I’ve had high anxiety for as long as I can remember. One of the bonus prizes of a life with ADHD.
I used to startle so easily I’d jump out of my chair from an unexpected touch or sound. I was always ready for fight or flight in some manner. These days, however, I can’t remember the last time it happened.
Over time, I learned to change my relationship with stress.
As I worked on my “stuff”, all the emotional crap you typically pretend you have handled but really just stuff down until it makes you sad, cranky and snacky. I deal with all that because I want to be free of it instead of passing it down to my kids.
In the past, I was just as enthusiastic as anyone about denying and distracting myself from the things that caused me pain or discomfort in life.
That’s what a startle response is, essentially. It’s the ultimate, “HOLY CRAP something that might hurt me just happened. Let’s kill it or run away!”
When you spend your life training yourself to avoid the things that make you uncomfortable, you increase your fear and anxiety. Because you prevent yourself from learning how to work through the tough stuff.
But when you approach your feelings with curiosity. A, “tell me your story, I’m listening” kind of approach.” You become a witness to your experiences, a student of them. As opposed to their prey.
While you’re sitting with a difficult emotion, allow yourself to breathe deeply into your abdomen and relax your body. In this way you’re training your body to relax when difficult emotions show up instead of wanting to run from them.
Discomfort or pain, psychologically or emotionally arises. Then you breathe deeply and relax your body, over and over and over again. Until it becomes automatic.
In time you will lessen the intensity of your startle response.