Your imagination can be the cause of your anxiety, mindfulness can be the cure!
One of the "go to" methods for calming yourself, or someone else who's feeling anxious, is to connect with their senses. This method is where you ask, "What do you see? What do you hear? What can you smell?" and so on through all five senses. This immediately requires our mind to localize into the present moment and to our physical bodies. This is also known as a somatic experience.
Anxiety of oftentimes is directly related to overthinking all of the possibilities of a future event. All of the "thinking" is about a theoretical possibility which is actually complete fiction. Oftentimes people with anxiety have a vivid imagination, which can be very good at creating multiple fictitious scenarios or outcomes. The interesting thing is, the brain doesn't know it's fiction.
The Limbic System and Brain Stem, which is a part of the brain that controls much of our emotions including fight-or-flight, is doing everything it can to keep you safe and alive. When someone is being threatened by something, this part of the brain takes over and any logical thinking or reasoning (the frontal lobe) goes off-line. This means that when we get into that place of feeling threatened, we only care about our survival and we will do whatever we can to make that happen.
For example, we recently decided to fly to Arizona for a little time away before all of the events coming up in the next few months. As you might know, there is a lot involved with planning and executing a trip. You have to book the flight, hotel and rental car. You have to figure out how to get to the airport, get the timing right and do things in a sequence so it will all work out has planned. Doing all of this is can be stressful because you can imagine all of the things that need to be done, and all of the things that could go wrong. All of these thoughts are about something that has not even happened or may never happen. Even though, logically or in reality, nothing is actually threatening you in the moment, but since your imagination is making it a "real" threat, we stop feeling safe and logic goes out the window.
When we think about a future event, this is something that is completely held in our minds and it can make us disconnect from our bodies. The better your imagination, the more "real" the possible event feels to our Limbic System. While you can imagine being late and missing your flight, the brain can only assume that you have already missed it and this can feel like a threat. The threat will activate our body by increasing our heart rate, change our breathing, restrict our blood vessels to pool more into the vital organs, and release adrenaline into our system. This is all in preparation for you to survive the threat. If you routinely experience anxiety in this way, it can start to have a negative effect on the body leading to chronic illnesses like hypertension, heart disease, obesity and metabolic syndrome, Type II diabetes, and arthritis.
By bringing your attention back to your body by utilizing your physical senses (not your imagination), you are immediately brought into the present moment. This is a kind of mindfulness that meditation is known for, but you don't have to sit cross-legged on the floor to do it. By being mindful and in the moment, the brain gets the signal, "Hey, you're okay, you're actually safe." and it will give the body the all clear so you can relax and breath again.
The key to leveraging this power is through mindfulness practices and understanding the importance of mind-mastery. As a whole, you can think about mindfulness from the standpoint of being in the present moment. This can be achieved through many practices including meditation, but it doesn't have to mean that you have to sit still and think of nothing. For example, you can do a walking / somatic meditation where you are just paying attention to what your senses are telling you. With each step, what are you feeling, what do you hear, what can you smell, what can you taste?
Becoming more aware of your thoughts, what is the real truth of your thoughts, and how you can change the thought to be in alignment with what is actually happening in the moment, is a superpower worth developing. Don't miss out on a better life by struggling with anxiety.
If you or a loved one you know is experiencing a high level of anxiety, know that there are ways to resolve this and empower you toward a better life. Contact Know Thyself Healing & Therapy at (952) 222-7936 or visit our website to schedule a consultation with one of our therapists or life coach at https://www.knowthyselfpllc.com/team.