The Meaning of Anxiety

All of us have felt ‘anxious’ at different points of time in our lives. We feel it as

  • restlessness: in the mind (too many thoughts), body (inability to sleep, muscle tension)
  • in the doing mode
  • feeling of being overwhelmed
  • feeling like ‘there is something still to be completed’

This is a state of dissatisfaction, unrest. One is constantly waiting to arrive and never does. Our focus is on the future and our inner peace is dependent on some future event which is yet to happen. When at its worst, you do not feel safe in your own body and have a sense of being flighty.

Santa Cruz - relaxing

Santa Cruz

 

From a psycho-spiritual perspective, anxiety arises in the consciousness when one is not true to one self. You are not all that you can be. You are compromising your needs, desires, dreams etc hoping to please everyone else and thereby find your own happiness. You are leading a life based on how someone else (person, society, religion, media) expects you to live.

At the very center of your being, this knowledge exists and surfaces in the form of anxiety. There are several ways to subside the symptoms but healing does not occur unless you work on the sources of the anxiety.

Bringing your awareness into the present moment using various relaxation/visualization techniques and mindfulness can be a good start. The feeling of ungroundedness can also be abated by connecting to earth in some way i.e. gardening, walking barefoot on earth, hugging a tree etc.  Finding the courage in accepting that you are not living your full meaningful life will need some therapeutic work.

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Relaxation using Five Senses and Elements

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Relax

One of the best ways to reconnect with yourself is to bring your attention back to your body. This will help you ground and center yourself. Lets explore the different ways we can relax using our five senses:

1) Touch- Feel better when you are hugged or someone moves their fingers through your hair? Skin is the longest organ in our body J no wonder then that as human beings we respond best to touch. Get a massage, pedicure, hugs, playful touch with an intimate partner. You can also try and identify fabrics that feel good to you and try to wear them or incorporate them in your linens. Examples of some fabrics could be velvet, satin, silk etc. You can also use stones/ crystals and rub it between your palms. Use of hot and cold sensations is also a good idea.

2) Sight- Soothe your vision with colors and images. There is a lot of research done around color therapy. My favorite colors to calm me are shades of purple and green. Reds/yellows and oranges are ‘activators’ or ‘energizers’. Shades of blue, white can also be calming. Neutrals when used with other colors can create a desired ‘uplifting’ or ‘cooling’ effect. Fill your phone/ laptop and surround yourself with images that bring your joy and happiness. These could be images of times that were happy for you or places/ scenery that creates that same effect for you. Personally I love images of waterfalls/beaches/meadows.

3) Sound- We are all familiar with what kind of music helps us unwind. For some it could be instrumental, nature based, trance-techno, world music or old classical melodies. Thanks to technology, we have apps that bring us our favorite instruments to our phones. I love using Pandora radio and have Jazz, Buddhist Monks music, ancient hymns/ chants,  bollywood music, enya etc on there. A lot of these are freeJ Sounds of nature seem to work for a lot of people. Singing along with a song or just humming a sound that comes naturally to you. Don’t worry about how it sounds to someone else, its for YOU!

4) Taste- Comfort foods! This is probably what comes to mind first and there is nothing wrong with using them in moderation. When I think of taste and what could be soothing/comforting I think of a dark chocolate square, spiced tea or green tea, hot chocolate, mashed potatoes etc. Eating fries/chips/pork chops etc can be added here however if you find yourself needing a lot of this, you may need to seek consultation with a health service provider. There is a lot of correlation between how we feel and what/how much we eat. Be mindful.

5) Smell- I love the smell of coffee brewing, fresh cilantro, first rain on earth.. I hate the smells of strong deodorants and perfumes. That’s just me. We associate a lot of memories through our sense of smell. Aromas from food can also be a part of this. I also know people who love the smell of clean linen and get a sense of ‘everything is ok’ by just smelling it. Oils of lavender, vanilla, jasmine etc are popular. Aromatherapy oils are easily available and not very expensive either. Apart from oils you can also use incense sticks and get the same desired effect. Using coconut jasmine oil for a hair massage will be two benefits in one activity.

