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Increase love and reduce anxiety through connection

In these strange times, it’s so difficult to feel connected – to others, to the wider world, to ourselves. Many of us are in auto-pilot, going through the motions, protecting ourselves from our feelings. Perhaps we fear them? If we allowed ourselves to acknowledge how sad we are; that we miss many things about our lives, that we are afraid for our lives, for the lives of our loved ones… do we worry that those feelings may overwhelm us?

To create defences that provide protection from difficult feelings is perfectly natural – it’s how we survive. And survival has taken on a whole new meaning right now. Certainly, my generation (40 somethings) has never faced such a threat to the human race. But what if our defences are also closing us off to joy, laughter, passion, creativity, intimacy? Sadly, in survival mode, the body/mind connection cannot differentiate between the ‘good’ feelings and the not so nice ones.

Fear and anxiety

It’s so important to remember that fear and/or anxiety is a normal human response. The brain receives the message that there is a potential threat to our safety and sends a message via our internal surveillance system to the rest of the body – to be ready. Fight, flight or freeze. Attack, run away/ withdraw or become numb. Which state do you have a tendency to go into? It can be helpful to identify this; it can be the first step towards developing a more relaxed internal surveillance system.

Therapy can help you step back, reflect on this and look at ways to repattern your unhelpful habitual responses. It can also help you to have an outlet to express your feelings and clear out the clutter of negativity – leaving you lighter and freer to enjoy life.

Because at the end of the day, our defence system is not always helpful to us. For many reasons, it can become over-zealous and hyper-vigilant – constantly monitoring our environment and our relationships for cues of danger. This is not only completely exhausting but can interrupt the body/mind connection. This, in turn, can lead to us feeling either closed off, disconnected and immobilised or in a constant state of alert. We can’t relax, switch off or feel a loving connection to those close to us. Our heart is closed and does not have access to joy, laughter, passion, creativity and intimacy. And that can be a very lonely place.

How to help manage fear and anxiety

I would encourage you to write a list of things you enjoy and bring you pleasure. Here are a few examples:

  • listen to music
  • sing
  • dance around the kitchen
  • sit quietly snuggled up with your pet
  • notice the trees gently swaying in the breeze
  • exercise
  • watch the clouds
  • feel the sun on your skin
  • make love
  • watch your favourite movie
  • read a good book or article
  • sew
  • knit
  • cook
  • paint
  • doodle
  • soak in the bath
  • savour that glass of wine at the end of the day instead of glugging it down mindlessly!

Now make sure you do these things regularly!

The point is that whatever brings you pleasure, releases endorphins and other feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin (the love drug). These chemicals provide a sense of calm, safety and allow more capacity for connection. They also provide the perfect antidote to the stress/anxiety chemicals – cortisol and adrenalin. Win-win!

So, it really is a fact - love overcomes fear – every time.

Most therapy at the moment is online and this could never replace the face-to-face, physical experience of therapeutic connectedness. But it’s what we have right now and, as a therapist who has previously never worked online, I have been pleasantly surprised by its effectiveness. I’ve learnt that it is possible to feel a deep, satisfying connection through a screen or down a telephone line.

They say that non-verbal communication makes up 95% of all communication, leaving only 5% for words. I always find that fact staggering. It’s proof that words don’t always cut it. Through head movements, eye contact, the intonation of the voice, what is not said, body language…we communicate so much. Also, on an energetic level, our sensory experience gives us so much information. As a therapist who works somatically (with the body and mind), I tune in to what is being communicated at different levels. And it works – whatever the method of connection.

In fact, words can often be a form of defence – avoidance. If we intellectualise things too much, we stay in our head and, again, our connection to the body can suffer. Our body can provide so much useful information if we tune into it. So, I encourage you to frequently ask the questions; “what is my gut telling me?” and “what is my body/mind telling me that I need right now?”

We need to be aware that if we are in survival mode, the messages we receive from our nervous system might not necessarily be helpful, or even real. By creating a safe, calm place within us, we can begin to trust the messages more. Practising mindfulness, meditation and simply just allowing ourselves to just be is crucial for our well-being.

And by realising that giving ourselves the permission to do things just for ourselves; simply for our own pleasure, does not make us selfish. It is vital to our well-being and self-esteem. If we can cut through the guilt, shame or whatever negative thought or feeling stands in our way, we can develop more compassion and curiosity. This gives us the freedom to accept who we are – warts and all. It really is true – the more you love yourself – the more others will love you in return; simply because you let them into your heart.

Therapy is a gift to the Self. Taking precious time out and investing in your own wellbeing. What could be more valuable?

If you feel you would like to take some time out to reflect on your experiences and to tell your story, therapists are ready to listen and are only a phone call or email away. And if you have been unsure about working online, I can only encourage you to give it a go. Like me, you may be surprised how well it can work! 

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Sarah Freed, Specialist in Relationships, Anxiety, Depression and Loss

Sarah Freed is an experienced therapist and poet. Based just outside Cambridge, she works with individuals and couples using talking therapy and creative arts therapy with the aim of empowering people to live more loving, fulfilling lives.… Read more

Written by Sarah Freed, Specialist in Relationships, Anxiety, Depression and Loss

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