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Managing Anxiety

posted Jan 23, 2010, 10:16 PM by Darwin Stephenson
Hi Darwin:

It would be great to hear your advice on managing anxiety.


Hi Mandy,

I'm not sure why, but I feel like I should start my reply off by saying thanks. My life is very much dedicated to helping others and thus when that connection is made I'm grateful.

So let me start off by explaining that I'm not a big believer in our medical establishment's approach to treating depression or anxiety. I'm not against medication, but I believe our society has been dealt a dis-service in these drugs being positioned for long term care. Many people don't see results from anti-anxiety medication and my belief is that this is because they don't treat the root cause of anxiety.

My position on medication is that it should be used to help you get the clarity of mind and presence to deal with the root cause. If you're having frequent panic attacks then it would be difficult to work on the root cause. Thus if taking anti-anxiety medication provides you with the peace of mind to focus then that's great. But thinking that there is something wrong with you and that you need a drug to make you "normal" for the rest of your life...that sounds crazy to me.

I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on T.V. So please do anything I recommend without talking with your therapist of physician first. ;)

The good news is that I'm not trying to sell you any herbs, miracle techniques or anything else that costs $19.95.

The difficult news is that I have a completely different view on why we experience anxiety and depression. My wife has struggled with anxiety for the last several years and my approach has helped her.

Before we get to "what to do" we must first establish "what we are." Most people walk around believing that they are that voice in their head. Lots of new age people like to talk about "that voice" but few explain what we're supposed to do with it. So too a lot of people talk about changing our thoughts, focusing on the positive and lots of other mind tricks to change that voice in our head into something different. I think that's a huge waste of time.

I'm not sure if you're familiar with this concept, but if you're asking yourself, "What voice?" then it's that voice that you're having a conversation with about not having a voice in your head. But since you're dealing with anxiety, I think I can safely assume you know what voice I'm talking about. ;)

That voice isn't "you" but it is part of you. That voice is the internal dialogue of your Mind. As your Mind considers thousands of choices throughout the day, it considers each and every option. And with each option it "thinks" about the probable outcome, benefits and detriments. The internal dialogue that you're hearing is your Mind considering all the potential options. And listening to that dialogue can be a bit disturbing sometimes because our Mind considers both the sane and insane options in its review of all possible options.

And that's actually a good thing. You wouldn't want it any other way because you want your Mind to consider all the possibilities and make the right choice. Clearly your Mind is doing a great job with a nearly perfect track record of making good decisions. Sure, it makes the wrong choice once in a while, but considering the billions that it got right...statistically your Mind is doing an awesome job.

The point is that your Mind has a job to do (mainly to keep you alive) and thus there isn't anything wrong, broken or disabled about it. It doesn't have faulty wiring, a bad hormone dispenser or a broken controller. The one problem it does have is that it is an egomaniac. It wants all the attention and it doesn't trust anyone else to be in charge of you.

But you're more than just a Mind. You also have a physical Body that makes thousands of decisions every day to keep you alive. For example, your heart has over 40,000 embedded neurons (brain cells) that enable it to operate as its own intrinsic nervous system. With every beat of our heart, an electro-magnetic field is generated that is 5,000 times stronger than the field produced by our brain. This field is so powerful that it can be detected by electro-magnetic sensors over eight feet away from the Body.

And what is the purpose of the electro-magnetic field generated by the heart? It is one of four ways our heart communicates with the brain (The four ways that the heart communicates with the brain is through neurological impulses, biochemically via hormones, biophysically via pressure waves and energetically via the electro-magnetic field it generates).

Thus you are both a Mind and a Body. They communicate back and forth to function in the world and to keep you alive. When they are in balance, they work fluidly together.

But you're more than a Mind and the actions it commands your Body to do. In some way, you also have a Spiritual side to you. Thus instead of thinking of ourselves as a physical manifestation of that voice in our head, we should be conceptualizing ourselves as a Body, Spirit and Mind.

You've probably heard these terms discussed by thousands of new age practitioners. And when they're freaked out about mentioning God, they'll drop the Spirit and refer to us as the Body-Mind. But these are more than cute descriptions about our human nature, they actually represent what we are.

And thus you can think of yourself as the combination of your Body, Spirit and Mind. This is the part of the message where you might think I'm going to tell you to find Jesus, read the Bible and find a local church. Those are all great things, but that's not my point. And I personally don't think any of those things will eliminate anxiety in your life. You can pray until the cows come home and you'll still be dealing with anxiety.

Instead I'd like you to think of yourself as both the connections and the three parts of you as one. Thus your Mind is one part of you, but so too you have a Body that is a major component of the overall Mandy. But Mandy's Spirit is also a major component of you. You're all three combined.

But most of society operates as if they're only the Mind. They live a mental existence where their entire lives are lived according to the logical ways of the Mind. And as that relates to making decisions to keep us alive or driving on the freeway, that's great. But there are many things in life that can't be reduced to turning left or right, choosing right from wrong or making the best of a situation.

So the first step to alleviating anxiety is to bring one's self into a place of balance. Now I don't know how much you want to eliminate anxiety from your life, but if you're anything like my wife you would do almost anything to never have another panic attack, racing heartbeat or restless night. In fact, you might even want it out of your life so much that you'll take medications that have potential side effects that are really, really, really dangerous.

And like I said before, in the Spirit of obtaining peace of Mind and presence, that's fine. But my prescription for alleviating anxiety is designed to rid it from your life forever, rather than masking it to shut down your brain. But it takes work and requires more effort than taking a pill. It requires balance.

