September, 2015 I published this Blog about Driving. It comes to mind today because the Weather is frightful especially for driving for most of us right now!
Those who follow me know that I am on a quest to lower my Anxiety. Although not there yet I came across a very helpful technique. I call it relaxing into tension.
Today I was doing a shoulder bridge exercise which is a core builder (Pilates.) My Pilates Instructor, Ali, taught me that once I got into position that I could actually maintain the position and relax at the same time! So I’m holding this shoulder bridge for 5 minutes which would be impossible if I tensed up! But relaxed I feel like I could do it forever! I imagine myself floating in position, focus on relaxed deep breathing and do a muscle relaxation starting with my head and working down to my feet never changing or letting go of the position – just the tension.
This is something that I intend to apply with Anxiety. Here’s how I envision it:
One thing I find stressful is traffic. If you’re like me back in the day when I smoked, the worse the traffic the more I was compelled to smoke a Sickerette! Even in inclement weather I’d be white knuckling down a rainy or snowy road but with the window cracked and only one hand on the steering wheel – the other had a Sickerette going and instead of both eyes on the road, I’d be attending to my burning Sickerette so I could take another puff or light up another Death Stick. Distracted driving when you least need it!
5 Smoke FREE Years later, I still find traffic a stressful event. I get anxious about such things as “Will I make it to work on time?” and in true Anxiety Disorder fashion I start with the “What ifs…….”
-What if I’m late?
-Will I get fired?
-Will I lose my job?
-Will my Wife divorce me because I’m unemployed?
-Will my Sons avoid their ‘loser Dad’?
- Will I become sick, alone and homeless?
Yadayadayada – all because I might be late once to work!
That’s ANXIETY for you!
Not the best way to drive a car in challenging circumstances!
So how do I relax into the tension?
First, I can hold my position.
-Eyes on the road, both hands on the steering wheel, foot on the gas but ready to switch to the break if necessary, etc….
Then I can focus on my breathing.
- Slow it down and deepen it up, breathing all the way down to my belly, holding for a count of 4 and exhaling for as long as possible with pursed lips.
-Next apply Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
Once I have that mastered, I can relax into the tension of my head, neck, chest, arms, fingers, belly, legs and feet.
I haven’t changed my position of readiness but I have changed my physiology. I can now address my tension with alert readiness instead hypervigilance!
By jumping into the stress cycle from a physiological point my mind can follow. I can then see more clearly that I can be ready without excessive tension! And if I do have to react to a car sliding or debris in the road or whatever, I can do it more calmly and efficiently than hypervigilance allows.
And by focusing on the moment I don’t have space in my head to play the “What if” tapes!
When we quit smoking, some of us find it very stressful! Those of us who suffer from Anxiety and/or Depression may cognitively know that Nicotine Recovery eventually relieves stress but how do we get from here to there?
Why not try relaxing into your stress?
Remember the 3 Steps.
- Maintain your position – Keep ‘em away from your Face!
- And Relax your Muscles from Head to Toe!
It has worked for me and it might work for you!
Update: Anxiety is barely existent in my Life today. It makes it's appearance but it's not so overwhelming and doesn't last long. Even in the midst of a Panic Attack I know that I am more powerful than the imagined threat!
Even driving home last night was not a Big Deal!