Practical Tools for Reducing Anxiety
Using Body-Psyche

War, terrorist attacks, a new deadly virus, job and family stress. Let’s face it: most of us have something to be anxious about these days.

Anxiety is fear about the future that we keep experiencing for long enough that it ...Practical Tools for Reducing Anxiety
Using Body-Psyche

War, terrorist attacks, a new deadly virus, job and family stress. Let’s face it: most of us have something to be anxious about these days.

Anxiety is fear about the future that we keep experiencing for long enough that it becomes a habit. It’s easy to know when you are anxious – the thoughts and feelings are all too familiar. But how can you dismantle anxiety and get back to a relaxed state that is more pleasant and productive? This article will show you one way to do just that by using the Body’s Map of Consciousness, which was developed by Lansing Barrett Gresham through thirty years of empirical research working with thousands of clients. The Body’s Map of Consciousness is the foundation of the healing discipline known as Body-Psyche.

Anxiety is a behavior: there are things we do with our body, brain, emotions and energy to feel anxious. According to The Body’s Map of Consciousness, there are a number of sites in our bodies we use to do this behavior. By exploring how we use those body sites – by becoming more aware of our behaviors – we can re-pattern them and free ourselves up to create new behaviors.

I’ve included a personal exploration you can use to discover for yourself how two of those sites – your eyes and the visual cortex in your brain – contribute to your anxiety behaviors. In the second part of the exploration, you can discover how to use your eyes and visual cortex to reduce your sense of anxiety and return yourself to the present moment.

When you are ready to do the personal exploration, make a time when you will be undisturbed and can focus on yourself for about 20 minutes. Read through the entire description before you start. Then refer to the summary notes as a cheat sheet while you actually do the exploration. Pace yourself so the exploration takes about 20 minutes.
A Personal Exploration
By changing how you see, you can reduce your sense of anxiety.

This exploration guides you to become more aware of feelings that are normally outside of your awareness, and for some people may be emotionally evocative. Before you begin, if you have any conditions that may be made worse by experiencing strong emotions, consult a qualified healthcare professional.

Find a chair in which you can sit comfortably upright, where there are no strong lights shining in your eyes. Pick a spot, look at it, and focus your attention as narrowly as you can. Now pick a new spot and focus intently. Continue focusing sharply on new spots so that your sight is darting about the room, each time focusing sharply on something and then moving on to the next spot. Keep doing this for several minutes – until you start to feel a significant increase in your level of anxiety.

While continuing to focus sharply on new spots, take some time to also pay attention to what is going on in the rest of your body. What sites have new or intensified sensations? Gathering this information will be important for shifting your anxiety in the second part of the exploration.

Now that you’ve expanded your awareness of how you make yourself anxious, you can explore how to reduce anxiety and feel comfortable in the present moment.

Close your eyes and adjust yourself to a comfortable posture. You may notice that your eyes have become tight from the previous exploration. Hold the intention to relax your eyes. Do this for long enough that you can feel the beginning of an expansion and softening of your eyes.

Imagine that your gaze is softening. Do this as if you were staring off into space – like the soft focus lens used in romantic photos and movie scenes. When you are ready, open your eyes, keeping a soft focus.

Continue doing this for several minutes. Continue softening your eyes and softening your gaze. As your eyes soften, keep adjusting your posture and the rest of your body to match what is going on in your eyes.

Take a few moments to scan your body. How have the places you identified earlier as being associated with anxiety changed? What other sensations have you become aware of?

Rest and take the time to integrate what you just experienced.
Summary of the Exploration
Exploring Anxiety
1. Create a focused stare and dart your eyes around the room until you notice an increase in anxiety
2. Become aware of what has changed in your sensations
Creating Relaxation
3. Close your eyes and soften them
4. Gently open your eyes and look with a relaxed, soft focus for several minutes
5. Notice what has changed and the differences from when you started the exploration
How Does This Work?
If you’ve done the exploration, you will have found that the focused stare increased anxiety and the defocused gaze reduced anxiety – but why did that happen?

The focused stare with darting eye movements is the pattern we use to search for physical threats. Imagine an early human who thinks he’s seen a tiger and is desperately looking around the savannah to search for it and you get the idea. This eye movement pattern stimulates the primary visual cortex (a small spot right at the back of your head) which is designed to search for and recognize potential threats. When we activate these patterns, our fear naturally increases. If we do it for long enough, the fear turns to anxiety.

The defocused gaze is the pattern we use when we feel safe and connected. It is also reminiscent of the pattern that young babies use. They don’t yet know how to focus their eyes and they have no sense of self and other. They are connected to everything. A defocused gaze activates the secondary visual cortex (a donut-shaped area in the back of your brain that encircles the primary visual cortex) which is responsible for things like non-judgmental perception and recognition of familiar faces. It resonates with connection and belonging.

There are a number of other body sites that participate in patterns of fear and anxiety, most notably the sternum (chest bone), solar plexus and sigmoid colon (which runs from just about the front of your left hip bone down to your rectum).

Author's Bio: 

Mark Fiveman is the author of the Body-Psyche blog.