Do you ever feel on edge? Have a feeling of unease? Butterflies in your stomach or chest? A feeling that you just want to get away or avoid something, rationally or irrationally?

These are all symptoms of anxiety.


What is anxiety?

To deal with anxiety or to reframe it (more on reframing later), we need to understand it.

So firstly let’s look at what anxiety actually is and how it is different to fear.

Fear is a fight or flight response brought on by present danger whereas anxiety is a response to the anticipation of danger or a potential threat, the main difference is that one is right there and the other may or may not happen at some point in the future.


What does anxiety do to your body? 

On a biological level the body can’t tell the difference between an actual threat and the anticipation of a potential threat. So can the psychological affect the physical and vice versa?

The answer is yes, absolutely. That’s because the body is made up of ten interconnecting systems, six of them being connected to anxiety. These systems are:

The nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, digestive system, excretory system and the endocrine system.

Because these systems are connected it means that one can influence the others.


How anxiety affects your breathing

Anxious people tend to breathe from their chest, which in itself will put you in a fight or flight response, so the first thing you can do is start breathing from the right place. If you’re breathing correctly you should see your stomach moving just below the rib cage. This will not make the anxiety go away, especially if you’re anxious about something, but it will reduce the effects which means that the respiratory system has an effect on the nervous system (the brain). 

How anxiety affects your cardiovascular system

The endocrine system which includes the adrenal gland (the gland responsible for the fight or flight response) will affect the cardiovascular system which will lead to stress and in turn will increase the levels of cortisol, raising blood pressure and affecting your blood sugar levels. So by dealing with one or more of the effects/causes of anxiety you can dramatically reduce the symptoms.


What’s the difference between being anxious about something and being an anxious person?

So now that we understand a little of what is happening in the body and the brain it’s time to look at how we can actively deal with anxiety. If you would describe yourself as an anxious person, but you can’t put your finger on why, then it’s either something from your past that is subconsciously bothering you, e.g, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or subtle put downs you’ve received over a long period of time, or it’s a physical issue such as your breathing that is affecting you psychologically. 


How can you combat anxiety?

By reducing the symptoms of anxiety you can put yourself in a more positive position to deal with the problem (what you are anxious about), and if your anxiety is caused by external long term factors that have built up over time reducing the level of anxiety will enable you to start something that will lead to positive experiences, replacing anxiety with confidence, true confidence can only be obtained by experience.


Earlier on I mentioned reframing anxiety, cognitive reframing in this case is when we look at a situation from a slightly different perspective therefore changing its meaning. Don’t forget we don’t have to influence all of the systems to reduce anxiety, if we affect one then the others will also be affected. 

So if it’s something that you’re anxious about then think of the way you are feeling as prepared, you feel like this because you care, it’s going to focus you and enable you. If I do an event or if someone threatens me, I would be worried if I didn’t feel anxiety in this frame of preparedness, it’s going to make me better at what I need to do in those given situations. 

If it’s an anxiety that doesn’t seem to be attached to something, it’s just there, you can still reframe it.

When you feel it taking hold, focus on your correct breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth and use your diaphragm, just below your ribs in the centre, as you do this tell yourself that you’re going to have a good day and that you’re excited, keep repeating it, the adrenal response for fear and anxiety is the same as the response for excitement, it sounds a little far fetched, but it does work. The mental, physical and emotional are all connected and any one can affect the other.


How to beat anxiety with Kung Fu 

When we train Wing Chun Kung Fu at Teach Me Kung Fu Schools the whole process from beginning to end is geared to enable self control not only physically but emotionally and mentally through forms and exercises which help you to relearn how to breathe and move properly, freeing yourself from your own force. Chi-Sau exercises, which are tactile partner exercises designed to enable you to have a positive response to impulses given to you by your partner, enabling you to free yourself from your opponent’s force and applications which is the way we protect ourselves from an attack by using distance management, a physical fence and a verbal fence first off, so everything is geared towards you being in control of your space and therefore your environment. We develop a different attitude towards problems using the 4 fighting principles, which are:

  1. If the way is free go forwards
  2. If the way it’s blocked, stick
  3. Give way to the force (absorb)
  4. Follow as the opponent retreats


Because our subconscious doesn’t understand language, it only understands feelings and visuals, we need to do more than read motivational posters or have someone spout them back at us, we have to do and visualise and apply those things to every situation that we come across.

  • Go forwards to meet a problem. If someone throws a punch at you we train you to go forwards to meet it – an action always meets an action. Trying to block to the side will more often than not get you hit by the problem.
  • Then you stick with the problem. The thought of the problem is often a lot worse than the actuality of it.
  • Once you are with the problem you can dissolve it, even if you’re 5’ and weigh 90lbs you can cope with a punch coming in from a 6’ 5” 250lb monster – you can go forwards to meet their attack then dissolve it, learning that it’s better to do something than nothing.
  • Then, as soon as their energy starts go go away from you, you follow up with an answer to start putting that problem down. Yoda sums this up perfectly with the line “judge me by my size do you? And so you should not, for the force is my ally and a powerful ally it is.” The force for you is your subconscious. By doing this you get the idea logged in your subconscious, where your conscious mind can access it.


You can then continue with a genuine confidence that your anxiety can be reframed as a powerful tool to overcome, a state of readiness.

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