Just as we can apply the acceptance and surrender approach to our anxious thoughts, we can also use that same approach here when it comes to anxious sensations.
“Let it be. Know that it is okay to feel these feelings. Completely accept that they are there. Do not resist them or try to think your way out of them. When you completely accept feelings like this, straight away they become less unbearable. So many of our problems with anxiety comes from a resistance to it, thinking about how we do not like the feelings, how we want the feelings to go away, or how they are ‘wrong.” – Adam Oakley, A Guide to Emotional Wellness
What we have to understand is that whatever anxious sensation we are experiencing, whether that’s tightness in throat, feeling low energy all the time, chest pain, racing heart, muscle tightness, sweating, we cannot stop feeling these sensations through fighting them. We are keeping ourselves trapped in anxiety by trying to stop them through a fighting battle.
Our normal reaction to being attacked is to fight off the attacker. But when it comes to our anxiety disorder, this cannot work because when we fight the anxious sensations we make them feel a lot more intense and uncomfortable. If we keep responding through fighting our sensations, our brain is going to keep thinking that there is something to fight against or run away from . Both of these actions will keep us trapped in the anxiety because there is no real threat, so we will keep ourselves trapped in a cycle of fighting against ourselves which just creates unnecessary suffering.
Don’t tell yourself that you shouldn’t be experiencing anxious sensations
I know it sucks to feel anxiety, especially all of the intense and unpleasant sensations. But telling ourselves that we should not be feeling the way we do is just going to set us up for more inner conflict that results in more anxiety.
When we tell ourselves that we shouldn’t be feeling anxious, we are affirming to our mind that anxiety is really disturbing us and that it has the power to rule our lives. We are making it into a big monster by telling ourselves stories.
So, instead of telling yourself that you shouldn’t be feeling anxious, let go of any expectation on how you’re feeling. Be okay with feeling anxious. I know this is not an easy one to take in but not being okay with anxiety is going to create suffering so we may as well be okay with it. When we are okay with it, it has no reason to trouble us. The sensations may still be there to some extent, but as we’re not fighting them or wishing we weren’t experiencing them, they will eventually melt away through continued internal allowance.
An inner yes to whatever sensation you’re experiencing.
Whatever sensation you are experiencing, say yes to it. See how it feels when you mentally tell yourself that “yes I should be feeling this way”. See, as you probably already know, when you say no to the anxious sensations and push them away, the energy you feel is dense and heavy. Like a toxic feeling inside of you. When you give up the fight, when you walk into the sensations and say yes to them, you are transcending that toxic and heavy feeling state into one of peace and flow.
Acceptance and surrender is all about saying yes to whatever you’re feeling. Not accepting is what keeps the storm of anxiety alive. The best way to let the storm die down is to flow in the same direction as it. Become one with it, I know this might sound extreme and radical and that’s because it is. Practicing radical acceptance will mean you will be able to ride the waves without getting sucked into them.
Don’t label your anxious sensations as bad
Labeling our anxious sensations, calling them bad or terrible is another way we encourage self-inflicted suffering. When we label our sensations as bad, we are turning what is just a normal response to fear into a problem, giving them much more power over us. Anything we associate as bad will seem more of a problem to us. It will keep the sensations in place like glue.
We can normalise them by seeing the sensations as energy moving through the body because that is all they really are. Seeing them from this viewpoint can help to normalise them and take some of the scariness away.
You can remind yourself the next time you feel them: “What I’m feeling is just energy flowing through my body. This energy is not good or bad, It just is. These sensations are not a sign of illness. They are not attacking me, they just need to be allowed to flow through me.”
Ending your fear of anxious sensations is crucial for healing
What actually kept me in the cycle of anxiety for a long while was the fear of anxiety and the sensations it produced. I had to fully trust that no harm was being done to my body by these uncomfortable and sometimes frightening feelings. Because they made me feel so bad, it took me a long while to fully accept that these anxious sensations were not causing my any harm.
You have to give yourself evidence to really prove it
The only way we can finally trust that anxious sensations are completely harmless is to fully feel them. It takes time for this to happen but the more we can face them, and let the sensations play out in whatever way they wish, whilst not running away from them, we can see that no harm is being done. We’ve experienced these so many times in the past that we have to see that no harm is being done to our bodies.
Take it from me. I suffered from high anxiety for so many years, we are talking nearly two decades. I experienced a whole range of disturbing sensations as mentioned in section one of this book. Not once did I come to any harm. Although I used to fear them and drive myself “crazy” worrying about them, I never did go crazy and I’m still here to tell the tale, just as healthy and mentally fit as ever.
I hope this article can be of benefit to you. As always, feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions. Thank you!
Until next time