Yesterday I had another very helpful but very painful visit with my therapist.
“I mean, do I need to put a rubber band around my wrist and start snapping it every time I start to feel anxious?” I asked.
The question was only partially rhetorical. Yes, telling an anxious person to “snap out of it” is one of the worst things you can do. However, an anxious person often has to come up with brain tricks for him/herself to reset their brain. Yogic breathing exercises, tapping your wrist, counting shades of green in your surroundings, holding an ice cube, sniffing lavender, even pinching yourself are all methods some anxiety-ridden people use to force their mind to leave the scary (irrationally-thought-about) future and get into the present moment. The action — e.g. pinching yourself — is simply physical thing or truly “sense”-ational thing to get your mind to feel the right now as it is and stop imagining the future as it likely will not be.
I’ve used some of these techniques successfully to calm my mind down before. Some methods haven’t been successful for me.
Before this post sounds trite or before those who’ve never suffered from anxiety jump to easy conclusions, let me explain the act of using a present sensation to jar your brain out of a terrible place. It’s not simply about replacing one type of thinking with another. You, in essence, are trying to outfox your brain. The anxious person is actually trying to think and feel the brain into releasing different chemicals into its synapsis rather than the yucky chemicals that are washing around during irrational anxiety.
Some anxiety is good. If you are trying to escape someone with a knife, some adrenaline and cortisol would do your brain and body good. Fight or flight is exactly what you should be feeling. But adrenaline and cortisol suck as a nearly constant presence. They also wreak havoc on a brain and body over the long-term. So the anxious person has to trick their brain into returning to some sense of normalcy, tricking yourself into better health, in essence.
Anyhow, today I must admit I’m feeling pretty resentful, pretty angry. It sucks that my brain has become this.
I know this resenty-angry-stage-of-griefy thing is natural. It’s part of the process of finding my new self. I have to accept the new Michael Dahl is an anxious guy, and I need to find ways to manage that.
But as I said, I’m pretty resentful at the moment.
Oh there’s more I’m pretty angry about. But that’s for a future post.
For now, I just wanted to shed light on another aspect of anxiety that I’m grappling with … and that millions of others do too.