Anxiety is a combination of fear and worry. Our central nervous system mobilizes us to respond to danger by setting in motion a complex sequence of biochemical and physiological events. The sympathetic fight-or-flight response should trigger action, but many times we experience the sweating, racing heart, and acute awareness and possibly other physical symptoms yet remain still. Remaining still without action can deeply affect the body’s overall function. The adaptive side of worry allows us to take preventative action to perceived or anticipated danger. Some types of fear and certain amounts of worry are healthy. Persistent and escalating sensations with no actual threat are the maladaptive side of worry. And this can have physical and emotional effects.
- Impaired judgment
- Increased irritability
- Reduced overall function
- Depressed immune system
- Heart disease
- GI disorders
- Muscle tension and pain
Scientists find a genetic predisposition in some individuals and environmental conditioning in others. From the perspective of Chinese Medicine we have a host of ways anxiety can manifest and how the person will respond based on their particular pattern of energetic imbalance. A Kidney yin imbalance anxiety will manifest differently than a Liver Yang imbalance and the way to adapt the imbalance is also different. Since that will be too lengthy to discuss, I will stick to some general information on coping with anxiety.
First, rule out any medical condition with your primary care physician.
If an anxiety disorder deeply affects the physical body, medications (even for the short term) to reduce the sympathetic stress on organs coupled with a multidisciplinary approach to quell and understand the emotional imbalance and triggers is highly beneficial.
Notice the people who surround you. Individuals who thrive on drama and chaos will trigger a sensitive central nervous system. Distance yourself from either the person or situation and surround yourself with grounded individuals. The Dalai Lama emphasized cultivating compassion and deepening connection with others while maintaining boundaries. His cognitive intervention to overcome anxiety and worry is to replace them with well-reasoned positive thoughts and attitudes. No easy task!
We experience anxiety and fears – fears of suffering or consequences of our negative actions – that bring us closer to being a “good person” and to our right path. Most of the fears we experience are projections of our own feelings onto someone else, a mental projection, and our creative mind manifesting childish fears. Genuine fears of violence are not generally part of our daily lives.
Even the Dalai Lama is prone to performance anxiety. In the book The Art of Happiness, he was asked why he accepts to teach if it elicits anxiety in him. Proper motivation to be of service or to be of some benefit to those attending is the antidote to reduce fear and anxiety. Ego-motivation or showing off knowledge will benefit no one.
I, personally, don’t feel the anxiety until just hours before speaking; I acknowledge to the audience that I am anxious or nervous and encourage dialogue both of which breaks the ice and takes the edge off the presentation.
When asked about fear of appearing foolish, a failure or incompetent the Dalai Lama came back to the same response sincere intent, compassion and being of the best service. If you did not succeed and had pure intent then the situation was beyond your best abilities and there is no regret. Also, knowing that even the Dalai Lama will reply “I don’t know” to a question is comforting. If the motivation is ego-driven or to cheat someone, you will be nervous if you fail and unhappy if you succeed.
So the Dalai Lama’s two remedies
Constant rumination and worry: If there is a solution to the problem, there is no need to worry. If there is no solution, there is no sense in worrying either.
Either it will work out or it is out of your control.
Broad-spectrum remedy: Transform the underlying motivation
Stand back and make sure that your mean no harm and that your motivation is sincere can help reduce anxiety in daily situations.
Two techniques that have helped me when I am anxious or just a bit off, I learned from Aleya Dao.
One technique that helps reduce my low level worries, fears and anxieties is to unplug and reconnect. Let me explain. We reach out energetically on a horizontal plane to those around us (our social field), bring your energy vertical off the horizontal plane, and focus on an internal vertical axis of your energy (spiritual axis). I see it as a column of light and energy that flows through the spinal column from the top of your head to your sacrum. Then I imagine a plug in the socket of an electric outlet, I remove the plug from the electric outlet of mass consciousness where we pick up the sensations and stresses of those around us. I insert the plug into a different electric outlet of enlightened consciousness and the sensations reduce. Enlightened consciousness brings us our resources. Nature and the universe are the enlightened realms – the whales, the dolphins, the magnetic of the earth and the electricity of the atmosphere. See the column of light on the vertical access extending beyond your crown and sacrum to the atmosphere and the earth’s core. Stay connected on the vertical, focused on that enlightened consciousness outlet until the calm returns.
Also to reduce the level of stress hormones circulating throughout your body at those anxious times, you can say “I choose to believe that everything will work out”. Actively acknowledge, own and accept your current state of lack or unease; don’t hold on to a negative outcome; and truly believe that all will work out as it should.
Another technique when I can’t make a decision or others are on my mind is to imagine a tiny sphere just a few inches above my head. It should be self-contained, not reaching itself out to anyone or anything on a horizontal plane. Sometimes others and ourselves project out and perceive reality from someone else. I get in organizing mode and bring all my points of perceiving reality back onto myself and energetically give back those that aren’t mine. I don’t know whose perceptions are on my sphere, I just visualize it going back. Like with paddleballs , the elastic that attaches the paddle to the ball pulls it back to its source. That is theirs and this is mine.
I’ve learned other techniques from Aleya but work with these and the ideas of the Dalai Lama for now and find your calm.