In this anxiety recovery step, I wanted to talk to you about slowing things down.
I’m not just talking about slowing the pace of your life down. I mean slowing YOU down.
This may not be an issue for you personally, but a lot of people with anxiety disorders are fast people who are always moving in one way or another. We talk fast. We walk fast. We think fast. We quite often breathe fast. Our overall “mode” is just at a faster pace than everybody else’s.
It’s interesting because I have noticed that a lot of people with anxiety disorders are chronically late people – I am one of them – and it makes me wonder why we are always late when we are usually moving at a pretty good pace. I have a feeling it has something to do with how inefficiently we are using that fast pace of ours but I suppose that is a post for another day.
The point is that we move too darn fast and too much and our brain interprets this as meaning there MUST be a reason we don’t feel secure enough in our surroundings to slow down and let ourselves be still.
Our brains are logical. Our brains believe that if we are safe and nothing is threatening our well being, why would we be talking fast and moving fast and breathing fast? If all was good, we wouldn’t be doing any of those things. We would be nice and relaxed…maybe not ALL the time , but at least most of the time. Since we are very rarely in a relaxed state, our brains assume there is a reason for it and they help keep us in that keyed-up state of ours, in a misguided attempt to help us along.
It’s a never ending cycle and the only way to break free from it is to slow yourself down and show your brain that you are relaxed and you are safe. We have got to start using slower, calmer, more relaxed body language whether it comes naturally to us or not. Our brains want so much to trust that our world is safe so that they can stop working so hard to protect us, but they are never going to fully believe it until our thoughts AND our bodies are both sending that message.
Are you a fast talking, fast moving fidgeter? If so, make a point to work on slowing yourself down.
Its not easy, I know. Believe me, my baseline speed setting is HIGH, and I can’t even sit down to watch a TV show without my foot bouncing a mile a minute. It can feel like a real chore to always have to be monitoring my pace and the speed at which I am living my life and to maintain that awareness of my movements. But in all honesty, when I do maintain that awareness, and focus on keeping myself running slower and more still, it really does make a difference in how my day goes, and in my overall feeling of control and calm.
Think of the people you know who you would describe as being cool and calm and self assured and in control. What is their body language and speech like? My brother is one of the calmest people I know and he is also one of the slowest talkers/movers I know. He doesn’t gesture much and isn’t fidgety at all. Is he a still person because he is naturally calm? Or is he naturally calm because he is a very slow moving person? Maybe its a little bit of both. But regardless of the exact cause/effect relationship, being slow and still, and being relaxed go hand in hand.
If, like me and a large percentage of the other people with anxiety disorders in this world, you weren’t naturally born with slow tendencies, do not worry. We are who we are and we are awesome! But you can make huge strides and see big changes in your own anxiety levels if you just stay aware and put in some practice time and make even small changes in these areas.
As you work on the rate of your speech, also pay attention to the pitch and noise level of your voice.
A high-pitched, loud voice is yet another thing that tells you brain there is danger and if that is the type of voice you are using all day long, your brain is going to find it very difficult to believe you are relaxed because our brains have evolved to react to high-pitched tones with urgency.
A big part of the reason is babies.
Babies communicate their need to eat and their feelings of pain, with a high-pitched wail. And our brains are designed to react swiftly and urgently to that wail. It is nature’s way of ensuring our little ones are well taken care of.
For very primal reasons, our brains associate pretty much ALL loud high-pitched tones with something urgent going on and some action needing to be taken. We all tend to go louder and up in our higher pitch registers when something is exciting, surprising, or scary to us. It is how we catch people’s attention and get them to take notice of what is happening to us, whether it be good or bad. But it isn’t just other people’s attention we catch when we make those types of sounds. We catch our brain’s attention as well, and it isn’t going to sit around trying to decide whether it is something good or bad we are going through. It will always err on the side of caution and send out a bunch of adrenaline just in case it is a terrible threat causing us to make those alarming noises.
Look at police sirens and fire alarms and your local weather emergency sirens. It is the sound that gets our attention the most and gets our brains attention the most. On the contrary, deep slow tones are what lull us and make us feel secure and safe and relaxed. One of the best things about grandpas is that they makes us feel so safe with their slow, deep pitched voices. 🙂
Think about the sound and pitch of your own voice and the sounds of the voices and noises around you all day. Are they soothing or stimulating? What are they saying to your brain about the state of your environment? Are they telling your brain to keep its guard up, or that it can relax because all is good in your world?
Check out this video and see if you are using your correct pitch and if not, make a focus to start using it on a regular basis!
Remember, when you move slowly and speak calmly and slowly, your brain thinks all must be good.
Put up sticky note reminders around your house, be mindful of the way you are presenting yourself, and try some affirmation jewelry to help keep you focused on your anxiety recovery goals. One of my favorite MantraBands is this one which reminds me to chill out and take one moment at a time.
Show your brain your world is safe and good, and it WILL stop the putting out the adrenaline that contributes to a lot of your anxiety symptoms. You will lose the constant state of over-sensitization you are in and you will stop over-reacting to everything.
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