Do Nothing: A Way To Heal Anxiety?

Do Nothing: A Way To Heal Anxiety?

If you struggle with anxiety or panic attacks, you have seen how your mind escalates the situation. It can go haywire with worst-case scenarios, escape plans, and the sense that the feelings of dread will never end. 


They do, of course, as all feelings are transient. But the intensifying string of negative thoughts prolongs the time it takes for our nervous system to settle, as well as the chances it will become a “habit” of ours.


Perhaps instead we could stop anticipating the worst and do nothing.


What Does It Mean To Do Nothing About Your Anxiety?

“Doing nothing” does not mean sitting still and quiet. In this case, it means doing nothing about your anxiety. Ultimately, your brain must learn that it is not truly in danger. It learns this when you stop engaging with your anxiety. 


Now, if you’ve been suffering from anxiety or panic for a long time, the escalation of anxiety feels natural, unstoppable. But as famed psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl famously said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”


Thanks to our knowledge of mindfulness, it’s pretty easy to accept that there could be a moment between the anxiety stimulus and our response. Here are a few examples:


Stimulus: Heartbeat quickens.


Response: You have a thought that a panic attack is coming and you will faint in public. As a result, you panic in anticipation of panicking.


Stimulus: Suddenly remembering an important deadline at work.


Response: You have a thought about how it’s too difficult to accomplish the task so soon. As a result, you enter a negative thought spiral that ends in the certainty you’ll be fired. 


Stimulus: You get dizzy in a loud, brightly-lit store.


Response: You quickly exit the store. You think about how awful it was and get very nervous about visiting again. Eventually, you decide you can’t go to the store alone, or at all. Your mind now perceives the store as dangerous. 

Once we spot the space, we mindfully redirect. We just move on WITH the anxiety instead of following it down a negative road. We leave it alone, doing nothing about it, letting it be there. 


Doing Nothing, Accepting Everything


Accepting and sitting with anxiety is hard and seems unfair. But we all have the power to do it; we do it every day on a smaller scale. When we meditate, we accept our thoughts, it’s just that they’re not as frenzied as they are when we’re panicking. 


Singing bowls are an effective way to “do nothing” in the face of worry, anxiety, and panic. They are not so distracting that we can ignore all of our thoughts and symptoms, but they add a layer of non-avoidant healing to our acceptance practice. 


Studies confirm that singing bowls help us access our parasympathetic relaxation response. With our nervous systems slowly shifting as we play or listen to singing bowls, we carefully allow our anxious, negative “what if” thoughts drift in and out. 


We do not run away, adjust the thermostat, call a friend, cancel our plans, or prepare for a total meltdown. We empower ourselves to tolerate anxiety so we learn to move through it.


If your anxiety has been too great to manage alone, always check in with your doctor. Follow the advice of health professionals and do your best to stick to any prescribed treatment plans. And know that you can help heal yourself, too - by doing nothing. 


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