Anxiety-Friend or Foe?
As I walked up to a random stranger on the street when I was in Myanmar at just 29, I wondered if I would actually pass out from anxiety. I had been taking photos of locals being quite literally kicked around my government workers and militia, and knew that I was starting to appear on the kinds of lists you NEVER wanted to appear on. The kinds of lists that could get you kicked out of the country or thrown in a Burmese prison.
If I had known at that time that anxiety could actually serve me, I probably would have reacted very differently when the stranger I was trying to talk to ran in the opposite direction as militia members approached me.
This story turned out all right due to white privilege and UN connections, but it could have gone very wrong!
When I started studying psychology again to become a therapist, I learned that anxiety, though agonizing, was my overly daring brain's way of reigning me in. I still count on it to do so to this very day.
BUT in the process of my degree program, I learned various ways to handle anxiety. Ways that other therapists had taught me before.
What actually works for people varies, but I am sharing my very favorite breathing exercise with you here because:
1. You can do it in front of people.
2. You can do it without anyone noticing.
3. It is clinically proven to relax the pre-frontal cortex and the amygdala, two centers of your brain deeply involved in anxiety.
Your amygdala is the fear center of your brain. Once it starts sending signals throughout the rest of your body, you will likely have sweaty hands and feet, a rapid heart rate, and maybe some nausea and dizziness. Everyone's reaction is different, but these are my main anxious symptoms.
I like to use breathwork to calm myself down. Of course, this is not a substitute for dealing with your trauma, your impulse control, or major life stressors that are causing the anxiety, but it does help.
The Box Breath
1. Find a comfortable position as best you can. Sitting is best, but you can do this standing, running, whatever needs to be happening at that time.
2. Inhale for 4 counts.
3. Hold for 4 counts.
4. Exhale for 4 counts.
5. Hold your breath out for 4 counts.
6. Repeat at least 6 times or until you feel your anxiety start to subside.
If you are interested in finding the root cause of your anxiety, I am holding virtual EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and Transformational Healing sessions twice a week. My in-person sessions in Santa Fe, NM tend to be booked, but always feel free to check out my calendar for the next available date.