A Cure For Worrying
Normally I’d just put a link to an article, but this one was so good I’ve asked Paul Ingram’s permission to post the whole article here. While everyone can get anxiety from a variety of causes, when you think of the symptoms of ADHD, if you don’t learn ADHD management techniques that work for your unique ADHD brain to deal with them, they can easily lead to anxiety and depression.
There are huge rates of anxiety disorders with ADHD and even for those who don’t have a diagnosable anxiety disorder, many have higher background rates of anxiety.
Some adults who have undiagnosed ADHD have been treated for anxiety and depression for years with medications and therapy with little success.
See my post on the ROI of medical malpractice and misdiagnosis of ADHD, 28% of referrals to a mood & Anxiety clinic had undiagnosed ADHD
When they get diagnosed and properly treated for ADHD, (which is more than just ADHD medication) their anxiety and depression/dysthemia often go away or are greatly reduced. Here’s Pauls’ article.
Anxieties often don’t respond to logic and reason, so what do they respond to?
by Paul Ingraham, who was a Registered Massage Therapist for a decade and now runs a science based website complete with references at Pain Science. With a lot of content. “The word count for all that is about 2 million in all, bigger than all the Game of Thrones novels.”
“Often my clients and I start out working on back pain, and we end up talking about anxieties and self-doubts. It begins with an observation like this: “I hold a lot of tension in my back” or “This is always the worst when I’m under a lot of stress.” Anxiety is a root cause for an awful lot of back pain. It’s also just an annoying feature of the human condition. What can we do about it?
You can’t outsmart anxiety
People aren’t good at calming down. People usually try to outsmart their anxieties, and it doesn’t work.
- We tell ourselves to “get over it,” and that really doesn’t work.
- We apply logic and reason, and that doesn’t work either.
- We seek out the logic and reason of others, of friends with perspective and experts with authority, and that usually doesn’t work. We still worry.
- We try to distract ourselves, and sometimes that sort of works — temporarily.
- We try to sweat it out, and that may be the best solution that many people use. But can still be unsatisfying. It takes a good chunk of time and energy, and it doesn’t always work either.
Episodes of anxiety are an almost universal human problem. There are many flavours and triggers, and the severity ranges from mild to life-threatening, but nearly everyone gets them. And, by nature, you can’t think your way out of anxiety. Thinking is generally what gets us there in the first place. You can’t fight fire with fire.
Why not? Why is worrying so exasperatingly difficult to “get over”?
Anxiety has a physiological signature.
Anxiety almost always involves a distinctive set of changes in your mind and body.
Namely, your sense of self and your vitality and attention shift upwards and away from the body in general and into the head. When you are stressed out and worrying hard, you are probably “in your head,” as opposed to being “in your body” or “comfortable in your skin.”
When you are anxious, you are “in your head”
Also, the churning and sinking sensations in the belly that come with worry are strongly suppressed with muscular tension, stillness and a lack of breath. The head becomes relatively busy, as your brain switches to spin cycle and the eyes and ears scan for danger.
This process is so physical and habitual that it is difficult or impossible to interrupt by force of will. Once it starts, most of us are doomed to a few hours of whirling thoughts, and the physical consequences: back pain or neck pain, a throbbing headache, or insomnia are all common embodiments of stress.
So what can you do?
Making it hard to worry
You cure anxiety by making it very difficult to remain anxious.
In practicing the martial art of aikido, you don’t throw a person with brute force, or even with clever leveraging (as in Judo) — you simply position yourself in such a way that your practice partner simply finds it almost impossible to keep his balance, seemingly without contact.
It is almost impossible to worry intensely if you draw your attention downwards, into the body, and restore vitality and movement and breath to the belly. This is called “grounding,” and it is concept that is well known throughout Asia, and to many Westerners as well.
A lack of grounding is the mind-body pattern at the heart of all anxiety. You can never “get over” anxiety without grounding.
Once you are grounded, you won’t necessarily stop worrying — however, logic and reason will start to have influence again. Many other responses to anxiety become easier. Once you are grounded, then you can outsmart anxiety.
