Breaking the Cycle of Anxiety
Now that you feel your body, bring its unpleasant sensations to an end. By its nature, fear is temporary, but if it insists on sticking around, give a clear message: Let go. The message can't be in words, however. The body's language is entirely physical. So you need to send your instructions physically. This is unusual for anxious people, who have been sending mental signals of distress, vigilance, tenseness or worried anticipation for years. But, it isn't hard to do. Your body can be retrained.
If you try to attack it all at once, fear is too overwhelming. So break the body's sensations down and deal with them one at a time. This is a very effective way to regain a sense of control. Here are the characteristics of fear and the methods to alleviate the sensation.
What you feel: Cold. Your body shivers and trembles. The sensation of coldness adds to a sense of weakness, like being naked in winter.
What you do: Lie in bed under a blanket while doing the remaining steps. Make sure the room is warm. Have the lighting be soothing, neither too bright nor completely dark. Darkness accentuates anxiety.
What you feel: Stiff. Fear paralyzes the body. It goes tense and motionless, frozen with anticipation of something dreadful that is about to happen.
What you can do: Lie on your back, slowly stretch and twist. Be like a cat waking up from a nap. Reach up as far as you can, rotate your shoulders, wiggle your toes, and stretch your feet and legs.
What you feel: Breathless. Tense and vigilant, you stop breathing when you are afraid.
What you can do: Use conscious deep breaths, going as low into your abdomen as you can. Draw in air slowly and deeply until you feel your diaphragm start to bulge out. When it can't comfortably go out any farther, exhale with a whoosh. Don't push the air out, but let it escape as if your lungs were a balloon collapsing. Whenever you feel anxious and notice that you aren't breathing, consciously take a breath. The breath regulates the movement of emotions.
What you feel: Unable to make a sound. Fear tightens the throat, and even when you feel like screaming, you can't. At its extreme, this leads to a condition of silent horror.
What you can do: Make sounds that activate the fear to leave. This kind of "toning," as it is often called, takes practice. Sometimes you may want to scream into a pillow; other times a low, guttural sound is needed.
Laughter can help or a silent tone that goes out the top of your head. These sounds help carry away stuck feelings that are harder to get at. But each kind of sound has to come spontaneously. Don't scream and cry in order to exhaust yourself. The sound shouldn't be forced. Begin by humming as your attention scans your body, using a high tone in the head and a lower tone going down to the abdomen. Breathe the fear out with the sound. In time, you will find that bodily sensations can be eased out using many kinds of sounds. However, if you find yourself getting sadder or tenser, then the tone isn't helping. Deep breathing would be better at such moments.
What you feel: Contracted. Fear brings on a sense of seizing up or shrinking, drawing up into a tight protective ball. When that happens, many anxious people tighten up even more, as if growing smaller and smaller will make fear stop noticing them. But contraction has the opposite effect. It prevents the release of deeper residues of fear.
What you can do: Put your attention on your heart. See it filled with white light. Now, while you slowly breathe out, see the light expand. Don't force this; perhaps the light only expands by a small amount. Take another breath and repeat the process. See yourself expanding with the light, growing more expansive and open. Let the expanding light go beyond your body. See it fill the space around you. Now have it fill the room and finally go outside the room into the rest of the house and out into the surrounding world.
After you know how to do each of these techniques, you can combine them. But as you stretch and relax, always remember to keep breathing. These steps should be taken patiently, allowing at least 10 minutes to deal with your bodily sensations.
Step 3: How to calm your body