The five elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether can be incorporated with the five senses to create a relaxing experience. For example – sitting by a fireplace utilizes soothing via sight and touch due to warm feeling. Hugging a tree may provide soothing via touch, sight and smell of the earth.

Get creative, experiment and find ways to soothe yourself. These can also be used to distract yourself when needed. I cannot help but mention sex in here too. Sex seems to encompass all the five senses and definitely helps connect with the body. The key lies in knowing your intentionality and your sense of balance.

This is not an exhaustive list and will need work at your end to identify your tools for relaxation. While you are experimenting, you can also maintain a journal and record your experiences.

Have fun:)

The Sleep Rule:)

While I was getting accustomed to my new smartphone a few days ago, my phone began to prompt me with ‘smart actions’ (and now some smart people will know which phone I use..haha). I was happy that I didn’t have to do all the work by myself to save my phone’s battery and data usage! Within a few days my phone prompted me to create a ‘sleep rule’ which will help , put my phone on silent, conserve the battery, restrict the background synchronization and dim the brightness of the screen during certain hours of the night. I was thrilled by the intelligence by phone demonstrated and I activated the sleep rule. The best part of it was that my phone allows me to set exceptions to the rule and also triggers to the activating the rule. If you have read my other blogs, you will know that I love metaphors and here was a great one that I have not stopped mentioning to people I meet. One of the triggers was the ‘time’ of the night which activated the rule everyday at 10pm for me.

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Enchanting Full Moon in Boston

Hmmm…now comes linking this to our everyday life. I find it amazing and amusing that we can think about ‘recharging’ and ‘conserving’ our phone’s batter but not ours! We have been living under some illusion that we can go by everyday life while taking on different stresses without making an effort to recharge in some way. Making an extra effort to meditate, take a walk, and go for a swim is all too much to ask for on a daily basis (yes, we are good at making excuses). Nonetheless, we also want to function without sleep or the most minimal possible. For some of us, our upbringing has been one where ‘sleep’ means ‘inactivity’ and that translates to being unproductive which is anything but acceptable. We have always got to be ‘doing’ something or appear to be doing something productive. My sense of wonder arises when we let so called ‘machines’ to rest and not ourselves who still are not ‘machines’ or so is my hope. Having lived in a city that never sleeps (Mumbai) and worked in management positions where you always expected to be available, I do know what damage we do to ourselves and then wonder ‘why do I feel like a money earning machine’. Now that I have built up some frustration, lets talk about a simple solution we can begin incorporate on a daily basis.

Design your own Sleep rule. Find out what is the average amount of sleep you need (not minimum) to feel refreshed. Plan to call a ‘ceasefire’ or a gradual slowing down of activities that stimulate you at least an hour prior to your preferred sleep time. You can call this your ‘sleep cushion’. Intend on getting off your laptop, tv, cell phone, stimulating conversation including fights with your partner/parent etc. Another rule that goes along with this is to not have any machines that emit electromagnetic radiations in your bedroom (you know what these areJ). Bedroom needs to be used to sleep/relaxation/sex. Use music that soothes you during that hour along with fragrances or lights that bring your ‘anxiety’ down. You can also choose to not take a fight into the bed!

Examples of some relaxing fragrances include Jasmine, Lavender, Chamomile.

Examples of soothing music include sounds of water, smooth jazz etc. A lot of music that is played in Spas works too. As for lighting, all I would say it needs to be your version of ‘going to bed’. I know some people feel ‘anxious’ with large white fluorescent lights and calmer with yellow lights. Your bedding could be a texture that is smooth and using colors that calm you might be helpful.

All of these are just meant to be guidelines and they are more fun when you experiment with themJ