Using relaxation to eliminate anxiety
Happy Halloween, Friends!
Over the years, Halloween has evolved into a celebration of darkness, fright, witches and treats. What if I told you that this holiday is the perfect time to face and let go of your own fears? For those who understand the power of acknowledging and exercising the shadow, celebrating Halloween can actually promote a healthy, emotional release of fear. Understanding our fear, after all, is the quickest way to dissolve it. It’s a simple equation, really: fear is THE main inhibitor of the healing process. If there is ONE essential issue to address when beginning the healing process (be it physical or emotional), it’s safety. Feeling safe has different associations for everyone, but universally, once you sense it, your body begins to effortlessly move into its natural alignment. Once you feel safe (which can require some re-training of your mind), many of the approaches we seek out to heal illness become unnecessary. So, here are some ways to slay your fears and exorcise your demons.
The idea that safety=healing is not only an observation I’ve made with my clients, it’s also based on hard scientific evidence. You’ve probably heard about the Fight or Flight response (FF), first described by Walter Bradford Cannon. His theory states that animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, priming the animal for fighting or fleeing. Many of us, as a result of a multitude of daily stresses, remain constantly in a low-grade FF stress response in which we are flooded with biochemicals like norepinephrine and cortisol.
FF is the perfect response to mobilize resources in cases of emergency, but the cost of being in the state is high. It causes exhaustion, affects digestion, lowers sexual responsiveness, leads to adrenal fatigue and, eventually, chronic immune system suppression.
So what are we to do?!
I propose that you elicit the Relaxation Response. When we experience safety, our bodies move out of the intense resource guzzling state of FF and into the Relaxation Response (RR). In the RR, the parasympathetic nervous system, which causes humans to relax, is activated. The benefits of the RR include:
* Lower Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
* Decreased Fatigue, Less Muscle Tension
* Deeper Sleep
* Improved Immune System Functioning
In addition, emotions that were repressed during FF can finally be properly dealt with during the RR. (And we know everything at some point has to be dealt with!)
Imagine that whenever you go into FF, your emotions are flash frozen. Numb doesn’t mean that the feelings are gone. In fact, carrying frozen feelings is very tiring for the body. To heal, and to deal with our issues, we want to move from numb, to feeling, and then finally to release. One great way to “thaw-out” and reset the nervous system is to take a bath in silence, light some candles, allow yourself to breathe deeply. Feel your body moving in the water. Allow yourself to make a sound. Whether it’s a sigh or whimper, don’t judge it, just allow the sound to emerge. If you don’t have a bathtub, cuddle up in warm blankets and do the same exercise. Have a cup of herbal tea and a journal ready afterward.
For emotional healing remember: “Solid, liquid, vapor.” We want to allow, feel and vaporize unpleasant feelings! Wellbeing is yours–it’s your birthright! Your body (in its entirety, including your cells, organs, etc.) knows what to do. Just set it on the right course by nurturing safety!
Fear Slayer Exercise: Elicit the Relaxation Response
Get comfortable. A safe, clean environment is best.
Intend to relax and take a few deep belly breaths or yawn (yawning cools down our overactive pre-frontal cortex).
Choose a word, phrase etc. to recite and keep your mind focused. Try:
* “One, ahhh, I am safe.”
* “I am comfortable.”
* “I am here.”
* “I am peace.”
Maintain a passive attitude of allowing and release.
Many people tell me about their fear of being consumed by their feelings if they allow themselves to fully feel. They “foreverize” their feelings. Remember, resistance amplifies fear and that’s when we suffer indefinitely. Be with fear and allow it through. After all, it’s only an illusion!
If you are dealing with an added challenge—anxiety, PTSD, etc.—you may need some extra support, time and space to experience safety. For some people, feeling “safe” can actually trigger unsettling and uncomfortable associations. If you are one of those people, take your time. Continue to focus on your intention of finding new ways to feel more stable, and a feeling of safety will follow.