Second Step: Body Care
My husband has this saying, “Anxiety is a body-related event”. If anyone has ever told you your anxiety is all in your mind, I am here to tell you they are W-R-O-N-G.
My racing heart is not in my mind.
My IBS is not in my mind.
The cortisol and adrenaline coursing through my body are not in my mind.
Nope. Anxiety happens in your body too.
So to help manage anxiety, you gotta take care of that body of yours.
When I started my journey to heal my anxiety some of the things I found helped my anxiety are the things all human beings have to do to take care of their bodies: lay off the sweets and increase movement. These types of changes are basic body care that helps everyone feel better.
But some of the changes I had to make were different, unique to someone with anxiety. Like my relationship with caffeine. Even on my best mental health days, I can only drink one iced latte before I start to feel jittery and jumpy inside and out. And when my anxiety is running high, Bye-Bye latte. Bye-Bye chocolate. See you in better days.
I don’t know why my husband can drink a pot of coffee without being affected and I can’t, but I have learned that is how I roll. So I respect my body and limit caffeine.
I have also learned there are some things that my body loves.
I have found a hot Epsom salt bath does wonders for me (body and soul). I am not sure why my body craves magnesium, but adding the Epsom salts takes a relaxing bath to a whole new level of healing. I learned this helped so much, my doctor suggested I take a mild magnesium supplement every day. Magnesium, who knew?
And let us talk about massages.
I used to consider them a luxury. Now I chalk my monthly massage up to anxiety maintenance. It is part of what keeps my body working at its best. If I skip my monthly massage for any reason (I am looking at you quarantine) my neck and shoulders get super fussy and my overall anxiety levels rise.
What helps your body?
The 40 million of us who have anxiety will not all want and need the same body types of body care. We are each unique and our self-care needs are as unique as we are.
Maybe you need to run regularly.
Or maybe you have a condition that limits intense physical activity so stretching and moving in a pool is your best bet.
Only you (in consultation with your doc) will know what is right for you.
But here is the thing.
We have to pay attention to our bodies to know what aggravates our anxiety and what helps us feel our best.
So here is my challenge to you.
Pick a day. Make notes about what you eat and what you drink. Pay attention to how you move, how much sleep you got, and any other relevant information. Then think about how each piece affected your body.
Did it help your anxiety?
Did it make you flare-up?
Take a week and start trying some new body care techniques.
You probably have a hunch of what will help you based on what your anxiety-related symptoms are?
If you are super tight all the time, stretch.
If you are frazzled, meditate.
If you are stumped, talking to others who deal with anxiety can give you some good ideas.
Track over the course of the week what helped and what didn’t.
Talk about your body care plan with your doc. Your doctor may have some ideas for you (like my magnesium revelation) or you might help educate them, benefitting the next patient she sees with anxiety.
So, yeah. Take a minute and focus on that lovely body of yours. Try and love it anyway. Even though it frustrates you sometimes with the anxiety bit.
Because loving on our bodies is a big step to healing our anxiety.