There’s No Such This as “Just” Anxiety

I get so frustrated when clients come to me with chronic pain, discomfort, or uneasiness which doctors have labeled as “just” anxiety. As if anxiety isn’t real and therefore the effects of anxiety don’t matter. GAH! (Post edited to remove a lot of creative cursing!)

Recurring headaches, digestive issues, insomnia, pain, inability to focus, and skin irritations can all result from anxiety. These conditions are no less problematic than those with medical origins. To suggest that anyone should just resign to living with such challenges because they result from anxiety rather than disease is absurd.

Anxiety produces a very real physiological response that can disrupt all the body’s systems. I’m remembering a time when a friend and I went for a hike. We were having a lovely time until suddenly I thought I might have left a pot simmering on the stove. It didn’t matter that I have never done any such thing or that we’d be gone for two hours and if there was to be a fire, the damage would have already been done.

There was no logic-ing my way out of the racing heart, nausea, and muscle tension that ensued. It’s an understatement to say that I was flipping out. And when my friend refused to join me in panic mode, claiming fatigue as an excuse not to rush back, I could feel my blood pressure rising and intense anger building. (Insert image of The Incredible Hulk!) My body responded immediately with a sympathetic nervous system (AKA stress) reaction that was not helpful (and fortunately not necessary as the stove was indeed off) but very much real.

It took some time for my system to reset itself, but I eventually calmed down. Imagine experiencing a similar state of panic as a common occurrence. The body would be constantly challenged and would suffer very real physiological consequences. I’m sharing this example to illustrate the power of the body-mind connection; it’s not an accurate depiction of chronic anxiety at all, but hopefully gets my point across. This stuff is real!

If you’ve had an experience of being dismissed by the doctor from whom you sought help, I’m so sorry. This is where western medicine fails a lot of people. If the problem can’t be found with a microscope or scan, it’s considered irrelevant. Just because thoughts and emotions are outside the range of the average MD’s practice doesn’t make the situation imaginary or hopeless. Looking outside the box can provide answers that aren’t always visible from inside the system.

In addition to (thankfully) rare anxiety attacks like the one I described above; I experienced a low-grade, consistent anxiety for years. Probably decades, but I was pretty good at ignoring it in my youth and liberally applying numbing and distracting strategies as I got older.

As my spiritual practice evolved and I became more capacitated to sitting quietly and tuning in to what I was feeling, I often noticed an uncomfortable energy residing in my solar plexus that I came to label as anxiety. It wasn’t the flipping out kind, but it was ever-present and kept me from living my best life. Once I discovered its presence, I was able to treat it with Reiki and self-compassion. With consistent efforts and the invaluable practices of slowing down and saying no to opportunities and invitations that didn’t resonate, I’m happy to say that it’s mostly absent. It appears upon occasion with a message that I’ve made a decision that isn’t aligned with my values, and when I correct my trajectory, it fades automatically.

Anxiety doesn’t need to be a lifetime sentence. In addition to prescription medications, there are a wide variety of complementary and alternative holistic options. It’s one of the most frequent complaints I hear from Reiki students and clients, who report relief with consistent treatment. Psychotherapy, meditation, herbal remedies, flower essences, aromatherapy, enjoyable movement, EFT, nutrition, and yoga are just a few of the strategies besides Reiki that can have effective results. Sometimes the shift comes from reevaluating a relationship, living situation, or career.

What if anxiety is the body’s way of telling us something is off and requires our attention? Ignoring such a message can have destructive consequences over time; like taking the battery out of the smoke detector to stop the noise. There are lots of ways to treat anxiety, and likely one that suits your personality, lifestyle, and resources. I’ve gone the DIY approach myself, and guide others who wish to follow this same path, as well as those who seek professional help from a Reiki Master.

One thing is for sure- it’s not going to magically disappear. Nor will the symptoms. If your doctor has let you down, please seek assistance elsewhere. That might be as simple as looking up “breathing exercises for anxiety” on the web or scheduling a long-distance Reiki session. Such an easy step might be adequate to calm down enough so that you can figure out what the next steps are.

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