Embodied: Addressing anxiety via our physical life

In my extreme anxiety days, it was all about the mind. That is whats going on, what I thought, how I felt. 

To overcome the trap of thinking so much that is anxiety I had to go elsewhere. A place most of us forget we have until we suffer. Our physical body.

Anxiety is overthinking and the solution isn’t more thinking. We get caught on ‘train of thought’. Obsessive and compulsive about what goes on inside our heads. I learned to live less in my head and focusing on what my body wanted. 

When it comes to our embodied existence we tend to think our physical form is just the thing that exists below us (we look down upon it). It often seems separate from us. A piece of hardware that makes its presence felt with pains, aches, hunger, heat cold and more. Often it seems like a distraction.

Our modern world is often heavily based on information, so we spend a lot of the day in our head, analysing, assessing. We get so used to spending time in the playground of our minds we neglect the other part of our existence, that we are an embodied being. I touched upon this in another post, about Tough Mudders, those assault courses people go through to feel alive.

Anxiety can be due to physical reasons. Sometimes we are tired, stressed, overworked. Without such awareness tackling overthinking can be difficult. 

I learned to go into my body most from my therapist, who is not a psychology therapist or a councillor, but a mind-body therapist. 

By focusing on what my body wanted, it helped me realise when I was upset, stressed, hungry, tired and then spend some time taking care of myself.

Another thing I learned was that I like touch, I learned just how important it is and how much I need it. Touch can be remarkably soothing, a reassuring hug, cuddle up, a head massage, backrub or a full bodywork. 

It all helps draw us out of our heads and into our bodies. It also helps us connect to others and to nature. Connecting through touch with sports, exercise as a way of dealing with stress together.

Another aspect is enjoying sensory expertness, like a sunset, music, good food, the fragrance of flowers, a massage. By focusing on our senses we forget the person experiencing. Thoughts are not required to enjoy a nice cup of tea. This gets us out of habit of egotistical self-absorption.

Healthy living, running in a forest
The outdoors and exercise, out of our heads

The thing is our bodies don’t get anxious about the future or worry over the past, they exist in the here’s and now.

‘My liver cares nought for the ‘morrow, by bones cells don’t care for yesterday.’

Going back to my body after I had left it behind for so long helped me live more in the here and now and enjoy the moments more. 

Being in my body meant I came back to reality, not the reality of my troubled mind and it’s illusions.

I felt emotion more, both the good and the bad forms and learned to accept and deal with them in healthier ways through practice. Another very important point, anxiety can be a lack of practice in dealing with it, or dealing with it badly, the wrong practice.

I take care of myself better through exercise (a well-proven way to lower stress and feel embodied) relaxation, reading etc.

Because we are living in a body deprived existence we suffer it. Failing to recognise when we are stressed, upset, injured. We are so disconnected with what we feel in our flesh, bones, guts that we don’t notice it even exists.

So we end up neglecting to take care of ourselves. We need to spend more time in our bodies through sports, touch, sex, practical work that involves our hands. For some people hands-on work like arts, crafts, sports can be a literal lifesaver, dealing with stress, anxiety, depression that could have lead to suicide or chronic illness then death.

It remind me of the Calvin and Hobbes Comic…

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

The lesson I had to learn is to find something to take your attention away from what’s going on in your head and make that apart of your life. Bodywork, exercise, Pilates, yoga, running, hiking, walking, arts, crafts, and more.

We are not just minds working away, we’re bodies, we’re flesh. We need touch, movement, we need sensuality.

Getting out of your head is one of the most important steps in overcoming the life focused on the mind, a life caught in anxiety and fear.

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