• Live in the Light

  • Mindfulness: Anxiety Is Not Bad!

    Learn How To Reduce Anxiety Without Medication.

    October 6, 2019

    By Dr. Manijeh Motaghy – Founder of Perfectly Here and Mindful Business Institute. Affiliate MARC UCLA Teacher, Doctor of Psychology in Management Consulting. Member of International Mindfulness Teachers Association.

    Anxiety Is Not Bad. It is My Owl

    Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling. It’s an emotion felt throughout the body. It feels jittery in the gut or the shoulders or the chest. It feels like it’s alerting you about coming danger. Hence, you begin to worry with negative thinking. The feeling of anxiety is a natural physiological, neurological and psychological process. It is not personal, as it is the brain’s way of saying, “Pay attention.” It may feel bad, but anxiety is not bad. You can learn from it about yourself and your life. It is also possible that because you have experienced this feeling so often, it’s become a habit and shows up for no good reason. This was my case after my divorce years ago. I experienced it every morning. It was very uncomfortable and there was no reason for it. I had to work with it until it gradually subsided and lost its grip on me.

    Regardless, whether you feel anxious because you might have acted carelessly and the consequences of your actions are catching up with you or it’s a painful habit, there is a great solution for it. The solution is Mindfulness of breath and body and then looking at it with the eyes of a wiser person.

    When the feeling of anxiety is present, take a few deep breaths and as you exhale, let the sensations of tingling or jitteriness subside. That means, consciously breathe in as long as you can and slowly breathe out, relaxing your body. Do this for at least ten breaths.

    However, This May Not Be Enough.

    Once you have established a sense of calm, and with a wiser non-critical outlook, take a look at the reasons your anxiety keeps coming back. Maybe it is the way you are living. Perhaps you are acting in ways that are not wise, nor skillful. For example, you may spend money carelessly and when the time comes, there may not be enough money to cover the essentials. This is a real issue. No matter how many breaths you take to calm yourself, if you do not take care of your money and expenses you will continue to be alerted by your physiological, neurological and psychological mechanisms. “Something is wrong,” the brain says, “and it feels really uncomfortable.” When you don’t see the direct cause of the anxiety, you run to the doctor, spend money, you may not have, on medications or supplements to get rid of the anxiety. Many people become hooked on these drugs and run in circles after better performing drugs. Many have even lost their lives to these drugs and those who survive sometimes can’t let go.

    Meanwhile, the anxiety doesn’t subside because you may be acting in ways that puts you even more in the hole. You continue to struggle, fight the anxiety and, at times, feel like you are drowning. Of course, financial mismanagement is an example. Not knowing how to relate to others in an effective way leading to issues in relationships or problems at work or other areas of your life are among other examples. The fact is that we were not programmed like most animals to act in exact same ways through instinct. We have to learn how to be a “human.” Learn various roles we humans play, which are influenced by our cultures, geography and so many other factors. To be a human is complicated. We have to learn how to use our mind and thinking effectively, how to deal with all the ups and downs, all the emotions, desires and misunderstandings. And then we face change and uncertainty. We are not prepared for it, nor do we understand that change is inevitable, that loss is a given. Unless we are the first ones to die, we will suffer the loss of someone we love. The lack of understanding of all * these nuances of life can cause us distress and anxiety.

    Mindfulness And Reflection Solution

    So, Stop. Take a breath. Understand that anxiety is a natural phenomenon. It’s a built-in mechanism that you do want. It’s good for you to have it. It’s like a reliable friend alerting you of your conduct and behavior or the false paradigms and perspectives you are attached to.

    Next, sit somewhere quietly and reflect. Be honest, it’s not about judging. It’s about investigating. Ask yourself, “What is the message of this feeling? Why am I being alerted?” Try to look at it not from a victim’s point of view but with the intention of engaging the intelligent part of your brain to listen to the instinct that is causing the anxiety. Ask your instinct, “What is it? How am I causing you to become fearful, worried and active?”

    As You Sit Quietly, 

    Take notes of your thoughts. You may hear answers like, “It’s because you bought too many items this month. You weren’t thinking. You got caught up in the pleasure it gave you. Or you gave too much to so-and-so to help them out. Or you didn’t show up to work and didn’t make as much as you needed. Or, you had extra expense because your car needed repairs. Without a car, you can’t take care of life.” There could be so many different scenarios. The goal is to arrive at the truth of what your brain is trying to tell you, to what it is alerting you to.

