Q. I am consistently worrying and thinking about things that I have to do and issues to resolve at work and with people. I get the feedback that I am often pessimistic, and think of the worst case scenario before I try anything new. I am starting to see this pattern more clearly. At times I feel relieved that I understand my problem, but I also feel more worried, scared and anxious that I will never change. This is affecting my life at this point. I can’t seem to relax and enjoy parties and social events. Is there a way out of this pattern?
A. Sounds like you are dealing with a fair amount of anxiety at present. Did anything happen more recently that precipitated more fear and worrying? If you study psychology and Buddhism, they both address the tendency of the mind to produce narratives of incessant worry. We could say, the modern mind left to itself is a thought machine. If our attention or psychic energy is primarily diverted to the thinking process, it will feed this cycle of obsessive thoughts. It becomes a hamster wheel, hard to get off of. Thoughts of worry are symptoms of unmetabolized feelings, especially fear and probably anger.
Repetitive thinking and trying to figure things out cannot metabolize fear. Obsessing about something is a distraction from really dealing with the underlying feelings.
Fear is a normal response to not feeling safe, encountering something new, being in the unknown, feeling overpowered or being abused verbally or physically. These issues are part of what people address in psychotherapy. They show up as loss of confidence, anger, hesitancy, distrust, lack of performance at work and turning away from intimacy.
However, if you are not able to slow down and be with your feelings, it’s hard to make much progress in working through your past and developing a supportive and effective relationship with your inner self.
Begin by doing some deep belly breathing. Lay down on the floor and when you breathe in, let your belly extend out and when you breathe out, relax. The goal is to actually turn towards your fear—see it, feel it and help it move through your body. Some people do well with Hatha yoga or Tai Chi. Walking meditation is useful as well. Mindfully lift one foot, place it down, lift the other, place it down and continue for 10-20 minutes. This can bring you into your body more, ground you and slow you down. Keep your blood sugar stable by eating less processed foods, eating three balanced meals a day, minimizing caffeine and getting enough sleep. There are plenty of CDs and MP3s with music and guided relaxation available now to help you with breathing, feeling and letting go.
Medication is an option if the anxiety disorder is severe. You want to consult a psychotherapist to work in a more holistic way. Even if you take medication, these lifestyle changes and deeper resolution of issues are essential for long-term change.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com