Anxiety: The plight of the pinball wizard

By Jeff Kaminski

Do you race and bounce daily between destination points? Home, work, carpooling kids, grocery shopping, last-minute errands…Factor in flipping through obstacles like traffic, unexpected deadlines, a miscommunication with someone special, maybe a lost night’s sleep worrying about juggling details or staring at your phone checking emails…

Where does your self-care fit into this game?

We become conditioned to think that a Netflix binge or tunneling into social media allows an escape, but are calm and grounding the result? Do you find yourself still waiting to catch your breath after these types of “relaxation”?

Living in a culture dominated by multitasking, material distractions, and compulsive screen time, it is easy to feel disconnected and overwhelmed. Many of us have lost the ability to sit in peaceful stillness and feel centered within our bodies, minds, and breath.

The all-too-common prize: Anxiety

Consistent and excessive stressors can cause chronic anxiety, which for many affects the ability to pilot daily living. Forty million adults in the United States alone are affected by anxiety; globally, anxiety affects one in thirteen people. Anxiety and stress take a toll on our ability to navigate life-work balance without falling into a gutter. Individuals with ongoing anxiety can experience symptoms that manifest in a range of ways, including as restlessness, sleep disturbance, irritability, chronic headaches, muscle tension, gastrointestinal difficulties, depression, decreased receptiveness to new experiences, disconnection from social support systems, and a diminished sense of fulfillment. (Learn more about the intersection of yogic and biomedical ideas, including around issues such as anxiety, here.)

With nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population experiencing anxiety and related symptoms, many of us are clearly feeling the challenge of maintaining self-care practices and finding balance.

In a state of chronic anxiety, the mind and body struggle to counteract stressors. When we’re unable to ground ourselves, the stress response perpetuates in an escalating cycle. Chronic anxiety creates dysfunction in our stress-response systems, preventing the mind and body from effectively returning to a state of calm after a challenge. This imbalance in the nervous system has far-reaching effects on emotional regulation, cognitive function, and social relationships, as well as on proper functioning of the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and immune systems.

Yoga therapy for the win

Research shows that the yogic elements of breath, meditation/visualization, and mindful movement can address the ramifications of chronic anxiety. Benefits include re-balancing the nervous system’s physiological stress-response cycle, improving neuroplasticity to help retrain the brain how to respond in stressful moments, gaining flexible strength in the physical body from neuromuscular re-education, and enjoying a better sense of connectedness to self and social networks.

With practice, we can all begin to recognize and reduce the symptoms associated with anxiety, resetting the game so we can more calmly and intentionally respond in any given moment.

Jeff Kaminski, MS, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, founder of Om Advantage Yoga Therapy, serves a diverse range of clients experiencing musculoskeletal misalignments and injuries, anxiety disorders, PTSD, mild cognitive disorders, and survivors of stroke and cancer.