Everyone experiences sensitization (when your nervous system is on high alert) from time to time, but feeling Anxiety and Sensitization puts you in a very frazzled and vulnerable state, and that is the subject of our discussion today.
Sensitization is the state when nerves are conditioned to react to stress in exaggerated ways. The feelings can be intense and alarming. You notice every thought and feeling to the extreme.
An example of someone who is mildly sensitized is the irritated driver after a bad day at work- he is impatient with the other cars and people around him on his way home. A biker whizzes past out of nowhere and he blasts the horn, yelling out “Idiot!” He feels irritated but continues driving and makes it home safely. The feelings pass.
Contrast that with the anxious person who is sensitized after a bad day at work. Feelings and sensations are amplified and the results are alarming indeed…
As she gets behind the wheel, her thoughts are racing back to the events of the day. She is irritated all right and going home in rush hour traffic is going to be a nightmare, she just knows it. She turns the key in the ignition and the roar of the engine starting causes her to jump.
She has to back out of her parking space, and there are cars on both sides. Shifting gears and doing the little back and forth inching out of the space feels very uncoordinated. She breaks a nail. The car moves in quick jerky spasms, but finally she gets out. Her heart is pounding. She sees the parking lot attendant and quickly looks away- she just knows he witnessed every moment of her frantic getaway.
Once on the road, she feels pressured and nervous by all the traffic around her. She feels a little dizzy and has a sour stomach. It seems everything is bothering her. Maybe if she turns on some music it will help distract her. Suddenly a biker whizzes past and she swerves a little and gets a panic attack- I could have hit him!
Now her heart is hammering away in her chest and she almost can’t see straight. To make matters worse some jerk is tailgating her. As she grips the wheel to steady her hands she tries to concentrate on her breathing, and the speed limit, and staying in her lane, and her thoughts keep racing, and then a bug flies smack into her windshield and she jumps and panics again.
She makes it home and feels like a wreck. She wants to crawl up into a ball and cry, but puts on a brave face for the family.
This is anxiety and sensitization in a nutshell- the startle, shock reactions that quickly go to panic.
An anxious person can feel sensitized in almost any situation. Driving and being at work are just two example. It is also very scary to feel the exaggerated fear responses at home (the safe place), such as with waking with a start in the middle of the night, or upon awakening first thing in the morning.
Worst of all, it only takes the slightest shock or startle to send the sensitized person right into a panic attack- like the biker whizzing by, in the example above.
What Causes Sensitization?
There are so many things that can make an anxious person sensitized. A poor night’s sleep, an argument with a spouse, stress over a loved ones’ health, a fever, a hangover, a panic attack, prolonged stress or anxiety for any reason, pms (premenstrual syndrome), too much caffeine, etc. etc.
Once you can identify that you feel anxious and sensitized, you want to feel better, but how?
Here are Some Easy Tips for Sensitization
1. Know that This too Shall Pass.
According to the late Dr. Clare Weekes, the feelings of sensitization are the usual stress symptoms, and fueled by the same hormones of fear, of which your body has a limited supply.
It can be very comforting to know therefore that the suffering is limited because eventually the hormones stop firing and the body goes back to its normal state- homeostasis.
The feelings can’t do anything more than they already have. The hormones that fire have already done the worst they can to you- they can’t pull any new tricks on you.
So if you feel jumpy, lightheaded, and feel like you can’t breathe- it is that and only that for now. It won’t- and can’t – progress any further. Remember that anxious feelings cannot harm you. The worst you can feel is afraid. If you have a panic attack, that’s all there is. There is nothing beyond that.
No matter what your mind tells you, you have already experienced the worse, by experiencing being afraid of your anxiety and panic symptoms.
You are not going to be carted off to the loony bin, you are not going to be incapable of taking care of yourself or your family. Do not listen to the crap your head tries to feed you. These are the thoughts that are fueled by anxiety and you can refuse to engage them.
2. Practice Nonresistance
With the full knowledge that your exaggerated feeling and sensations will pass- and that your symptoms will not harm you– to the best of your ability try to practice nonresistance. This is when you are like a river- you let the feelings move through you, but you don’t try to fight them or suppress them or anything.
When you don’t resist the feelings will dissipate more quickly. If you remain tensed up and constantly on guard, you will stay sensitized longer.
Remember, these feeling are exaggerated stress reactions and nothing more. Don’t treat them like they are important, because they’re not, or give them any special attention.
Be a non resistant river- and then just go about your business. You can be sensitized and still do everything you have to. But know that this little inward shift from tensed up and hurried to relaxed and flowing- or floating- to the best of your ability- will really help you.
3. Re-parent your inner child.
Self-soothe by taking an active and powerful position in your mind as you watch yourself trying to work through being anxious and sensitized. See yourself as a loving parent with the anxious you as a scared child. Send loving healing thoughts to your anxious self.
For example, you could gently whisper, “It’s alright if you feel scared. Nothing is going to happen and you will be fine. I won’t let anything happen to you. You are safe, my sweet little girl.”
Send yourself a loving hug, and really picture it in your mind’s eye as you start to soothe and calm your inner anxious child.
As your sensitization starts to pass – and it will, trust me – you will start to feel back to yourself. Be so proud that you got through this so well. Let this empower you, knowing that should the feelings return, you can do the same things and succeed again.
Stay in the present and be positive as much as you can. With anxiety and sensitization, it is easy and to feel bad and even mentally beat yourself up. This you must not do.
If you are experiencing anxiety and sensitization, use these tips to help you get through it.
I wish you peace,
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