Feeling held and safe to reduce anxiety
Lately I’ve been experiencing more sensations of anxiety that I haven’t felt in quite a long time. And after having suffered from anxiety attacks for years a long time ago, it felt quite frustrating to experience this again. Kind of feeling like I’ve returned to an old state of being that I don’t really want to return to obviously. Waking up in the morning, having thoughts pop in my head, usually about resisting something that is happening in my life. And then getting an uneasy feeling, that can then start to spiral. But of course, it’s never the same as it used to be, because I’ve changed a lot.
Now this morning as I was doing my morning practice something fell into place. I’ve been working with a voice and breath coach quite some time and this weekend I noticed that that was really helpful in releasing some tensions regarding the anxiety I’m feeling. For me, my anxiety attacks were related to vomiting, which means a lot of tension in my belly in my throat and my tongue. So, working with the voice and the breath has been really helpful in working with those deep bodily tensions. Now, as I was practicing, I noticed that I was missing a sense of support and stability.
There was the sense of just wanting to be held to feel safe.
So I thought how can I create this sensation of being held, feeling safe, and being able to rest in that without needing a person to do that. So I got my futon and put it in such a way that I could lay in it and wrap myself in it. As if someone was sitting behind me and holding me. This created the sense of stability, warmth, cosiness and heaviness where I immediately felt my system calm down. And as I felt myself soften, I had some other realisations of how to work with anxiety and where it was coming from.
It's what you do with babies and kids.
This is what they do with babies and kids. Wrap them tightly in a blanket or tuck them in at night in bed, to create the sense of pressure, warmth and safety. And I think that, as adults, it’s not something that we do much. But it is something that is actually quite effective, as it connects to this innate reflex of safety. The pressure and warmth connecting you to your body which is a safe space when your nervous system is ok. Back when I had panic attacks my body didn’t feel safe at all, because of all the resistance I had towards it, so this might not be the case for everyone in this moment.
I also realized that this sense of stability and safety was a role that had been partly filled by a really close friend of mine. We used to see each other quite a bit. Then I went away for 6 weeks and he fell in love and moved. Which is beautiful and I’m happy for him and it also changed our connection and created distance. I hadn’t realized the support and stability he had been in my life.
An Ayurvedic perspective on anxiety
When experiencing anxiety, the quality of lightness, mobility, coldness are present. It’s a very vata experience. Vata is the element of ether and air, so very light, mobile, dispersed and unstable. On top of that I just came back from the Netherlands (travel at high speed through air) and it’s autumn which also both are vata, air, mobility, unstable, kind of qualities. And if you look into the world these days, there’s a lot happening which is also not very stable.
The sense of stability and heaviness/groundedness is not something that is innate to my body and constitution. I do tend to need to get that from outside. That can be from food, practices and other people. For instance, I find it harder to sleep in summer, because I don’t have the weight of a heavy blanket, because it’s too warm. We all need a bit of heaviness to sleep which we either have within us or if you’re more like me, warm spiced milk before sleep helps. This has a warm, heavy quality.
How to bring balance to to my state?
So if I want to balance these anxiety qualities of mobility/unstable (changes and travel), lightness and coldness, then wrapping myself in a futon is exactly what I need now. Ofcourse there are more ways to bring stability, warmth and heaviness (not the mental depression kind of heaviness, but more a groundedness and fullness). Through practices and food, although with this anxious feeling my appetite isn’t great so heavy food is more challenging to digest.
I find it fascinating how something so simple can bring comfort and give insight into what happened to get there. So if you’re feeling anxious, have someone hold you tight for as long as needed, or grab some heavy blankets and wrap yourself in them tightly. Getting warm and cozy and creating a safe space for yourself for as long as needed. And of course, if you’re doing this and you get stuck in your mind feeling more anxiety, then do something else!