Recently, a friend was telling me about a blissful experience she had with an energy healer.
She said, “I felt so good. I felt like I had been resting for an eternity. I felt airy. I felt brand new.”
And then she asked me this:
Will I ever be completely clear of anxiety?
Maybe you have this question too.
Think back: when was the last time you felt completely blissed out? Was it on vacation? During a massage? During a yoga class? Playing with a pet? Playing with a child? Taking a hike? Laughing with friends?
It’s such a blessed relief to feel calm.
If you’re anything like me, when you find yourself in the land of calm, you want to stay there forever. You want to hold on to the peaceful feeling of serenity and restfulness. You want every moment to be like that.
No anxiety. That’s the dream.
Is this even possible? Is it possible to be completely clear of anxiety?
The short answer is yes.
It’s absolutely possible!
There is a longer answer, however. I bet you suspected as much! But take heart, because this news is good news. So let’s dive a bit deeper into the YES.
Yes! If you heal the underlying cause of the anxiety
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is trauma trapped in the nervous system. During trauma, our nervous system can go into the fight-or-flight response, which creates biological changes. During fight-or-flight, our heart rate goes up, our breathing gets faster, stress chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol are released into our bloodstream and all of our senses go on high-alert. All the non-essential systems get temporarily shut down; for example digestion, immunity and reproduction.
It’s a brilliant survival response that has kept our species alive for many millions of years. If you’re running from a bear, you definitely want your heart to work harder and stress hormones to be pumped into your bloodsteam.
However when we get stuck in that state for days, weeks and even years – it’s really freaking uncomfortable. That’s what anxiety is – it’s your nervous system getting stuck ‘on’ long past the time the trauma itself has come and gone. Perhaps you experience anxiety as a tightening in your chest, a pounding heart or racing thoughts. Whatever you feel, it’s deeply uncomfortable.
After a survival threat has passed, an animal comes out of fight-or-flight and their biology returns back to normal. Their heart rate comes down, digestion resumes and all the other normal functions of the body come back online. This biological state is called ‘rest and digest’.
So how do we humans get out of fight-or-flight and back to ‘rest and digest’?
We have to soothe and settle the nervous system. A settled nervous system means no more anxiety.
The nervous system is the absolute key to healing from anxiety.
Modalities that don’t address nervous system healing are going to be temporary at best (and do harm at worst).
Yes! But not overnight
Healing anxiety is 100% possible. It rarely happens overnight. But it does happen.
I’ve seen my clients overcome a lifetime of anxiety in the span of 1-2 months, by regularly doing the work of healing their nervous system.
Often it takes longer than that. For me, it did take longer. But with patience and self-compassion, the nervous system settles down and anxiety starts to dissolve.
It’s important to remember that this dysregulation in your nervous system has been building for a long time (possibly year or even decades). So have compassion and patience for yourself as you begin the process of regulating the nervous system. Healing at the deepest level takes some time.
The healing process is not a process of doing. It is an un-doing.
Just like a ball of thread that’s become heavily knotted over time, when healing anxiety we must go gently and slowly, unwinding each little knot one by one. It’s not something that happens instantaneously, but with gentle persistence – it does happen.
Yes! If you’re willing to let go of your anxiety
I can hear you saying:
Uma, of course I’m willing to let go of my anxiety!!
I hear you. But here’s the thing: we choose anxiety. We choose it (unconscously) over the alternative. The alternative is to feel the fullness of our emotions. And that can be a daunting prospect. It’s downright scary.
Anxiety is a shield of sorts. It’s like a protective blanket on top of our scary emotions. If you’re willing to put down the shield, then true healing can begin.
In the moment of overwhelming stress or trauma, there’s a dissociation that happens. The mind splits itself off from the body. It’s a protective mechanism (and it happens without conscious control) to keep you from getting overwhelmed by the sensations in the body.
We may think of emotion as being in our mind, but in fact emotion is a physical sensation that lives in the body. During trauma, fear, anger or grief may arise. The mind splits us off from the body in order to avoid feeling the overwhelming emotions in the body. So off we go into a dissociated state. Over time, that dissociation creates problems for our mental, emotional and physical health.
Healing anxiety is about healing the mind-body dissociation. The process of reconnecting the mind and the body can be called embodiment.
