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A different way to help anxiety

Do you experience anxiety, or know someone who does? Then I urge you to read on...

Whilst I have focused on anxiety here, this approach applies to pretty much any symptom in your life. I have applied it on my own chronic illness journey and use it with all clients.

A long term client recently shared a podcast episode with me and suggested that I would enjoy listening. As my friends well know, I am a sucker for a podcast!

This lovely client sent the link across because she felt the discussion resonated so strongly with my approach as a therapist. She would know! The episode was Feel Better, Live More by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee on a New Model for Solving Anxiety with Dr Russell Kennedy. On listening to the interview, which absolutely did resonate, I was inspired to share this with you too. Simply because I know it could change lives. Here is why...

For a long time the medical system has treated issues like anxiety or depression as symptoms to fix. Patients are often given a pill too quickly, which only serves to cover up the surface symptoms, instead of addressing the root cause. I also see CBT as sometimes being used in this way. Whilst it has benefits, it also has limitations.

It is important to say that some people need medication and it can be an amazing thing. It is also important to say that many do not need it and that anxiety and depression meds are seriously over prescribed. When someone feels hopeless and the GP suggests a 'magic pill', of course they want to take it. I have done so too, but if is often a disservice to the healing journey. It suppresses the body, and what it is trying to tell us. In modern life we have forgotten how to listen to our body!

Okay, so...what else can we do?? How do I support clients with these issues?

In order to heal anxiety we need to drop down in to the body, so we can explore the sensation and where it sits. Most of us will find this very challenging, as we are afraid and want to escape any uncomfortable feelings. This escapism can manifest as needing to be distracted, keeping busy, feeling numb, addiction (food, phone, exercise etc). As we deny our feelings we push them into a small space (our body), and over time they build and build. Inevitably they will overflow! If we are unaware and disconnected from our body and emotions, we will feel completely ambushed by anxiety. It is as if it comes from nowhere, adding to the unsafe feeling because it feels unpredictable and hopeless. I know these patterns only too well myself!

The thing is, when we avoid it we are only causing our self more pain in the long run because the issue is still there and we are even more afraid. There is a monster hiding in our closet! When we connect with where the anxiety is held in our system, such as the chest or stomach, we can begin to process it. We will also see the subtle signs so we can prevent it escalating. We can allow it to move and release, instead of fighting it. Fighting and making it 'wrong' is the mainstream approach and will only exhaust our system, and increase cortisol.

Many therapists like myself argue that inner child work is a massive piece, but why? It is likely that the anxious feeling you experience is attached to younger parts of you that have been split off and denied because you weren't able to process them at the time. In order to feel better, we have to meet these parts and nurture them with presence and compassion, exactly what they needed at the time but never received. This is where healing happens,uncovering the buried parts in your body and embracing them with patience and understanding. Even a seemingly happy childhood can have small trauma experiences and require processing.

In western society we have been raised to try to think our way out of anxiety. This is a disaster and it will only ever make it worse! This is in part a result of the Enlightenment, where the age of reason concluded that the thinking brain was superior. The mind-body connection was not understood, and a division that we are still impacted by today became central in our culture. This is shown in the famous words of Philosopher Descartes, "I think therefore I am." It also links to a rejection of the feminine (body, earth, dark, soft etc) and a focus on the masculine (intellect, heaven, light, hard etc).

But things are changing...

With new research and thought leaders in this field, we know and value the need for mind body approaches more than ever. The body holds so much wisdom and has huge influence on the brain. It is great to hear medically trained doctors discussing this growing health revolution and advocating for 'alternative' body based approaches. To heal from anxiety long term there needs to be a combined exploration of body and mind. There is no magic wand, but there is a way to significantly reduce the suffering and feel much better in your body. It can be hard to imagine, after years of debilitating anxiety.

My approach is to support clients to reconnect with their body, and gently explore sensations. I will read their words back to them and see what they feel. Where does the feeling sit? What does it feel like...does it have texture, colour, shape etc? Through EFT tapping we will explore this and go into deep layers. This often brings up memories, realisations, feelings, which we follow. We are led by the unconscious and the body, which is so much wiser than the analytical part of the brain. Clients are always surprised by what comes up! We create a highway to your inner universe, and discover what is really causing your 'issue'.

When we embrace these tools, we can begin to truly heal, and find peace and acceptance with who and where we are. We can regulate our own nervous system and feel different. Healing from anxiety (and other symptoms) is possible, though not linear. We all have a unique healing journey. Sometimes it begins with a first step, and asking ourselves "how could this be different for me?".

A few words from contemporary mind body experts who inspire me...

"The body keeps the score." Bessel van der Kolk

"Awareness is the medicine." Dr Kim D'Eramo

"Trauma is not what happens to you, it's what happens inside you." Gabor Mate

"Shame is the the warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed and never good enough." Brene Brown

"In PTSD a traumatic event is not remembered and relegated to one's past in the same way as other life events. Trauma continues to intrude with visual, auditory, and/or other somatic reality on the lives of its victims." Babette Rothschild

As you can tell, I am pretty passionate about this work and what a difference mind body therapy can make! I struggled with anxiety and depression for many years, and wish I had discovered this sooner. I am here for any questions or support, just reach out for a chat.


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