Anxiety and panic attacks, irrational fears and phobias, OCD and depression – all involve heightened
anxiety. In overcoming them, the goal is not to get rid of anxiety completely for to have anxiety is to be human. It is an
instictual response, evolved over millions of years, that helps to protect us and stop us from getting hurt.
To overcome these problems we need to understand why our anxiety is 'kicking in' to protect us when we don't need it, when
there is no threat or danger. This knowledge changes the whole problem and allows us to stop it completely and naturally without
therapy or medication.
It is possible to experience anxiety without it leading to panic, obsessions, compulsions or despair; to experience it and
yet still be calm.
In fact many people do experience anxiety like this frequently (eg. at job interviews, when dating, in performance situations, during sports and social occasions). They
may feel shaky on the inside but relatively calm on the outside, this is normal, this is part of anxiety, this is how it feels.
On a popular TV quiz show, where the contestants answer questions and can
double their winnings up to a million, the quizmaster has
said to many contestants, words to the effect: "You look remarkably calm".
In nearly every instance the reply has been the same: "On the outside, yes, but
inside I'm shaking like a leaf".
When we have anxiety and panic problems, phobias, OCD or depression we believe that to have any anxiety is not
right and we start to associate it the first signs of it with something being wrong with us ... this is what makes it so strong.
If ten thousand people say you are good and you feel bad about yourself ... you will believe you are bad. Conversely if ten thousand people
say you are bad and you feel good about yourself ... you will believe that you are good. Our reality is shaped by what we feel and
A man found an eagle's egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet
hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle
did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He
scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled and would
thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air. Years passed and the eagle
grew very old.
One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided
in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat
of its strong golden wings.The eagle looked up in awe. "Who's that?" he asked.
"That's the eagle, the king of the birds," said his neighbour. "He belongs to the
sky. We belong to the earth – we're chickens." So the eagle lived and died a
chicken, for that's what he thought he was.
To change beliefs, we have to understand how and why they developed. We have to understand our experiences, the
people involved and more importantly, the conclusions we drew about our role in them, for it's not the experiences themselves that do the
lasting damage, it's what we make of them. We have to understand how we learnt to think and behave because of our experiences.
Various anxiety disorders exist and personal make-up and experiences probably determine individual forms. However, a number of factors exist
which are common to them all.
Feelings of self-doubt, no control (with its related feelings of not being there) and self-imposed high, inflexible standards are just
some of the things which need to be understood before we can loosen the grip of these problems.
We all work the same way...
Ranging from shyness and low self-esteem to anxiety disorders and depression, each anxiety problem is unique to the individual. Expressions of social phobia vary
from person to person just as those of agoraphobia vary from panic disorder and GAD varies from OCD.
However, as unique to the individual these problems are and as different to each other they are, these problems develop for similar reasons and strengthen in a similar
way, a manner which reflects the way our mind and body works.
Our individual personalities probably develop from a mixture of genetic make up, experiences and learning. As such, how we behave depends on the knowledge
that we gain from past experience (derived from situational clues, knowledge at that time, assumptions and reasoning) and how we apply this to present situations.
Differences in, and complex interactions between, the above factors give rise to our individuality.
We are all different and yet, in one sense, we are all the same. We all have similar body structures, we have similar mind structures, all of us have the same five senses
and we receive and process information through these senses and structures in a similar manner.
Therefore, it is not surprising that we all tend to deal with certain situations in roughly the same way.
Problems involving anxiety and panic, obsessions, compulsions and despair work in basically the same way and reflect the ways that our mind and body have evolved
to deal with 'bad' experiences. Given your genetic make up, your past experiences, the knowledge you had in the past and the knowledge you
have now, your mind and body are working perfectly. However they are not working appropriately.
Our mind and body are so interlinked that in some ways it is difficult to distinguish between them; thoughts generate
feelings and feelings generate thoughts. Anxiety leads to tension but also tension leads to anxiety.
Many people with long-term anxiety and depression problems exist in a higher than average state of tension and a tense body is already making associations with
anxiety, 'prepared' to spark off a worrying thought or image and start the ball rolling towards panic, obsessive thinking or despair.
The upper chest and shoulders are one area where many people with anxiety-related
problems maintain tension in their body. They constantly have raised
upper chest and shoulders. This is for two reasons: first, it is a defensive posture
(I would raise my shoulders if somebody went to strike me) and second, it stems
from conditioning associated with the body's attempt to relieve tension naturally
... sighing (letting out a deep breath) is a natural way to relieve tension.
Many people with these problems hold their breath a lot (especially before going
to sleep) in order to sigh. This can lead to conditioning the body to have the
chest and shoulders raised and also the development of breathing from the
chest rather than the diaphragm.
Try this:- throughout the day notice how high your shoulders are and drop them
down (as in Yoga – 'roll them over and back').
When your shoulders are lowered, do you feel ever so slightly more relaxed?
Do this a number of times throughout the day (4 or 5 times) and when you are
in bed before you go to sleep.
Insight and understanding are essential to overcoming anxiety problems. However, from shyness to depression,
something else is equally important ... changing behaviour. We can't just think our way out of these problems, to change behaviour
we have to do the behaviour (it isn't possible to learn to ride a bike just by thinking about it!)
But changing behaviour alone will not help if we still feel bad about our self or still have unanswered questions about our problem. Any
force over which we have little understanding and even less control will always hold power over us, for it is unpredictable and could harm
us and as such remains frightening.
Successfully overcoming anxiety problems requires BOTH insight and behaviour change.
We have to understand the problem (how it developed and why it effects us the way it does) to such an extent that the search for reasons and answers can be given
up. Only then is it really possible to reduce the automatic negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours and develop more positive
COURAGE is not the absence of fear. It is feeling afraid but keeping those feelings sufficiently under control to be
able to act appropriately. Once we begin to understand how anxiety disorders work much of the fear of them is removed. When we truly
understand the problem we are on the way to recovery.
Fear cannot be banished, but it can be calm and
without panic; and it can be mitigated by reason and evaluation.
... Vannevar Bush (1890-1974)
Once we understand why we have the problem we can stop fighting it. And this is where the true answer