For my fellow anxiety warriors out there, we all know of the havoc and the chaos that anxiety can cause within the brain. Anxiety upturns tables, throws chairs across the room, splatters of badly-tinted paint on the walls. All during events like talking to a friend, brushing your teeth, or laying in bed. Chaos! Everywhere! Anxiety is a messy creature, who tries to ruin a heck of a lot.
Although the mind is hit awfully hard during bouts (or continuous stretches of desert) of anxiety, our bodies also unfortunately take a whallopping too. The physical symptoms of anxiety are also too real; just as much so as those that are invisible to everyone else. The dizziness, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, and heart pounding, just to name a few – are all down to anxiety walking on in without knocking, rudely exclaiming “I’m here! Are you ready for me?”
Day 5 – Stretch all your muscles.
The tension that stems from anxiety is one of the most prominent, physical factors of having Generalised Anxiety Disorder, for me personally. And this tension definitely does not help to get the anxiety to go away, in any way, shape or form. In fact, it kind of feels like it helps anxiety to hold onto the railing aboard, snuggling it in tight and close.
Whenever I’m anxious, regardless of the situation, my shoulders rise up. It’s like an automatic button, my brain explaining “You know what would definitely help in this situation? Shoulders up! Now!” A lot of the time I don’t realise I’m doing it, until I find my shoulders aching a few hours later, and I realise they have been unnaturally around my ears for way too long. There’s a reason that our shoulders aren’t attached to our ears, brain.
The hours and day after a panic attack are also prone to tension. Painful, achy tension that runs through my whole body. During panic attacks, the rigidness, shaking and tension leaves my muscles feeling not very happy at all, and the footprint of the tension continues long after the panic attack is over.
All the tension that anxiety so kindly provides, and the pain that goes along with it, means that we have a tough job to stop tension in the first place, before subsiding it’s consequences. What better thing to do that to literally force our bodies out of their tension poses, and stretch it all out?
One of my favourite things to do as a kid would be to get all stretchy and flexible and see what sort of weird shapes I could muster myself into. Backbends (or the wheel pose), shoulderstands and plough poses where my favourites. Of course I had no idea what they were called at the time, and had to Google some weird phrases to try find out their names. Writing about how I would lay on my shoulders with my hands on the ground, and stick my legs up in the air, would be a bit confusing otherwise!
I would love playing around on the lounge floor, seeing how far I could stretch and trying out different poses with my friends. It was such a fun thing to do, and playing around and being silly are things I think we all need more of as adults.
Stretching can not only be good for reducing tension in the body, but also in the mind. Focusing on how your body feels at each step, how your legs may feel light in one way, and your arms relaxed in another, all contribute to a sense of mindfulness. It all is helping us to be in the present, acknowledging what’s going on right now and how it feels, rather than thinking about something 239 days ago, or in two years.
With all this in mind, and feeling like some sort of stretching pro just waiting to turn from a caterpillar into a butterfly, I took on this task of self-care.
And it was so much fun!
I tried my hand at more shoulderstands and backbends, and basically flailed my limbs in crazy directions, doing kicks and twirls. It seemed to turn into a cross between dance and yoga?
In reflection I’ll start off by saying that the whole caterpillar into a butterfly thing definitely didn’t work out. But that’s okay, because I’m not the biggest fan of butterflies anyway (they are nice in photos or farawary, just not anywhere near me), so I’ll stick with my caterpillar status.
Me being a caterpillar had a great time flailing along the ground, limbs in all directions, cursing at the people in the pictures who make stretching look so easy. It was a great time, regardless of how much good streching did or didn’t get done, because it was a time which allowed for movement, freedom, creativity and expression. All things which are definitely important parts of self-care.
If you’re feeling a bit wound up today, or if tension is breathing too close to home,definitely give stretching about a try! I’m no expert and don’t know much about it, but one thing for sure is that it is fun, and how can you possibly take yourself too seriously while pretending to be a caterpillar?