I’m not a worrier by nature, I’m not anxiety ridden. I teach OTHERS how to relax, how to reduce THEIR tension.
Getting my hair done yesterday – yes, I still have my purple streaks – I had nothing better to do than focus on me. That’s what my hairdresser was doing so I figured I could too.
Whoa! My entire body was tense.
I relaxed my muscles. They tensed up again. I relaxed again. Muscles from head to toe tensed up again as if I were a trained athlete who had practiced over and over until my muscle memory was so strong practice was no longer needed.
Flashing before my eyes was every therapy session I’ve ever had with anyone who had anxiety, PTSD, was a caretaker, had a sick loved one, experienced loss of any kind, anticipated loss, was in pain or had a CHRONIC CONDITION. . . .
I’ve explained “it” so many times that like a well-trained athlete my mind no longer has to think. I automatically recognize the stress response in others (others being the operant word).
I know that your brain (NOT MINE OF COURSE) chronically perceives danger with any chronic emotional or physical condition. The body being continually under siege, in pain, sends signals to the brain which get us ready to flee or fight off our enemy. Muscle tension is needed for running like hell or slugging it out. Now’s not the time to relax if you want to live.
The opposite of DANGER is SAFETY.
Here’s one of the very best mind-body techniques, and easiest, way to let your brain practice calm. Best of all it requires no Rx, no money, no time and you take it with you where ever you go. I have taught this hundreds, maybe thousands, of times and it absolutely works (I of course don’t need to do it. After all I teach it).
Chronically Safe Signal:
1. Take a deep breath through your nose.
2. Hold the breath for just a moment
3. As you release the breath, through your nose, very gently, say silently: “Thank you brain, I’m safe.” (Be kind to your brain. It’s just trying to keep you from being eaten alive)
Our brains are relatively simple in that brains can not tell the difference between when we are actually in danger (anxiety is our brain’s way of keeping us on alert for danger so we can survive) or when we perceive danger through thoughts or other cues.
Imagine a snake, a spider, anything that you are afraid of. Your brain will signal “danger! danger!” and flood your cells with the neurochemistry of fear. Watch a sad movie and your brain will flood you with the neurochemistry of sadness and, if you are like me, sob like a baby.
Soooooooooo, tell your brain you are safe and it will stop the neurochemistry of fear and anxiety. It’s not instant cup’o’soup because once you are flooded with the anxious feeling it will take about 20 minutes or so for the neurochemistry to metabolize out of your body’s cells. No matter how you FEEL keep giving your brain the “I’m Safe” cue.
Here’s the Key
Yoga, meditation, mindfulness prayer, listening to relaxation recordings all help. However, to break into a CHRONIC cycle you need to chronically signal your brain to stop sending the neurochemistry of the stress response to your body. Let your brain know that no one is throwing grenades at you, animals are not trying to eat you alive, you are not in danger.
CHRONICALLY “Sprinkle” the Breath/I’m safe cue throughout the day and evening. It’s a good idea to get a cue(s) to remind yourself to do this. A post-it-note on the bathroom mirror, every time your phone rings, a note in your appointment book etc.
You HAVE to breathe anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose — except your stress response!