Does Anxiety Really Exist?


I haven’t posted in a while, so thought I’d share something I wrote about anxiety a few years ago. Ayurveda offers fabulous, tangible tools which have remained relevant throughout the history of this fabulous health science – since before the written word.

Of course anxiety is real!

Before you become offended by my title, please know, I too live with a tendency to anxiety, my family have generational anxiety problems and I have been brought to my knees by this monster. However, it is true that our modern lifestyle of rushing and living entirely in our heads, constantly looking to the future, perpetuates a constant level of fight/flight/freeze in us all.

Our modern societal ways so vastly aggravate vata that they perpetuate anxiety in MOST people. Further, those of us who are, in Sarah Wilson’s words (First we Make the Beast Beautiful), canaries in the coalmine for our world and society, suffer more if we try to push back. We suffer derision, stigmas of ineptness or laziness, we suffer FOMO or isolation due to others trying to motivate us, we suffer more negative attention and less quiet nourishing support when we try to step out of society’s fast lane. Battling all this as well as our own struggle makes it so much harder to rest, recover, replenish, renew and re-evaluate. For some, this makes it harder to ask for help at all.

For all the education, blue trees and attempts to reduce the stigma of mental unease, distress and illness, the push to perform is still paramount in our world. It not only leaves us with no time to deal with the issues that concern us – like climate change, but it leaves us perpetually feeling inadequate. Personally, I think competition should be thrown out with the bath water. Keeping up with the Joneses is not just stupid, it’s downright dangerous and everyone should turn up the compassion and turn down the judgement. (Note: should is a swear word in my life!) We are all different, we all have unique roles in this life and we are all valuable, incredible humans.

We all function best and get the most out of life when we come from a place of love, gratitude and compassion. When we are so busy we don’t have time to stop and help our friends, let alone our neighbours, life needs a serious re-evaluation.

Anxiety can be completely overwhelming.

Journal entry / free writing

(Warning: F bombs within.)

I’m 44. I reckon I’ve spent 39.5 years trying harder… aiming for perfect, not ‘going for it’ because I was afraid of failing. Not asking for what I wanted for fear of denial. Not even deciding what I wanted for fear of any commitment being in vain & thus a drain on others.

  • or a lie
  • or a failure
  • or a waste of time/energy/money/resources/breath

What I have wasted is countless energy. I’ve been aspiring and dreading & half-dreaming while denying. I’ve been not quite dipping my toes into the water when I really want to just fall in.

So now?

Now, I’m fucking exhausted.

Worn out by my own bullshit. Worked up by my imaginary wrongs ( to or by others) and warped, childish sense of fairness, worn out by the stewing, steaming, thinking, worrying. Then there’s the 2am anxiety half-waking, half-nightmare attacks that hold me in semi-sleep for 5 hours. These nights wreck 3 days of my week, perfectly good morning swims, then my mood, then my relationships.

The future is fake

The future is fake. It is a concept.

It may happen, or I may be hit by a bus tomorrow. We are banking on an imaginary expectation.

The past is gone – another concept.

Both memory and imagination are functions of the mind…while right now…right now I have skin that I can feel. Hair, eyes, heartbeat, tastebuds, pulse, nerve signals, arm cramps from writing so fast, breath…only now is real. I cannot actually experience the future or past. I can experience only each and every now.

And RIGHT NOW, I feel fine.

There’s nothing to chase / create / fear / analyse. Nothing lost / grasping / holding onto / fretful.

I KNOW me and you know what, I like me. I’m gonna remind me to be here, right now as often as I can.

I can do something right now.

I can choose right now.

I can connect right now.

I can breathe / create / love / live / feel and it’s all right now.

Fuck off anxiety, you don’t even EXIST if I live RIGHT NOW.

Left unaddressed, anxiety can exhaust one so much that depression develops.

Ayurveda can help

I know it can be hard to believe this when we’re in the strangle-hold of anxiety. Remember, I have lived this experience, including more than one break down and post-natal depression.

Anxiety can be light, and the SAME chemical process as excitement before a presentation or event…or it can be heavy and overwhelming where we can’t see an alternate future for the fog. WE must remember though – it is looking into the very uncertain future that causes us anxiety.

When we come back into our body, in that moment, even if just for a few seconds, we have the ability to turn down our stress response. It is good to recognise that if we have been living in adrenal function and stress for a long time, it is very hard to alter those well worn and built brain pathways. It takes awareness, willingness to recognise without berating ourselves, and effort. Please take a moment to recognise your efforts and your small successes when they happen.

Ayurveda has powerful tools in the form of doshic recognition, diet, lifestyle habits and herbal remedies to support us all through difficult times. There are physical, tangible, effective things I can empower you with to reduce anxiety enough to get off that beaten path if it has been a lifelong or deep seated pattern.

Getting out of your mind, and into your body helps immensely.

Four helpful actions

Here are four actions you can adopt right now, which help my clients, and me, regularly:

  1. Get into your body: Whether that be laying on the floor and doing a yoga nidra or relaxation exercise, jumping around, dancing, swimming, going for a brief walk out in the back yard – getting out of your head and into your body can turn down the chemical cascades that are keeping your heightened awareness of danger in overdrive.

2. Deep breathing: just 3 deep breaths tell the amygdala, an almond shaped gland in the brain, that there is no longer a lion at our door or the mammoth chase is over. Anxiety is powerful enough to effect your red blood cell production, 3 deep breaths are powerful enough to reverse that.

3. Organic Black Sesame oil: high in Magnesium and calcium, black sesame oil speaks directly to the cells of your body. It says, “SSHH, I’ve got all your nutrients right here, you can settle down and rest now”.

Vata, the ruling dosha, rules all movement in the body, including nervous system signaling. When talking about aggravated vata, we talk about those nerve signals running rampant all over the body – rather than being clear and directed, they are erratic and rough. Think about the shaking we feel after great exertion, when frightened, or when we’ve been anxious for some time. Black sesame oil is like a warm blanket for the nervous system – soothing and giving nourishment for recuperation. You can purchase 200ml and 500ml bottles from Zanti Ayurveda.

4. Connect: I see two blue “R U OK” trees on my drives between my homes 600km apart. They make me feel sad for the people left behind who look at those trees and hurt for the losses of their loved ones. But the trees do nothing for the person suffering anxiety or depression. We need connection. We need other hearts.

My brother is prone to depression, but has recently experienced one of the happiest times of his life as he has been looking after an old mate’s garden for an extended period of time. That old mate suffered serious complications after a recent vaccination, and remains in hospital. Despite the very heartache of the situation, the fact of being needed, and keeping in touch with someone else has kept my brother in action, in his body, in connection and out of depression.

You don’t necessarily need to be looking after someone who is in a worse situation than you, but you do need a heart connection. Again, Sarah Wilson’s words, this time from her latest book, This one wild and precious life, try getting past the blah-ness of ‘R U OK?’ to a real enquiry. Try, ,”How is your heart, in this breath”. How wonderful it would all be if we could lean in to each other in this expression of genuine connection, which begets love.

Read more about the breathing exercises here : 10-ayurvedic-self-care-tips-for-winter

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