Experiencing anxiety can be a fearful and isolating experience, and there are many reasons why we can feel anxious. It’s important to remember that this is a common and very normal emotion in us all, and that is why it is the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year.
For this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Mental Health Foundation has shone a spotlight on Anxiety.
Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear that translates through the body.
In anxiety-inducing moments, our bodies respond with an intention to protect us and keep us safe by activating the sympathetic part of our nervous system, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” experience. This is when cortisol floods our body, and we get ready to physically defend ourselves or run away as fast as possible.
You can identify if you’re in this state because it is often associated with high anxiety, jitters, panic attacks, restlessness, lack of sleep – any embodied experience that keeps you in a state of high alert and hyper-arousal.
It can be helpful to recognise the protective and biological function anxiety serves to help keep us safe, as this awareness welcomes a more compassionate response difficult feelings such as anxiety. It may feel horrible, but it’s ultimately here to serve a function. What can we therefore learn from this experience?
Anxiety and eating disorders
Eating disorders and anxiety have an intricate and nuanced relationships.
The constant preoccupation with food, body image, and weight, along with the rigid rules and rituals surrounding eating, can generate intense feelings of anxiety. If we don’t eat as we planned to, or feel able to do certain rituals with food, we might notice our emotions peak and panic ensue.
It is also possible for a person dealing with anxiety to go on to develop an eating disorder, as the control that an eating disorder necessitates may offer a sense of safety and comfort from anxiety and the fearful or out-of-control experience it can bring.
Instead of viewing anxiety as something to be avoided or suppressed, individuals can learn to embrace it as valuable information about their emotional wellbeing. Whilst ‘embracing it’ might sound counter-intuitive, what we mean by this is: honouring that our emotional experience is always in flux, and every emotional experience offers us new insight into how we are making sense of our internal and external worlds.
The path of eating disorder recovery asks us to become aware of our internal experiences; our thoughts, our beliefs, our emotions and how these inform our actions, behaviours and relationships.
Here at Orri, we understand ‘presence’ can feel anxiety-provoking or difficult, as it requires us to ‘be’ with our bodies. However, learning to nurture this connection again strengthens our understanding of what our body needs and what it tries to tell us. Over time, these signals will start to feel more familiar – and you will become more familiar with yourself.
For, when we’re attuned with ourselves – body and mind – we can work with ourselves to navigate the world, as opposed to working against ourselves.
Our team briefly explain how relative anxiety is and how by learning to own and to acknowledge anxiety, we can move towards a more compassionate and accepting recovery.
If you have a few minutes, take a moment from your day and try this box breathing practice with us.
Eating disorder recovery involves widening the spectrum of our emotional experiences; welcoming all emotions. If you can, be curious of anxiety – feel and hear what it may be trying to tell you.
By coming to a place of understanding, you can then navigate your world intuitively.