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Dr Anna M L Smith

Tel: 077175 70805

Anxiety -What Is It? What Can I Do?

03 April 2024
Image of an anxious woman.

I often ask my patients – What do you understand by anxiety? They usually look at me blankly…

Anxiety is the physical manifestations of unexpressed emotions.

Our body reacts and shows symptoms of the stress reaction of fight (anger/ frustration/rage), flight (fear/ panic/ worry) or freeze (hopelessness, depression, fatigue, dissociation). The muscles get tight, the heart beats faster, your breathing changes, your bowels change – so you may get muscle pain or tightness, palpitations or a tight chest, shallow fast breathing and perhaps constipation or catch common colds as the immune response is suppressed. The body reacts to the emotional baggage we carry.

We may also have catastrophic thoughts and ruminations going around in our heads. So, we feel anxiety in our thoughts and in our bodies.

I often get people to look at what rucksack they are carrying each day- emotions from childhood stress or trauma, difficulty with relationships, ill health, depression, and work stress. If we went on a long journey, we would only carry what we needed. We need to lay down the emotions and learn to balance our lives. How do we do that?

We may start naming our emotions by using an emotions wheel, we may start being aware of our emotional state by using the polyvagal chart as a visual aid and we may start practising emotional journaling, moving to music emotionally, breathwork or meditation. A short daily practice is best.

When struggling with anxiety we need to recognise our anxious thoughts but then move into the sensations we feel in our bodies and breathe through them without resistance.

By: Dr Anna M L Smith