To conceptualize balance, imagine energy flowing throughout this new concept of Mandy. You are the combination of your Body, Spirit and Mind and the communications that flow between each part of you run along a meridian of energy. This is the part of the discussion where you might think I'm going to recommend you see an acupuncturist. But that too is not my point.

Instead of yourself, imagine this energy flowing between the three parts of someone that is perfectly in balance. Their Body, Spirit and Mind are working in harmony and each part of them is regularly nourished and cared for. There is no blockage, restriction or containment of this energy. Each part of them takes the energy it needs, puts it to use and allows it to continue flowing.

Instead of yourself, now imagine someone that is horribly out of balance. They spend their entire existence "in their heads," deny their Body exercise and have no spiritual connection to their own Spirit. Despite the connective bonds being incapable of being severed, these connections have atrophied like a muscle that hasn't been used in years.

As energy flows into this person, it is funneled to the Mind where it spins out of control. Overwhelmed with too much energy, the thoughts of this person accelerate and the consideration of every possible thought becomes magnified. Simple considerations become blown out of proportion simply because this energy is overwhelming the system.

With too much energy being funneled into the Mind, the excess energy spills over into the Body where this person directs it to their area of greatest need. For most people this is the heart, which symbolizes their longing for love, connection and to unite humanity. But with too much energy being held in the heart, it starts to suffer and reacts by racing with palpitations and aches.

Does that sound like anxiety?

Thus when people talk about treating anxiety through exercise, healthy eating, loving relationships and a connection to faith... they're on the right track. But our goal isn't simply to burn off this energy by directing it into other parts of our self. Our goal is to harmonize and bring the system into balance.

Balance is really hard when we don't know "what" to balance. Work, home, career, kids, parents, friends, housework, investments, personal time, exercise, (this list can go on forever).

But all we really need to do is balance our Body, Spirit and Mind. Every person is different in this regard, so there is no single prescription to bring these three parts of Mandy into balance. But you can start by asking yourself these three questions at the end of each workday:
  1. What have I done today to nurture my Body?
  2. What have I done today to nurture my Spirit?
  3. What have I done today to nurture my Mind?
If the answer to any of these is "nothing" then you know what you need to do that evening. The nurturing doesn't need to be huge. You don't have to run 5-miles a day to nurture the Body. Start with a healthy dinner and a walk around the block.

So too nurturing the Spirit doesn't require that you meditate every night or spend every waking moment at your house of worship. Starting with a short meditation or attending a prayer group is great start.

The Mind is the hardest to nurture because we already live a mental existence. To nurture the Mind is to expose it to a new experience. This can be as simple as taking a random topic, entering it into Google and clicking the "I'm feeling lucky" button. You can then learn whatever comes up.

Unfortunately all of what I've just shared with you is simply a prescription for just about anyone. Not specifically for someone that is dealing with anxiety. For anxiety, we actually need to investigate why you're getting so much of this energy in your life.

Remember the depiction above where your Mind is getting all this energy channeled to it without an outlet? In this, we need to ask ourselves why are we receiving all of this energy?

The answer comes from an understanding how the Body, Spirit and Mind communicate with one another. In my book Inspiration Divine, I go into explaining this in much greater detail, but I'll cut it short here and just explain that the Body talks to the Spirit, the Spirit talks to the Mind, and the Mind talks to the Body. If you draw this as a triangle with arrows showing the flow of communication you'll see how this is a closed loop.

The point here is that your Spirit is communicating and transmitting energy to your Mind. Your connection to your Spirit may be weak, but the connection is there and energy flows along that connection none the less. While your Mind and Body are constrained to the physical limits of your Body, your Spirit is not constrained an exists outside of the confines of your Body. Thus your Spirit is directly connected to God and the Spirits of other beings.

And thus we can see that our Spirit is not constrained by the logical thoughts of our Mind nor does it care about the physical limitations of our Body. Whereas the Mind cares about the logical reasons of "why," our Spirit only focuses on choosing love, uniting Humanity and expanding God's presence. So too your Spirit is not constrained by a temporal Universe (time based) and knows where you need to be in the future.

So imagine your Spirit living outside of the confines of your Body and Mind with a complete understanding of what is best for Mandy. And to help you accomplish your hopes and dreams, your Spirit is transmitting to you all the energy you need.

Now imagine yourself in balance. Each part of you is nourished on a regular basis and you're living your life in complete harmony with your Body, Spirit and Mind. You're in tune with your Spirit's communications and you take the energy provided to you and put it to work in the world (as it was intended). The energy flowing through you spreads to others as you choose love, unite Humanity and expand God's presence in the Universe (by creating that which didn't exist before).

Or your one of millions of people on the planet with a malfunctioning nervous system that needs pharmaceutical drugs to be "normal." I just can't accept this philosophy.

There are no quick fixes as the prescription here is more of a practice than a pill. As we struggle to deal with anxiety in our lives, we can look to ways that we can use this energy to unite humanity. My wife has established a relationship with a local women's shelter and when she gets her anxiety attacks she stops by to give them a hand. The point is by helping others we provide this life force energy an outlet in the world rather than bottling it up inside of us.

I know I've shared a lot with you here and it's a lot to digest. I hope I've provided you with a different way to view anxiety and a method for alleviating it. I personally believe that people that experience anxiety are those that are called to do great things in this world. Your Spirit is trying to get your attention by turning up the volume. We may not know now to listen, but by bringing ourselves into balance we begin to speak this language and make a difference in the world.

I truly hope you find peace and inspiration. If you're interested in this approach, I post quotes and inspirations daily on my Facebook Author Page.