It's "Only" Energy: an Exercise to Ease Anxiety
I’ve suffered from intense anxiety for many years, and before I was able to find a good therapist it was incredibly hard to deal with. Even with a good therapist, anxiety can get out of control sometimes, to the point you can’t talk yourself through it and you need to interrupt the spiral somehow.
Now look, I’m definitely not a therapist or any kind of health professional. If you struggle with anxiety, I absolutely recommend finding a therapist you can trust and/or working with an allopathic doctor, naturopathic doctor, or herbalist to give your body the help and support you need. There’s no shame in taking medicine for your anxiety if you need to, no matter what anyone tells you. So, while this exercise I’m going to share could help, please don’t stop here if you're suffering from chronic anxiety. You deserve any help you can get.
This energy exercise has helped me a lot with moments of surging anxiety. But - and I really mean this - you can’t witchcraft your way out of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a complex beast who doesn't listen to reason. If anxiety is riding you hard, please try to get help if you can. I understand that’s not always possible in our profoundly unjust healthcare system. I struggled with my anxiety alone for decades before I found myself in a position to get help. I hate the fact that, here in the U.S. at least, decent health care is a privilege and not a right. But wherever you are in your struggle, I hope this exercise will be a useful tool to add to your self care toolbox.
To begin with, you'll need to do something counterintuitive. You’ll need to sit down and let yourself really feel your anxiety. This sucks. But without taking this step you can’t take the next ones. It can sometimes help to approach this part of the practice with a sense of curiosity. This is an exploration of yourself. What will you find?
As you let yourself feel your anxiety, consider where in your body you feel it. I feel it as a kind of fluttery, queasy feeling just beneath my ribs, and sometimes in my chest as well. You may feel it in a tense jaw, a nauseated stomach, numb extremities, or any number of other sensations. So try not to tell yourself what you should feel, but instead get intimately familiar with how you do feel. While you’re doing this, try to keep breathing at a natural pace for you. I sometimes have a tendency to hold my breath when I’m stressed, which is super unhelpful! So keep breathing.
Next, if you aren’t familiar with energy work, clap your hands together hard, then rub your palms back and forth against each other quickly until you feel a warm and/or tingly sensation. This is a form of energy, simple as that. You can skip this step if you’re experienced with sensing and moving energy.
Now that your palms are “awake” (as I like to think of it), and you have a strong sense of where in your body the anxiety is strongest, place your palms over that area. You can either rest them on your body or hold them a little bit away from your skin. Pay close attention to your palms, and imagine them as being either sticky or magnetic, whichever is more comfortable for you.
Then feel your palms pulling the energy of anxiety outward. It isn’t leaving your body entirely. You aren’t banishing it. You are simply expanding it and drawing it out in front of you so you can see it a tiny bit more objectively.
As you pull that anxiety energy out from its center, imagine you are forming it into a ball or bubble in front of you. How powerful is the anxiety? How buzzy does it feel? The more intense it feels, the bigger your anxiety energy ball can become. Begin to inhale a bit more deeply and slowly, and with each exhale, imagine you are blowing that bubble or balloon up bigger and bigger, breathing the energy of anxiety into it, making it as big as your arms can hold. If you like, use your hands to trace the shape of the expanding sphere. Get really into this. Describe it to yourself, out loud or in your head, if that helps you stay focused.
Once you don’t feel like you can push more energy into your sphere, let your breathing return to its usual pace and observe the energy in front of you. How does the sphere of energy feel? How does your body feel now? Just notice it so, you can remember later.
Now here’s the fun part. Looking at your anxiety in this way, can you see that it’s just another kind of energy? No doubt it is uncomfortable energy, and it's the discomfort that sucks so much. So look at this ball of energy you’re holding and consider what you would like to feel like instead of anxious. Do you want to feel calm? Excited in a good way? Strong? Grounded? Then think of something or some place that makes you feel that way. For me it’s the middle of a forest, with swaying trees and birds calling, which fills me with a sense of calm and grounded strength. For you it could be the beach, a meadow, your favorite room, etc.
Now imagine the energy sphere you’re holding in your arms being filled with that good place, that good feeling. Imagine what this happy place smells like, the temperature of the air there, what the ground feels like under your feet. What do you touch there? What do you see there? What sounds do you hear? Let your awareness of this place be as vivid and clear as you can make it. You’ll probably find some sensations are easier to imagine than otheres, and that’s totally normal. I have a much easier time imagining physical sensations than imagery until I get really into the exercise. Imagine your energy sphere filling up with these feelings, this kind of energy.
As you continue this visualizing/imagining, you’ll hopefully begin to feel the energy in your sphere changing. It might take practice to really feel the change, but even a small shift can be helpful.
Once you've taken the imagination/visualization as far as you can, or you know you need to start wrapping up the exercise due to time limitations, imagine the sticky or magnetic charge in your palms is gone. And begin to slowly draw the transformed energy back into your body, using your hands to push it towards yourself and shrink the energy bubble. Really feel how the energy has changed. Once again, describe it to yourself if that helps. Let it gradually flow back into the place it came from, and then slowly push it out from that place through the rest of your body, down to the soles of your feet and up to the top of your head. Rest your hands on the sofa or put them on the ground to dispel any lingering tinglies or extra warmth.
Have a little snack with some protein and fat, and a drink of water, to be sure you're grounded and ready to move on with your day.
I find this way of working with my anxiety more helpful than trying to get rid of it somehow. And it helps me not to make my own emotions feel like an enemy I need to destroy somehow - because my emotions are here for a reason! It’s just that sometimes they get really overwhelming. This helps me dial down the intensity so I can cope a little better.
I’ll just wrap up by reiterating how important it is to address the causes and sources of anxiety in your life whether you try this energy exercise or not! I think of this exercise as a kind of soothing balm to help me feel better in the moment of a flare up. It’s helpful in managing the discomfort, but it won’t make the source of the discomfort go away. That’s a long and personal journey. But I hope it helps you in the meantime, and I think it complements all the other ways we can care for our mental, emotional, and physical health.
Background photo of a bubble on a dark background by Raspopova Marina, courtesy of Unsplash.
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