Help for anxiety

We've all experienced the pounding heart, muscle tension, and rapid breathing of anxiety. One of the major ways we construct feelings of anxiety is by pulling ourselves up and away from the ground. A sense of physical support from the ground is basic to any sense of emotional security and well being.

How do we find the ground?

1. In an emotionally unstable situation, you can think, "My bones will hold me up, my bones will hold me up," even if you don't feel you can hold yourself up. "You" don't have to worry. The skeleton will support you.

2. Plunk on your heels: In standing, lift your heels a couple inches off the floor and let them drop to the floor. Really let them drop.

3. You can do a version of this lying on your back: with your knees bent, pull on your pant leg or wrap a towel under your upper leg to lift one foot of the ground. Then let it drop to the floor. Release it completely. Do this many times.

4. Lengthen the exhalation. Activate the parasympathetic response by exhaling longer and longer. Add expanding the belly as you do this. Let the air rush into your chest in a natural, unimpeded way.

5. Roll the top of your head on the wall: Place your head and hands on the wall, your feet a little ways away so the weight is distributed. Roll from the forehead to the back of the head, as if you're drawing a line. Keep the weight in the feet, head, and hands. Then walk around. Feel the top of the head, how you are connected from your head to the feet.

6. Walk around with folded towels on your head. Towels are better than books, which fall off. This invites a response where you can't contract the belly, as happens when there's fear. You have to be upright, forward, facing out. The towels offer just enough feedback to sense the length required to be upright.

7. Lastly, lie on your back near a wall. Put your feet on the wall with your hips and knees at right angles. Push into the wall gently with both feet and feel where the force goes. Does it go into your spine? Hold your breath and clench your teeth and push: feel where the force goes with added tension. Release the added tension and push through your feet and feel where the force goes. Test different locations of the feet to clarify the smoothest connection to your spine.

If there's any tension in the belly, the force will jam. To help undo this traffic jam, simply add more tension by contracting the belly and push with the feet. Feel how the force really stops. Then release the tension and test. Can you feel the difference? Do this a few times until you can feel the lightness of the feet all the way to your head.