This is what it’s like when you overcome anxiety
I’d been suffering from anxiety since I was 15. Now, at 39, I’d decided it was time for some professional help.
If you’ve never suffered from anxiety, you probably don’t understand what all the fuss is about and why anxious people can’t simply pull themselves together.
Imagine a sense of fear and apprehension that puts you on red-alert. This fear can be useful in some situations when we’ve had to respond to potential threats.
However, when anxiety reaches excessive levels, where we live in it constantly, we never turn off our fight or flight response. This means adrenaline’s constantly coursing through us and it’s exhausting, I can tell you.
‘I feel calm and peaceful’
I first heard about Emotional Freedom Technique, or Tapping, only a few months before I managed to overcome anxiety.
It is based on Eastern medicine – similar to acupuncture, but without needles. It’s thought to stimulate the body’s energy meridian points by tapping on them with your fingertips.
The EFT practitioner asks you to focus on a pain in your body or a negative emotion you are trying to treat: a fear, anxiety, addiction, or an unresolved problem. You give it a colour and shape, describe how it feels and rate it from one to 10.
Your practitioner then taps five to seven times on each of the 12 meridian points, based around your head, face, and chest, which releases feel-good dopamine in your brain. As you tap, you’ll explore your thoughts and feeling around that problem, guided by your practitioner.
As you talk through your feelings around that emotion or pain, it will begin to diminish, and you repeat this cycle, like peeling off the layers of an onion, until your fears around this area, or pain, disappears.
Finally, you will lay in place more positive feelings, by repeating a phrase such as ‘I feel calm and peaceful’, or ‘I am confident and in control’ while tapping again.
‘It was crazy to think this critical voice that had been steering me all my life was no longer there’
One study of PTSD sufferers saw their cortisol levels drop by 24 per cent. Another study found EFT significantly reduced activity in the area of the brain responsible for food cravings in obese people.
Scans have even shown that neural pathways around addiction can be changed. EFT treatment has also been shown to reduce anxiety levels, and reduced phobic symptoms.
I had six weekly session of EFT with my practitioner Sandra and it was after the third week I noticed my anxiety had disappeared.
Gone. Poof. Into thin air. Overnight.
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‘I actually WAS my anxiety and without it, what was there left?’
It was crazy to think this worrying, critical voice inside my head that had been steering me all my life was no longer there. The crutch that had propped me up, giving me worrying feedback 24/7 had suddenly fallen silent. I wasn’t afraid anymore – but without my fear, what was driving me to do anything?
All the coping strategies I’d had in place began to crumble. Anxiety had become such a huge part of my life, dictating where I went and how I travelled there and back, the jobs I’d gone for, the way I interacted with work colleagues, my relationships, my hobbies, how I viewed my family… I mean literally EVERYTHING.
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I actually WAS my anxiety and without it, what was there left? My mood slumped for around a week and I just felt empty. My anxiety had gone and there was nothing to fill the void. Now, there was a gaping vacuum where all my worries had been hiding.
Over the next few weeks Sandra worked with me to help fill that void.
She suggested that now would be a good time for all that energy that would have been used to support my coping mechanisms to be channelled into nurturing myself, doing things that gave me pleasure, to help myself heal – a little like someone who has been through an operation and feels WAY worse before they feel better.
I needed some emotional TLC.
An anxiety-free future
She said I needed to get ready to focus on my goals for the future. Because without the fear and anxiety hampering me, I finally had the potential to be the best version of myself.
It wasn’t easy to get used to this new perspective on life – my anxiety had become like an old friend, and I almost lamented its loss to begin with – a case of better the devil you know – but slowly and surely I’ve embraced this new fear-free perspective on the world and am starting to inch my way towards goals that a few months back I would have thought were unreachable.
For an EFT session with Sandra visit www.sandranathancounselling.co.uk.