Here’s the thing: when we reconnect to the body, we’re returning to our emotions. That means returning to whatever anger, fear and grief is hanging around from earlier traumas.
Learning to be present with these emotions requires courage. It requires a willingness to be vulnerable.
If you’re willing to feel your body and your emotions then YES – you can 100% heal from anxiety.
Feel it to heal it.
The good news is that there IS a way to feel big emotions without being overwhelmed by them. Unfortunately, this massively important skill isn’t taught in schools (or taught anywhere really). But once you learn how to feel your anger, feel your fear and feel your sadness in a healthy way (without shutting down, lashing out or ‘flooding’) then being human – traumas and all – becomes easier. Life itself becomes easier.
But first you have to be willing to feel your body and emotions.
Yes! If you’re willing to be supported
The traumas that have the biggest impact on our life are the ones that happened early on. In fact, the earlier the stressor, the bigger impact it has on our mental + emotional + physical health as an adult. For more about that, you’ll want to learn about the landmark ACE study by Dr. Vincent Felitti.
These early traumas happen in relationship.
Under stress or threat, our nervous system has three options: fight-or-flight, freeze or something called the social engagement system. The latter is the most evolutionarily recent branch of the nervous system, and the most preferable.
The social engagement branch of our nervous system picks up on signals from others. And if it likes what it sees and hears, it calms us. The social engagement system can override stress hormones, and even prevent them from releasing by increasing levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin.
We want a healthy social engagement response in order to respond to stressors in an optimal way. However, if our primary caretakers lacked a healthy social engagement response, then as children we will follow their example.
When we’re born, our fight-or-flight and freeze branches of our nervous system are fully developed. But our social engagement system is missing. Around age 1.5-2, that branch of the nervous system begins to form. It patterns itself on the nervous system of our parents or caretakers.
If our primary caretakers were anxious, depressed, dissociated or emotionally/mentally unhealthy in any way (which is the result of a dysregulated nervous system) – then we will mirror the predisposition for those symptoms as well.
Symptoms (like anxiety) may not get triggered until many years later. Symptoms often arise after a shock trauma in our life. At that point, the capacity of our nervous system to handle stress is tested and we are found to be lacking a healthy social engagement response.
With a weaker social engagement system, the nervous system will default to fight-or-flight and freeze.
Trauma happens in relationship, and healing trauma happens in relationship as well.
The good news is that we can re-wire our nervous system. Even if early wiring wasn’t ideal.
Neuroscience research shows that our brain and body are dynamic. New connections and pathways are always being formed. Our ability to learn and to develop new habits is astounding.
With the help of a grounded, compassionate, healthy nervous system, it is possible to regulate your own nervous system and heal from anxiety.
Yes, you can do the work of healing from anxiety alone. But it’s much easier to heal in conjunction with another nervous system. I recommend working with a trauma-informed practitioner who works at the level of the nervous system. This could be a mind-body coach or a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP).
The healing process can be uncomfortable at times, especially as big emotions come to the surface, and having a compassionate and experienced guide is valuable.
Look for someone who is deeply grounded and feels safe to your system (trust your gut feeling on this).
We’re not meant to struggle alone. We’re meant to heal with the help of others.
The social engagement system is stimulated when we work with an effective coach or therapist. And this system is the key to downregulating the fight-or-flight response that creates anxiety.
YES. It is possible to be completely clear of anxiety
IF you’re willing to do the work.
The key to everything is releasing trauma from the nervous system.
My own anxiety didn’t heal until I began working at the root level – which is to say the nervous system.
Modalities that aren’t trauma-informed and/or don’t work at the level of the nervous system won’t get you there. They may help you to feel better for a few hours, but ultimately won’t heal your anxiety at the root. Can you think of a practice that helps you feel better for a little while? But then your anxiety comes back in full force? That’s because it’s not healing the root cause of the symptom.
It’s like treating a broken leg with Advil. The pain may go away for a little while, but the fundamental problem still exists.
Temporary fixes and bandaids are a welcome relief.
But if you’re hungry for real transformation know that there IS a blueprint for overcoming anxiety – for good. And it’s available to you.
Isn’t that a relief?
I love sharing the good news.