Many of us suffer from anxiety and have tried numerous techniques to keep it from interfering with our daily lives. As with any unpleasant feeling that we experience, there is something to be said about allowing emotions to come up as they organically do. Distracting ourselves from social media, movies, alcohol and drugs can be an effective way to avoid unpleasant feelings. However, these are not healthy ways to process and will not lead to lasting change when triggers occur.
When experiences are not fully dealt with, they become hidden. When we find ourselves in similar situations, we tend to react in a more powerful way due to past experiences. Let’s say, for example, that years ago we were in our house during a hurricane and a tree crashed through the roof. For many months and perhaps years, anytime a loud sound happens unexpectedly, the fear of that fateful day may return. Even if it was just a spoon dropping on the hard tile floor, we may react as if the roof was caving in around us. If it’s windy outside, causing branches to fall on the roof, each sound may cause us to jump. These are classic examples of how triggers can pull us back to old wounds, making our reactions disproportionate to what is actually happening now.
Anxiety is there to keep us safe. It is a call to action to fight or flee so we can move through danger. It’s there to keep us out of the way of trouble so the signals it sends have to be strong. The problem is that those signals aren’t always accurate. Anxiety was never meant to get in our way, but rather, to get us out of the way of danger. The part of the brain that drives anxiety thinks it’s doing the right thing. The more we fight it, the harder it will work to convince us that there’s danger and that we need to act.
Our bodies are capable of holding onto memories, fears and traumas for a lifetime, if not properly dealt with. Knowing and trusting that past events are indeed, past events, can help to comfort us during times of anxiety. Allowing feelings to surface, instead of trying to push them down, can lead to opportunities to move through these uncomfortable sensations.
Journaling is a wonderful way to be with an experience without trying to change it. Try to pick up a notebook when you are feeling triggered or when you find yourself full of anxiety. Write down each feeling that you are experiencing. Instead of analyzing the feelings, or distracting yourself from them, just write them down. Acknowledge them. Pretend you are an observer, listening to a friend. Notice that you are only sitting with a notebook, writing down feelings. The world is not crashing down. You are safe and secure at this moment in time.
Going through life with an attitude of acceptance as to what is actually happening to us, instead of what we want to happen, can lead to greater fulfillment. Instead of focusing on what did not go right, simply acknowledge what happened. It happened and now we are left with this moment and then that moment and then the next moment. Reading self-help books and articles may give us desired insights into the workings of the mind. Reading case studies on cause and effect can provide uplifting stories of recovery from trauma. Seeing a qualified therapist can give us the opportunity to be heard, which is an incredibly powerful tool in and of itself.
Certainly, practicing techniques outlined by a therapist or from a publication will give us a greater opportunity to heal and recover from that which worries us. Being proactive versus being an observer can lead to healing as we move through our feelings, processing events in our lives if we just try.
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