being different is that it keeps the power we have to make a change in the world silent. If we keep our gifts silent we never get to be uplifted by the energy it gives us and others. Silence of our gifts keeps change in the world from happening.
There are always going to be people that criticize what you share, but that criticism is not about you. That criticism is about them being afraid of what your change your gift will bring to the world. Don't worry about criticism, share anyway. Even if your gift only ever makes a small change with one person, that is amazing. Think about the people that you are reaching, touching, uplifting and encouraging to do the same. One small change you make in the world can vibrate into a huge change.
Get out there and create, share, and send loving positive energy to others. Depression and anxiety thrive on keeping your voice, your gift, quiet. Just because your gift looks different than someone else's does not make it wrong, it makes it yours. Someone out there right now is looking for something, searching for understanding and it may be your words or actions that make them feel understood or validated. Throw your pebble in the water and watch the ripples. The world needs your gift!
So, back in 2013 when I set up this website I intended to make this blog something to use as a tool for me as well as anyone who would happen to read it. I thought I could include things that I notice as a trend in the work I do or share with others that I too go through struggles. I had every intention to update this blog regularly. As you can tell from the dates on my blog entries, that did not happen. When I sat back and thought about why I had not updated it much, I wondered...why?? Oh, I am busy with clients, paperwork, family life. While all of that is true there is something else as well. When I started writing this blog I felt extremely timid about it. I do not think of myself as a good writer. I can imagine things sounding beautiful in my head, but when I go to write them down they seem barbaric. When I admitted this to myself I realized there was someone else talking to me about this in my head. I could imagine a monster, or a meangirl, or some other critical character.
When in session I often rely on visuals in my head to help me understand what a person is trying to convey to me. Sometimes these are serious visuals of things that I have seen before in my life or sometimes they are from art or the entertainment world. A lot of the times these things are comedic because I LOVE humor! I think that when it is appropriate humor is one of the best ways to break down the walls of frustrating, stressful struggles. Humor gets people to explore things in a way they may never have before because they were too afraid or stuck. Humor allows you to release your anxiety that this thing is too big for you to handle. I love the disarming creativity of humor. A warning about humor though is that it can also mask what you are trying to work through and that can be stagnating or even worsen the situation, as in passive aggressive sarcasm.
Alright, so back on track. When I addressed my own stalling on this blog the thought that kept me from writing it was that I am a bad writer. What would people think of me? What would my clients think of me? What would I think of me? Would I reveal too much? Would I not include everything I wanted to say? Would I make major grammatical mistakes? Would I fail???? Oh my goodness. That kind of pressure makes a person just want to stop dead in their tracks paralyzed with self doubt. I'll be honest...as I sit here typing this I am thinking "Are you really going to put this on your website? Is this really the impression you want people to have of you?" and I am feeling a little nervous.
Here's the thing about anything you do and thus why this blog post is called "Set Your Intention", with any of your endeavors in life you have you set an intention. What is your goal? Why are you doing what you are doing? Are you being true to your original intention? Why not? Are you being too hard on yourself or assuming that other people will think something unfavorable about you? If you wander from that intention then you will never reach your goal and never know what you are capable of. If you let your own thoughts of self doubt stop you then you are robbing the world of a contribution that could make it a better place to live if only for one person.
Let's be honest about my blog...I am not an award winning writer. I am not intending this blog to lead toward a publishing deal. I think I have run over all the rules of paragraphs and my english teachers would probably faint if they read it. Is this a 3.5 paragraph? Is this in APA style? Most likely not even close. However, that was not my intention. My intention was to help you get to know me as well and I incorporated it on my professional website because I know that many people are nervous about getting counseling. Don't be nervous. You are ok and I have things I am going through too. A lot of therapists who do their work do it because they have empathy and they have that empathy and compassion because they maybe have felt the same things you have or have been through something they never thought they could tackle. You are human. The first step to reaching your goal and staying with your intentions in life is to let them be known. Whew, I did it...I am going to publish this on my website. Here goes.....
Once upon a time when I was a teenager and feeling like things were hopeless my Mom said to me, "Expect the unexpected." I was miserable because something in my life ended that I did not want to give up. She was trying to tell me that good things can come out of bad things. As long as you are willing to embrace the notion that what waits around the corner for you is something more beautiful than you could have predicted. Don't limit yourself to what you already know.