But you have to get grounded first.
Efficient grounding when it counts
Well-chosen, specific grounding exercises can be done in two minutes in the office washroom, if necessary, right after that incredibly irritating meeting with your boss.
They can be done quickly in the middle of the night when you have insomnia and don’t have the will to do anything challenging. You don’t have to get up for an hour and do yoga, or run up and down the apartment building stairs.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know that grounding exercises can be this quick and relevant to a crisis — assuming they know what grounding is in the first place!
Grounding is associated with all those flaky eastern spiritual disciplines and calisthenics: yoga, taiqi, qigong, meditation and so on. Most people treat these things as slow and preventative medicine for stress, instead of a source of efficient and curative responses to episodes of anxiety.
Grounding exercises can be quick and relevant to a crisis.
Even people who are devoted practitioners in the preventative spirit will get paralyzed when anxiety strikes, forgetting everything they ever learned about yoga. It’s easy enough to do calming and grounding exercises when you are already calm. The challenge is doing them when you are not!
To cure anxiety, you need to do efficient groundings exercises as a direct response to anxiety. An hour of yoga is not efficient. Neither is a run on the sea wall, or a game of squash, or sitting meditation.
The abdominal lift.
Yoga, taiqi, qigong, meditation are all full of exercises that can be done individually with great effect, if one has a clear, specific goal such as “efficient grounding when freaked out.” Here is the single best example, in my opinion, effective for most people, most of the time:
The abdominal lift is a classic yogic exercise, best known as a longevity exercise for its stimulating effect on the internal organs. It is also a powerful abdominal strengthener (including the rarely exercised transversus abdominis), is vital for mastering many breathing techniques, and makes all other breathing exercises easier.
- Stand with your upper body supported on your knees.
- Take at least three, oxygenating deep breaths to prepare yourself for the first lift.
- When you feel you have oxygenated sufficiently, blow all of your air out. Completely flush your lungs, and then hold your breath.
- Suck your belly in hard against your spine. Particularly focus on your low belly, below the navel. Hold the position and your breath for several seconds (go as long as you can), and then relax the belly — before breathing again (if you try to breath first and then relax, it can hurt a bit).
- Resume breathing.
One abdominal lift takes about one minute, and three of them is a good dose of grounding, although I recommend five for tough cases.
After an abdominal lift, the physiological pattern of anxiety has not just been disturbed but reversed, and now you are ready to “get over it.”
Other great examples efficient grounding exercises from qigong include:
Leap into the air with a big breath, and as you come crashing and stamping down, blow out hard and flick your arms and hands straight downwards, as though throwing lightning bolts into the ground. Ten of these, followed by some stillness, is wonderfully grounding.
Crane Spreads Wings.
Stand with your feet together, hands folded across your chest, hunched over. Breathe in and “spread your wings” — not just spreading your arms, but leaning back a little as well, opening way up, chin high, a strong line of tension through the chest and the belly. Close up again. Repeat several times.
And it’s not just the eastern spiritual disciplines that can be mined for useful grounding exercises. The anxiety pattern can also be broken by exercises drawn from many western traditions, such as Reichian body work or cognitive therapy. Here are two more examples:
Worrying is a mental rut. Cognitive therapy suggests building new pathways with specific, deliberate mental alternatives. Write down a positive set of thoughts that are a specific alternative to the worrying pattern.
Read them out loud in your head five times. (Why is this a grounding exercise? Because your mind and body are one system. It doesn’t matter whether you change the anxiety pattern in the head or the body first, just so long as you change it.)
Twenty-five fast, deep clear breaths, without pausing at the top or the bottom, can ground you more completely — bring you back into your body — than most people will feel after any amount of meditation. This is hyperventaliation, yes, and you may feel dizzy and that’s fine.
The examples I’ve offered you here are the tip of the iceberg, but you now possess the essential principles: anything you can come up with that interferes with the mental and physical patterns of anxiety will make it difficult to stay there.”
Check out Paul Ingraham’s website for more great articles and ebooks at Pain Science.
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