Bodily Resources for Reducing Anxiety
Many of us experience anxiety, and some come to the psychologist’s office to look for ways to help themselves. By practicing bodywork and movement therapy, I constantly expand my toolbox of relaxation and inner resources. I will share some of them with you today.
I noticed that when I worry, I lose awareness of the whole body and focus only on my head. Simply put ’I am in my head’. As a result, anxiety only increases, the circle of thoughts is turning more and more intensely, there is chaos in the mind - it is impossible to see reality clearly and make the right decisions for further actions. A wish to run or do something immediately to reduce such anxiety arises. By the way, sometimes active physical exercise or “recruitment” of that anxious energy can also be a solution, but this article is not about that.
When I feel anxious and tend to ’jump out of myself’, I consciously bring my attention back to the body. Bodywork and movement therapy enables us to use the resources that are present within our bodies. Today I will talk about breathing, awareness of body sensations, and connection to the support.
When I notice that I am worried, I cannot stay still, and thoughts start to bombard me - at that time I do not feel my body, I experience life only in my mind. At this moment, it seems that only my thoughts exist. I am unable to realize what I am feeling emotionally, and even less so what body sensations I experience, as anxiety seems to take all the focus of my awareness.
What helps me to get out of the ’carousel of anxious thoughts’ is conscious return of attention to the bodily reality. I notice how my feet feel in contact with the floor, how my hands feel, my back - maybe my body longs for some kind of movement, stretching. I allow myself to move a little, turn my head side to side, move the pelvis. I scan my whole body with my attention. I notice a tense jaw, I relax it, I notice what it feels like when my eyes are blinking, my neck is tickling, a shiver is swirling down my back. At that point I meet an experience that I am greater than just my mind and thoughts that produce anxiety. I have not the head alone but also the rest of the body and a lot of sensations in it. From that thought alone, anxiety becomes less. I discover various qualities in the body - heaviness and lightness, compression and relaxation, support and contact with the air.
One of my teachers has said, ‘When no one in the world seems to hold us, remember that the Earth always holds us!’
Awareness of support can become a big resource that is always available. We are always supported by something. So let us notice which parts of the body are now leaning on the floor, the chair, the wall. Allow the body to relax and give our weight away to the supporting surface. Let us feel how we are being held. We can also try to lie down on the floor and lie there consciously, observing our senses - feeling the hard floor beneath us.
Sometimes, when I have a lot of unfinished work or I am in a tense situation, I feel like I am pressed by someone from the outside and I do not have enough space for myself. Then I notice that my breath is also compressed, superficial at times. However, after paying attention to this, I try to let my body breathe the way it wants for the moment. Maybe deeper into the abdomen, pelvis, or even all the way to the tips of the toes. Sometimes as I inhale I raise my arms, open my chest, stretch. This way, more air enters my body, I feel a sense of more space, and all of this gets reflected on an emotional level – I feel calmer. Even though I am still in the same situation, I feel like I have more inner space, no one is pressing me. From this position, I may even make different decisions about the world that revolves around me.
After concentrating on the body I return to the environment calmer. It becomes safer for me to be within myself, my thoughts are not so raging. It is easier for me to choose what next step is best for me, instead of wanting to do everything right away. I feel more ‘on the ground’. The feeling of the base under my feet is reflected both physically, emotionally and psychologically.
Therefore, focusing on breathing, bodily sensations, and awareness of support are the resources that are always within us and can bring more peace, inner stability, and safety in a matter of moments. I encourage you to try it for yourself!