authentic movement

What's Your Body Telling You About Anxiety?

When you struggle with anxiety, sometimes you might wonder why you even get anxious in the first place. What purpose does it serve? And why does it make you feel so bad?

Over the years, while struggling to manage my own anxiety, I’ve learned that signs that I’m uncomfortable often show up before the anxiety is running full tilt. It might be a feeling of pressure in my chest. Sometimes my throat feels like it’s full of sand, or my belly feels hollow (like I have a pit in my stomach), depending on what’s making me uncomfortable and anxious.

My mindfulness practice has allowed me to be more aware of my body’s sensations in the moment when stressful things are happening (or I’m interpreting that the events are stressful). My body signals me long before I’m fully aware that the situation is overwhelming or triggering.

Where Do You Feel Anxiety?

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I ask clients to tune into their physical reactions when they’re talking about something stressful or difficult. When I ask, “Where do you feel that in your body?” they can often point or place their hand right where they feel it. Or is I ask, “What physical feelings do you have when your anxiety shows up?” Some clients can identify exactly where anxiety lives in them. For others, it’s a little harder to figure out, but usually clients at least have a general sense of some internal sensations.

Many times the body signals come before the anxiety is fully recognizable. Basically your body is telling you that you’re feeling something, usually something uncomfortable. It’s alerting you, wanting your attention and letting you know it’s time to tune in, it’s time to listen, it’s time to take care of yourself.

Tune Into Your Anxiety Through Your Body

So how do we learn to tune into our body so we can hear what it wants us to know?

Start a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness helps you become more aware of yourself — your reactions, your thoughts, your feelings and what’s happening inside your body. If you haven’t already recognized the patterns, you might begin to notice that when certain thoughts or feelings enter your consciousness, your body reacts to those thoughts and feelings in particular ways.

Practice yoga, tai chi or another form of movement. They help you learn to focus on the different parts of your body.

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Start a meditation practice. Body scan meditations guide you from head to toe (or toe to head), gradually moving your non-judgmental awareness from one body part to another. It helps fine-tune your focus as you practice the meditation. It also brings an awareness of how your body holds stress and how the stress might change as you bring a conscious awareness to it.

Take a moment to pause. When you’re anticipating a stressful event or encounter, take a minute to pause. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Check in with yourself and ask “Where am I feeling this in my body right now?” If tuning into your body is something new, you might need to do it a few times before you’re able to pinpoint where you feel the stress. That’s okay. Be patient and keep tuning in.

Work with a therapist. The right therapist — one who’s been trained in somatic, movement or body awareness therapies — can help you work toward a greater understanding of your body and help you learn why it reacts the way it does.

As with all new habits and skills, getting in touch with your physical reactions can take some time and practice. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself on this journey!


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Tanja Heffner and by Caique Silva on  Unsplash

 

The Power of Making Movement Part of Your Journey

Recently, I’ve been exploring movement in my life. I don’t just mean my physical movement, but also movement through painting, movement in my psyche and movement in my environment.

Movement Helps Heal

Movement helps heal

Movement helps heal

I’ve been more mindful of movement because I’ve been incorporating movement into my own therapeutic journey. I’ve found it incredibly healing. I was traumatized as a young child, so I learned early on to disconnect from my physical experience. Because of that, it’s taken a concerted, mindful effort to get back in touch with all of my body’s sensations.

Our bodies can tell us a lot if we’re willing to be attentive and listen. The problem is that sometimes we get so caught up in our daily grind that we forget to pay attention. We ignore what we’re feeling, or we might have disconnected from our physical experience in order to cope with trauma. 

How Mindful Awareness Helps Us Stay In Touch With Our Bodies

Our bodies talk to us everyday. Actually they’re talking to us every moment of every day! Your stomach might growl because you’re hungry, or your bladder might feel full because you need to go to the bathroom. Maybe  a tightness in your chest signals that you’re feeling anxious. But often, we don’t tune into the physical sensation. We continue on with what we’re doing until the signal is hard to ignore.

The sensations that occur within our bodies aren’t always uncomfortable. You might feel a lightness in your chest or heart when you feel joy, or gratitude might make your heartspace feel warm and full,. Laughter can make your whole body vibrate.

Bringing a mindful awareness to the movement and sensations in your body can help you feel more connected internally and externally. The aliveness that’s there, at all times can help you recognize that all sensations and movements within will come and go. So you might feel good or bad for a time, but by being more aware you come to understand that you’re in a constant ebb and flow of feelings and sensations.

3 Ways To Bring Awareness To Movement

1. Move Your Body! Yoga, exercise, walking, dancing or whatever moves you! When you allow your body to move in ways that feel good to you, it can bring a whole lot connection and awareness to how your body feels and when it wants you to hear.

Art can make us aware of the power of movement

Art can make us aware of the power of movement

I’m taking an Authentic Movement Group with other healers. Without going into too much detail, the idea is that you trust your body to communicate with you about how to move in a way that feels true and authentic. (And you do it with your eyes closed!) It’s been an enlightening and freeing growth experience for me in ways I can’t even put into words.

3. Explore Through Art. Whether you draw, paint, sculpt or weave, it’s all about movement of the medium. I know you might say, “But I’m not an artist,” but guess what? It doesn’t matter! I’m not an artist. Without any formal training, I’ve begun painting with watercolors, and it’s fun! I try to approach it with no judgment. Some of my creations I love. Some, not so much — but expressing myself through the movement of color on paper has been another surprisingly powerful experience.

3. Notice Movement In Your Environment. As you walk, drive, run and move throughout your day, notice the sounds that move in and out of your awareness. Notice others moving around you. Notice how your own movements change as you walk, go up steps or sit down. Pay attention to the wind as it blows branches or trash or stoplights. Or notice how the wind passes by your cheek or blows your hair. Here’s a video I took of waves and the motion of water on a beach.

Movement is ongoing. What can we learn from that? The thing I’ve taken away from paying attention to all of this movement in and around me is that whatever I am experiencing at this moment, it’s likely to change. Maybe not right away, but it will change. So, I might be feeling anxious now, but it’s not going to last forever — and that’s reassuring.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Nadim Merrikh and Rifqi Ali Ridho on Unsplashon