When I was first diagnosed with anxiety it surprised me that the first recommendations my therapist began making involved not my thoughts or emotions, but my body.
Start taking some walks each day, she said.
Try to cut back on the caffeine and sugar.
Maybe you should try yoga, she offered.
Maybe even more surprising was the changes I made in how I treated my body did in fact help my mind.
When I began to learn more about anxiety this made sense as so much of it is physically rooted. Anything we can do to discharge the adrenaline and cortisol coursing through our veins, anything we can do to increase levels of feel-good chemicals of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, bring it on. And if there is something we can do to release the tense muscles that are holding only God knows what inside their painful knots, all the better.
In our anxiety management class, my husband and I came back again and again to care of the body to soothe the mind. Now this is tricky, because you don’t want to fall into the trap of perfectionism or all or nothing thinking with taking care of yourself. (Oh no, I missed two days of walking this week, I am such a failure!”
I think the best way I can sum it up is with these two invitations:
Begin really paying attention to what makes your body feel good and what makes it feel stressed.
Be as good and gentle to yourself as possible.
It is okay to take time to love and care for your physical self. And when you do this, everything else will get a little better too.
Any physical changes that have made a big difference in your anxiety levels? Or changes you are looking to make?