Feeling hopeless that things can change for the better is common for teenagers as well as adults sometimes. When my Mom and I had that conversation about the unexpected I remember feeling comforted and unsettled at the same time. As the years have gone by I realize like among other things my Mom told me, expecting the unexpected was completely and utterly true. The trick is that you have to choose how you feel about the unexpected. You can never completely predict where your life is going to go. You just have to live in the moment and enjoy where you are right now. At the same time you have to be able to not be afraid of where the future may take you. You have to see the unexpected as an opportunity to grow. There is a quote by Elizabeth Gilbert that I absolutely love and try to remember when I am in a situation that makes me squirm:
“I've come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call "The Physics of The Quest"- a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: "If you
are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting(which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments)and set out on a truth-seeking journey(either externally or internally),and if you are truly
willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you
meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared - most of all -to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities
about yourself....then truth will not be withheld from you." Or so I've come to believe.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
The unexpected is so scary and so unsettling because you have no control over it. When it comes to your mental health wanting to be able to avoid the unexpected can lead to anxiety and depression. Not allowing yourself to feel what you feel or lean into that discomfort of the unknown keeps you stuck. After some time, anxiety paralyzes you into a space where you doubt yourself. The unexpressed wants and feelings you have morph into depression and depression makes your mind think all kinds of hurtful and unhealthy thoughts. These thoughts keep you from recognizing your potential or enjoying your life. When you expect the expected and expect things to be just the way they are right now you handicap yourself and can become bitter and rigid.
Just imagine if you weren't scared of the future? Imagine that no matter what happened you would be ok and thankful for the experience. Just imagine if you never had another negative thought about yourself or other people for that matter. Go ahead, close your eyes and imagine it. Didn't you just feel a little piece of heaven? Did you feel like someone unlocked your jail cell? Freedom from fear and expected outcomes is an amazing thing! Of course you have to practice this and remind yourself like I have to that the unexpected is a good thing. What if you did something unexpected and let go of the past hurts? Start fresh, it feels so good! Embrace the unknown. It is awesome what things can develop that you had no idea could materialize.
Today I have on my mind discomfort. Everyday I fight alongside people who are uncomfortable. We hold hands while they grimace through the pain and sometimes we grimace together. I sit across or next to them while they process things that are painful and unbearable to face alone. I am fascinated by the issues that people want to explore, the topics they will absolutely not touch and the ways that they get around to the thing that is the root of their struggle. I rejoice when they finally release demons that have been haunting them for years. I see that time and relationship makes things easier to say out loud to me. I feel honored that they trust me enough to let me journey with them through such intensely personal struggles. The resilience of people is mind-blowing! The things that I have seen people come back from are amazing! Often I wonder how I got so incredibly lucky to be in the position to be taught amazing life lessons every day. Maybe I am exactly where I need to be. Discomfort is no stranger to me either. Can I do this type of intimacy in my personal life? I need this don't I? This is why I am here, isn't it? We all have constant growing to do. Human describes ALL of us. All of us are uncomfortable sometimes and I realize recently in my professional life, my friendships, my yoga class, casual interaction with strangers, my family, etc. this feeling of discomfort is my opportunity to grow. I need to be as brave as my clients and lean into the discomfort.
As I sit across from you I can see your brilliance. As I sit across from you I can see your beauty. As I sit across from you I can see the light that wants to burst forth from you.
So long ago, or maybe not so long ago someone told you that you couldn't do it, or you weren't smart enough, or that what you thought was irrational. Someone told you that you were not good enough in some way. Someone told you that you were too ugly, too short, too stupid, too smart, too weird, too optimistic, too cranky, too fat, too skinny, too goofy, too happy. Someone told you that something about you wasn't right. Maybe that person was your mother. Maybe that person was your father. Maybe that person was your teacher. Maybe that person was your "friend". Maybe that person was your boss. Maybe that person was your spouse. Maybe that person was someone in your family that thought they were helping you by saving you from your horrible, idiotic ideas. It's a crazy merry go round, but they heard those things too. They felt defeated and smacked down by discouragement from someone else and they are trying like hell to get it out of them and into you.
A tricky thing happens when you hear things about yourself like this. Suddenly you hear them everywhere. Suddenly every voice that speaks to you becomes a chorus of the same. Everywhere you look people and events are reaffirming that you suck. Then, the most devastating thing happens.... You begin to hear that criticism in your voice, in your head. That is the final affirmation that you are just worthless, pointless, and stupid. You believe it now. Done.
When I see you I know that you feel this. I know that you feel unloved. Life becomes a constant search to fill the void, to anticipate how to cover up the fact that you are the dumbest, trashiest, klutziest, ugliest person in the room. Stay two steps ahead and distract others and yourself. Step on a dizzying ride to rejection.
Let me help you. Let me give you my light. Let me lead you to a place that is still and peaceful. A place where darkness-loving demons will scatter and dissipate. Take a deep breath. Isn't that amazing? The freedom you feel from the weight of criticism is exhilarating. I want you to stay here. I want you to hear your voice, your real voice. I want you to hear your voice saying to you that you deserve to be happy, that you are good enough, that you are loved, that you are whole and complete just the way you are.