I often have clients express frustration with themselves for believing they are unable to ‘talk themselves out’ of anxiety. Since I hear this type of statement on a regular basis, I would image many others believe this to be true as well. I would like to take some time right now to set the record straight and let you in some facts that are rarely taught.
As I have discussed in previous posts, anxiety is the body’s protective mechanism. When the brain perceives the body to be in danger, it sends out both physical signals and cognitive signals in an attempt to save you from whatever danger it believes you to be in. These signals can look like ‘what if…’ thoughts, rapid heart rate, sweating, shallow breathing, etc.. These signals are strong and uncomfortable…for a good reason. Your brain is doing everything in its power to get you away from the threat. If these signals were pleasant, we probably wouldn’t be as apt to get into action, right?
And you’ve probably noticed that it feels impossible to simply talk yourself out of these sensations. Well, let's take a minute to think about this from the perspective of science and biology. Say you are out and about and come across a tiger. Your brain may immediately send out those uncomfortable signals as a warning to tell you that you should probably get out of that situation. What might happen if you were able to talk yourself out of fleeing from the potential danger? What if you could simply say, “Wow! He looks so cute and gentle. I am sure this tiger won’t do anything to harm me”. You get the picture, right?
From a biological perspective, our brains are wired to protect our body at all costs. If we could talk ourselves out of being afraid of truly dangerous situations, the human race probably wouldn’t last too long as a species. So, the next time you find yourself feeling frustrated for feeling anxious, pause for a minute, take 5 deep breaths, and remind yourself that your brain is simply trying to protect you. Feeling anxious does not mean that you are weak or incapable; it means your protective mechanism works really well and may even be in overdrive for any number of reasons.
My challenge to you: When you notice you are feeling anxious, instead of fighting the anxiety and pushing it as far away as possible – take some time to become curious about it. Ask yourself:
“What might my brain be afraid of right now?”
“Is there an actual threat near me?”
“Where do I feel the most tension in my body?”
“What do I need in this moment?”
Be well and take care,