    Continuing with the example of spending more money than you should have in certain areas. Reflecting on this issue with a calm mind is an opportunity to see that budgeting is a must. Then seek out how to create a budget and set your mind to follow the budget in order to reduce the chances of feeling anxious. More importantly though, you must look at your perspective and the underlying reasons, motives and the energy that made you spend more in the first place. This takes a bit more effort and presence of mind. You may not have the time nor think about doing this at first. But this is an essential step. One that can improve all aspects of your life.

    Underneath Our Experiences 

    There are energies such as clinging, aversion, restlessness, lethargy and doubt. These qualities are felt by all human beings. It is normal to have them. But if we don’t understand what they are and how to manage them, they continue to cause a lot of stress and suffering in our lives. In meditation, these underlying energies are also known as “obstacles.”

    For example, Restlessness is high energy in the body and can be uncomfortable. Like all other experiences it passes. However, when we feel it and not recognize that this is Restlessness, we most likely act out this energy. This could be you running around doing more and more. Not able to stop and rest until your body is exhausted. Often the more you do, the more there is to do. You may do things that are not necessary and cause yourself to spend more time, money and resources than you have. Then, those jittery feelings we call anxiety show up to alert you. 

    You continue feeling uncomfortable and because you don’t like it, Aversion, another underlying feeling, shows up. Now you have a triple whammy. Restlessness, Anxiety and Aversion. Man, what a formula for stress and suffering. Of course, Doubt is around the corner to tell you that nothing is working. Your life is a mess and you need a way out. If you are prone, you take a pill, turn to alcohol, do more shopping, blame someone for your misery. Whatever it takes to get out of this entangled web of suffering. Then Clinging, the fantasy of things being otherwise, shows up. Before you know it, divorce is on the table and a whole new saga of distress and suffering starts. 

    Another Factor That Creates Issues Is

    The way you think. Your perspective of life. You may have the mindset that things should always go your way. Nothing should change or if they do they should be to your advantage. This is not how the universe works. There are many webs of interconnected, interdependent and interrelated events and phenomena that takes place throughout our lives. All of which impact us in different ways. Some go our way, some don’t. Some we have the power to influence and make happen. Others we don’t. It all depends on the phenomena of impermanence. Everything is changing, moving, shifting and evolving. Again, it may be favorable or not. If you have the mindset that things are the way they are and nothing changes, it can definitely take you by surprise, both positively and negatively.

    You can apply what I’m saying to any circumstance. If you find yourself there – Stop, Take a breath, Rest. Become aware of your mindset and the results of your actions. Just sit and think about it. If insight arises fantastic. If tears come, let them. Know that you are not crazy, nor broken, nor is it your fault that you can’t see the real causes of anxiety and stress. In order to rise above them, we all need training in these areas with knowledgeable teachers who have been there and are experienced with effective practices that change our perspective and habitual living. I know I had set mindsets that caused me to be stressed out and lived in ways that were not so wise. I couldn’t have realized, changed and overcome these obstacles without my teachers, to whom I’m eternally grateful.

    You Are Not Stuck with Anxiety. 

    You can catch yourself in the midst of anxiety. I repeat, Stop, take a breath and let go of judgment. Learn what behaviors or attachments give rise to your good friend, anxiety. Allow yourself to be flexible and open to understanding. Be grateful for its presence and gradually make the necessary changes in your mind and in life to prevent anxiety from occurring. This is a much more effective way than any medication because as changes take place you evolve to a higher level of thinking. An aspect of this higher level of thinking is raising your bar on happiness and lowering your standards for accepting stress in your life. If you need medication to give you some sense of stability so that you can do this, that is something you and your doctors need to judge.

    Here Is A Summary

    Breathe deeply, walk slowly. Take time to be alone to sort things out and allow anxiety to be there for you, not against you. Don’t try to get rid of it so fast. Heck, since the word, “anxiety” has such a bad rap, you can rename it. Something like, “An owl.” Owls are known for being wise. So, when you feel it, say to yourself, “My Owl is here. Let me see what I can learn from it.“

    Name your anxiety whatever you like, something that makes you feel safe in its presence.

    If you like to learn more about the underlying causes of your stress and anxiety you can check out one of our six-week courses at PerfectlyHere.org.

    Write to me if you have any comments and/or questions. I’d be happy to know if this was helpful to you. Here is my email: manijeh@perfectlyhere.org

    Wishing you all the best.

    Dr. Manijeh Motaghy