Thursday, December 31, 2015

A resolution for emotional health

Many people talk about improving their health at the start of the year. It’s a way of wiping the slate clean and starting afresh. But how many extend that attitude towards improving their emotional health? Our emotional health is just as important and has a huge impact on our physical health. We often underestimate just how important it is, it might not always be the sole cause of physical illness but it is definitely one of the most important contributors to ill health. Whether stress has caused a physical illness, or an illness has led to subsequent stress, looking after our emotional health can significantly decrease our stress levels, which can only spell good fortune for our overall health.

People don’t often think about improving their emotional health until they encounter a crisis.  But we can learn to be more emotionally healthy before we run into serious trouble.  I’ve heard countless “experts” talk about anger, fear, shame, guilt and the like as “negative”, “destructive” and “unhealthy” emotions. I absolutely cringe when I read/hear that because it is just not true. The issue is not the emotions themselves, but in how we handle them. And many of us just don’t handle anger or fear very well. I think people have huge issues with anger and fear in particular. Many people are described as “angry people” or “fearful people”, as if those terms described a person in absolute terms. I believe the people who have the real issues are the ones who label others like this. If we haven’t made friends with our own difficult emotions, we’ll shun and shame them in others.

There are such things as healthy anger, healthy fear and healthy shame. Polarising our emotions into positive and negative does not make us emotionally literate or intelligent, it has the exact opposite effect in fact. When we disown, deny, bury, suppress or repress our emotions, we’re not using them for what they were intended to be used for; action requiring neurological programmes, according to neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio.

Emotions are not meant to remain stagnant, they are meant to move. In human terms that means we need to feel our emotions, they come and they go when we see every one of them as healthy and necessary when the need arises. If your boundaries are being transgressed for example, anger will arise, in order for you to define your boundaries properly so you are protected.  If you’ve been taught that it’s “bad” for you to feel and/or express anger, it will be hard for you to define healthy boundaries, so you’ll often feel picked on or put upon. Ironically the person you’ll feel most angry with in this situation is yourself. You pay a high price for not being who you truly are. Even if the world has tried to change us, or has even succeeded to a certain degree, we’ll always feel the call to be true to ourselves. Living a lie is far worse than losing some people who weren’t ready for who we really are.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Following your breath

There are lots of breathing exercises for helping with anxiety. That’s because focusing on our breath brings us into our body, where our anxiety is. If we’re not in our bodies, we can’t relieve our anxiety. That can be a catch 22 as I’ve spoken about in other posts. We don’t want to be in our bodies because that’s where the anxiety is, but it’s where we need to be to resolve the anxiety. Most of the time we’re in our heads trying to control things with endless thoughts. Sitting comfortably in our bodies doesn’t just relieve anxiety though, it also makes us feel at home, and at peace with ourselves.

I find following my breath to be very effective in relieving anxiety. I don't make my breath do anything, I follow its rhythms and I nearly always find that my breathing naturally becomes deeper and slower. I do pay attention to expanding my rib cage though. Making our breath “do” something can make us even more anxious and sometimes, deep breathing exercises can cause hyperventilation. This is when the constricted breathing technique from EFT can come in very handy.

When we’re stressed our breathing is affected, so doing something about our breathing can help relieve our stress and anxiety, and vice versa. The constricted breathing technique is very good for working on your own with EFT, it can be difficult working on our own issues, we often can’t see the woods for the trees, so going in the physical door, as Gary Craig calls it, is often simpler then trying to figure things out psychologically.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Even more on anxiety

When we’re suffering with extreme anxiety, we nearly always have a fear of going inside our bodies. It is after all where we feel our pain. When we don’t feel our pain because we are frightened of it, our unfelt pain becomes anxiety. The longer this goes on, the worse our anxiety becomes.

So anxiety is also a sign for us to stop avoiding our pain. Avoiding and dissociating work brilliantly in the short term, they are fantastic survival mechanisms, but life requires that we face our pain and our true selves at some stage. Whether we like it or not. Indigestion, whether physical or mental, is unsustainable in the long run. We need to digest what happens in our lives. Anxiety strongly encourages, i.e. forces, us to heal or pain, the more pain we feel the more we want to heal that pain (or make it go away, which again, does not work, it’s just another avoidance tactic). Pain is a fact of life, what we need are more skills to deal with pain so it doesn’t fester and become illness, physical or mental.

Try tapping on some of the following phrases:

Even though my body is humming with this anxiety and it feels … I honour these feelings, they are trying to tell me something

Even though it’s excruciating to listen to anxiety’s messages, I just wish it would go away, I completely accept how I feel

Even though this pain feels like a mountain I can never climb, I’m willing to take a small step, I don’t have to do it all in one go

Even though this pain feels painful, I love and accept myself anyway

Use whatever reminder phrase feels right on the points, or just tap without saying anything, if you’re feeling anxious, you’re already tuned in and EFT works best when you are tuned in. Being tuned in means feeling anxious or being triggered by something. Stop what you’re doing and tap and you’ll feel some, if not all, of your intensity reducing. Resolving anxiety does take some persistence, so don’t give up hope!