Here’s a feeling most of us have experienced to a greater or lesser degree at some point in our lives. Many of us feel it as a tightening or gripping sensation in our chest, while others may feel sudden shortness of breath or just a strange disoriented feeling. Personally, I’ve experienced many different degrees of anxiety, from the severe and debilitating panic attacks I would get in my early twenties to the mild anxiety I deal with from time to time today.
1.) If you are experiencing chest tightness or pain, be on the safe side and have it checked out by a doctor to make sure it is just anxiety and not a more serious problem with your heart.
2.) If you experience panic attacks (extreme bouts of sudden onset anxiety), it is helpful if you have 2-3 people on your speed dial who you can call when you have an attack. Make sure these are people you can trust and that they know ahead of time that you want to be able to reach out to them in a moment of panic and that they are willing to be there for you when you need them.
3.) When feeling anxious, it really helps me to go to a quite place and just pay attention to my breath, gradually slowing it down over several minutes. Once my breathing is slowed, I’ll add a 1-2 second pause after inhaling and after exhaling. This helps lengthen the arc of your breathing, which goes a long way to getting you out of fight or flight mode.
4.) Consider using Rescue Remedy from Bach Flower Essences. This is available in a variety of forms (dropper, oral spray, candies) at most natural food stores. There was a time when I would rely heavily on Rescue Remedy to help get me through my day and I still use it occasionally today.
5.) If your anxiety is significantly impairing your ability to function in your life, consider seeing a therapist. My recommendation is to get therapy from someone trained in a mind-body style of counseling (AEDP, META, Hakomi, etc…) as these styles of therapy tend to be more effective at helping to resolve anxiety related issues than traditional talk therapy.
5.) Lastly, consider that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine may be of great benefit in treating the underlying cause of your anxiety. Often times there is something in us that needs to shift, transform or blossom, and it is the inability for us to go through that process that is resulting in feelings of anxiety. In addition to counseling, Chinese medicine can be a powerful tool in helping to shift that underlying dynamic so that we can inhabit ourselves in a new way.