First 30 Days Blog

22 mar

Changing Your Relationship with Anxiety

EmilyVanHornWe’ve probably all experienced anxiety at some point and have a well intentioned friend or relative who insisted we “calm down” or “take a deep breath.” Of course, this advice doesn’t usually help. When someone is in the grip of panic, it’s like the body is on auto-pilot and things feel out of control.

Anxiety many times is a symptom of unresolved trauma. Sometimes a person isn’t even consciously aware of the earlier trigger that causes the symptoms. Trauma is real. It can happen when the body’s innate response to threat is overwhelmed or incomplete. When there’s an event that our nervous system perceives as overwhelming, it may leave our bodies in an unfinished fight, flight, or freeze pattern, causing all kinds of symptoms.

One thing we notice with people who suffer from anxiety is that they tend to be extremely self critical. To change this, if you suffer from anxiety, you can start by acknowledging to yourself that you aren’t crazy and there isn’t anything wrong with you. Instead of blaming yourself for the negative feelings instead talk to your body. Let your body know you understand it’s just trying to protect itself because it feels threatened. Bodies are hard wired to survive. When something has been overwhelming the nervous system, the body reacts in the way it thinks will keep it safe usually by preparing to do something, such as fight, flight, freeze, and so on. Somehow that excess energy surging around has to be discharged before you can feel like yourself again.

Sensation is the language of the reptilian brain
Rather than using our cognitive abilities (trying to figure out or understand something), instead, by noticing sensations we will engage that deep part of our brain where our instinctual survival responses reside. This mild attention to sensation is what will help your body begin to discharge the held adrenaline that is causing your anxiety.

Tools for self help

When you start feeling anxious, take a moment to notice your physical sensations. Notice specific physical sensations, such as, a tightening in your chest, increased heart rate, foggy thoughts or the feeling that you want to run”. When we don’t try to make something go away or label it as fear, nervousness, etc, our curiosity is what starts to open the neural pathways that lead to the hind brain and incites a relaxation response.

*When healing from a traumatic experience, I always recommend working with a skilled and trained practitioner who understands how trauma affects the autonomic nervous system and can help guide you through the process of recovery.

Emily Van Horn helps clients heal from all types of trauma. She employs various modalities of healing techniques: Somatic Trauma Resolution therapy (STR) and several others. As a practitioner of the healing arts for nearly 20 years, she is an expert in assisting people in healing from both shock and developmental trauma. For clients who suffer from abuse, accidents, falls, violence, sexual trauma, PTSD, chronic stress or pain, she utilizes tools that help them change their lives in gentle and supported ways. STR is different from traditional talk therapy, because it focuses on healing the nervous system where trauma is stored. Trauma is not a disorder of the mind but a disregulation of the nervous system that comes into play after a person has felt threatened or overwhelmed. This modality is relatively short term and can save years of therapy or medication. Emily is available in person or over SKYPE and by phone for people out of her geographical area.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Emily Van Horn on March 22nd, 2010 in Health | 7 comments Read related posts in

  • Add Comment


  • Such a liberating discovery – that the alarming sensations of anxiety are the nervous system’s response to help a stressful situation, and not that there is something wrong with me. I am a long standing client of Emily’s. Her gift of healing and these kinds of insights have helped in turning my life around. I’m delighted to see her blogging and I hope there is more to come!

    — Added by gilleous on March 24th, 2010
  • You just solved something for me. I feel continuously under stressful thoughts – but I don’t get outside and do anything for relief that is helpful. The seasons are changing so it will become easier, so this will be a key remedy to apply.

    — Added by GeriGreene on March 25th, 2010
  • A couple of good thoughts here…unresolved trauma in childhood and being self critical type…fits the bill – my aniexty about things I have no control over results in self medicating with food. I think some OCD makes it worse. A REAL issue that I appreciate hearing supportive comments about. Keep them coming.

    — Added by Babsfla on March 25th, 2010
  • Thank you Emily. I will be speaking with my therapist about your ideas. This article may save me valuable time, energy and suffering. I’m feeling hopeful again.

    — Added by djh901 on March 25th, 2010
  • “Let your body know you understand it’s just trying to protect itself because it feels threatened.”
    I think that is really usefull. In Eckhart Tolle’s writings and many others, it always seems that our conditioning or ‘ego’ is our enemy but reallyit using past experiences and ‘data’ to protect us – albeit often erroneously. We should remeber to focus on the feeling or emotion but not judge or condem.. thanks

    — Added by rsenewenger on March 26th, 2010
  • Hi all, Thank you so much for your beautiful comments.

    I haven’t figured out how to respond underneath the individual comment boxes so I will add several responses here. For GeriGreene I’m so glad you feel inspired to go outdoors as nature itself is such a great healer. I’d just like to clarify that as a self regulating tool, if we just remember(the nervous system doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what we imagine) doing something physical that we used to/currently enjoy and notice our sensations while imagining ie;running on the beach or…, there will be a physiological shift in our bodily sensations. (Usually noticed as some type of expansion or relaxation.)
    For Babsfla Thank you for your courage and honesty. I strongly believe that those conditions don’t have to be permanent. I’d like to encourage you to give yourself a gift and maybe try a session. It couldn’t hurt right?
    To: djh901, that’s a great idea. You may also want to consider reading the book “Waking the Tiger” by Dr. Peter Levine and maybe even sharing it with your therapist.
    And for rsenewenger: just for clarity sake I wanted to mention that it’s not actually the feeling or the emotion that will allow for the discharge or relaxation response but mild attention to sensations in the body and see what happens next.
    Thank you everyone for reaching out. Please feel free to give a call if you have questions. blessings,Emily

    — Added by emyvee on March 26th, 2010
  • [...] Read Van Horn’s entire article on this topic. September 16th, 2010 | Category: Blog [...]

    — Added by Discharge Your Anxiety « Emily Van Horn on September 16th, 2010

Share Your Thoughts

You must be logged in to post a comment.