Constant anxiety has become a common and unnerving disorder. An estimated 284 million people worldwide experience anxiety, making it the most prevalent mental health disorder. Anxiety is a response to the stress we feel when faced with a situation that we think is threatening in some way. Feeling some level of anxiety before an exam, an interview, or proposing to your loved one is normal. These feelings stay for some time and then go away. However, if anxiety is perpetual, causing extreme fear and worry, then it is a condition called anxiety disorder.
When one is going though extreme anxiety, it reflects within the body in the form of headaches, stomach aches, fast heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, rapid breathing, tensing of muscles etc. Extreme anxiety can cause respiratory, stomach and gut related conditions, which weakens the person, exacerbating the condition further with more frequent episodes.
So it is important to understand what happens within the mind and body while it goes through an episode of anxiety. Our thought and breath are connected. The way we think is the way we breathe. While experiencing extreme anxiety the breath becomes shallow and rapid, and the brain get much less oxygen, which in turn makes the mind churn the thoughts of fear and worry into a tornado like effect. At this point the “flight or fight” response mechanism kicks in with the release of large doses of cortisols and toxins in the body which after repetitive episodes has debilitating effects on the internal organs.
In the early times when we had to ward off wild animals for survival in the wild, the “flight or fight” response helped to evade the impending danger. But in present times, anxiety is triggered by situations around work, family, money, health and other important things, which do not need a flight or flight response. What that points to essentially is that we need better ways to cope with these external factors which are important for us to be happy but are not life threatening.
The Yogic perspective looks at any disorder fundamentally as a misalignment of the body, mind, emotion and energy. From this view point, it means that there is a lack of internal fulfillment even though the triggers are external. Yoga practice brings fulfillment from within which is a result of the mind, body, emotions and energy being in harmony with each other and with the larger existence without relying on external stimulus. It is important to understand that we are complete beings by ourselves and do not need anything more from the outside. Once this understanding is reinforced by the experience of fulfillment, fear and worry become practically non-existent. Many people who are chronic worriers have found these anxious feelings dissipate when they start practicing yoga.
Some people are more prone to anxiety than others. Extreme anxiety means that the thought patterns of worry and fear are out of control. The kind of ambiance we maintain within our mind and body determines how much anxiety we experience. The two basic requirements for living an anxiety free life are inner happiness (joyfulness) and a healthy body. Happy people tend to be less anxious than those who have a tendency to get depressed. Having a strong and healthy physique also makes the mind more resilient to negative feelings warding off anxiety. If we work towards creating these two states we truly live a fulfilled life.
Here are a few tips for bringing that inner happiness and to becoming healthy
1) Hatha yoga is great practice for bringing stability, flexibility and resiliency in the body. These practices involve combining the breath with specific yoga postures to make the internal organs strong. It deepens the mind-body connection to help create a happy mind and healthy body, which makes one more confident about handing external situations.
2) Exercising also creates a stable body and mind. Exercising outside in the natural elements ensures the body gets enough sun, wind and moisture. Exposure to fresh air and natural light can be calming and healing.
3) Meditation and mindfulness practices enhances ones awareness of one’s own thoughts and emotions. By developing this awareness we can starting observing our reactions to external situations, which helps us take corrective action.
4) A wholesome diet which includes a healthy mix of fresh fruits, nuts and salads, and home cooked meals with essential vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates is half the anxiety battle won.
5) Become part of a support network, or create your own. Talk with familiar people who are supportive, such as a family member or friend. Support group services may also be available in the local area and online.
Anxiety does not control you. YOU are in control. But to get there requires a lifestyle change, which means sacrificing the convenient bad habits, and making the effort to take charge of your anxiety. Those with extreme anxiety should consult a therapist. Making these lifestyle changes toward becoming a happier and healthier person will overtime reduce your reliance on an external source – the therapist.
If you are adding yoga and meditation to your routine, do the yoga first and always end with meditation. Find that inner fulfillment by being your own health advocate because you owe it to yourself!
Enjoy this meditation as a first step towards finding relief from anxiety.
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