Burnout Solution 9: Feelings, Anxiety and Breathing
Apart from a general lack in energy many burnout victims also suffer from anxiety issues. This happens for a reason: your feelings and your breathing are connected to one another. And anxiety is triggered by shallow breathing. So let’s talk feelings, breathing... and movies.
Think of what happens when you're watching a scary movie. You hold your breath, right? Why is that? It's because even when in real life you are perfectly safe (sitting on your couch or in the cinema) in your mind and body you are experiencing fear, because your mind has used its imagination to simulate the scary situation. We feel as if we are really there, even when we are not. That's the power of the mind. Unfortunately, that mind power works both towards positive and negative situations.
The same happens with anxiety: it starts in your mind. And once you’ve felt that emotion – which can really disconnect you from the world around you – you know it’s a very, very scary feeling. And what do you do then ? Yes, you stop breathing properly. Which triggers the anxiety even further, all the way up to a panic attack. While you're perfectly safe and nothing scary is happening in the world around you! It can feel like a vicious cycle. Some people can’t seem to get out of it, making them despair and allowing the anxiety to grow even bigger. You basically get anxiety over the fact you have anxiety! Fortunately there is a way out of it.
Like so many things surrounding burnout, the solution can be found in the physical and not (just) in the mental. What you need to learn is that your breathe is going 'up' and becomes shallow. Once you know this, you can learn to breathe better. If you teach yourself this, the anxiety will go away. Anxiety is first and foremost a physical reaction on a fear you are forming in your mind. To get rid of that fear we can try to fight it in our minds, but a much better way is to fight it through the physical. If you can control the body, mostly the breathing, the anxiety usually just goes away. For the Dutchies I recommend checking out Nikki van der Velden her practice, The Breathwork Movement, and download her free book! And for those who are not Dutch, there are plenty of things to find online.
Some important advice to round off: I recommend not overthinking this one. Don’t despair and think there is something mentally wrong with you when you panic. It happens to the best of us. Just learn the breathing exercises out there. And don't overdo it. Try not to jump into breath work groups that feel too fanatical. Breathing isn't some miracle cure. It is however, a good counter to negative emotions and helps your body and immune system become stronger.
So, maybe there are tons of mental issues you need to figure out. Sure. But with a proper focus on the body instead of the mind, anxiety does not have to be one of them. Take it easy. Love.
Rogier van Kralingen