It’s been 20 years now since I first started dealing with major anxiety issues. I was 18 years old and in my first year of college at the University of Oregon. At the height of my panic attacks I considered consulting a healthcare professional for help with what I was going through: sleeplessness, stress, shortness of breath, and pretty much all of the symptoms listed on the graphic for this blog post. Fortunately, at this same period in my life I began exploring the mind-body disciplines of Qigong and meditation, and these two practices ended up being the only tools I needed to overcome my anxiety.
I became a teacher of Qigong and meditation and currently teach at my own studio, online, and at Southern Oregon University (SOU). Increasingly, the students who visit me at my studio or take sessions online are looking for ways to calm their mind and utilize the healing power of their mind. When it comes to my students at SOU some of them have reported being drawn to my class because they’re hoping to get a couple of easy credits (though they inevitably find out this will not be the case). However, an ever growing number say they’re taking the course to help with stress management and anxiety. I am grateful to have the platform at SOU to help students that are facing similar mental/emotional challenges I experienced when I was going through difficult times in my first two years of college.
What Helps, Exactly?
Anxiety is characterized by intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. These feelings can give rise to a rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, fatigue and other symptoms. Anxiety can be a natural response to stressful situations, but may be an indicator of a more serious condition when it is excessive to the point of interfering with daily life. For example, I experienced anxiety as a sophomore in high school before football games. At the time I weighed 185 lbs. and was starting on the varsity team as an offensive guard. My first game I was pitted against a senior tackle of 280 lbs. or more who was featured in our local newspaper. Needless to say, I didn’t eat much at the pre-game meal. This was clearly a case of situational anxiety.
To ease my anxieties before football games, I recited the rosary (the only time I can remember doing so as a life-long catholic up to that point), but religious practice didn’t prove effective for calming the anxiousness that became more prevalent in all areas of my life a few years later. In college, the only thing that calmed my nerves was meditation – but not just meditation; what worked (and continues to work) is meditation combined with movement, which is Qigong.
How Does Qigong Work?
Peanut butter serves as a helpful analogy for understanding how Qigong benefits both the mind and body. In our day to day activities the mind and body are usually separated, like ground peanuts from peanut oil. The peanuts sit at the bottom of the jar, representing our body, and the oil rests above, representing our mind. When you practice the movements of Qigong you stir the oil into the peanut butter, and absorb your mind into your body. Focusing intently on your movements brings energy into the body (there is a principle in Qigong: where attention goes, energy flows); it also brings stability to the mind and makes it less apt to wander or separate from the body and the present moment.
Unlike peanut butter, however, we cannot purchase our body and mind pre-stirred. We must engage regularly in practices that bring the mind and body together into one, undifferentiated whole. If we go too long without practice our body and mind separate from one another, and both suffer as a result.
Why is Qigong Relevant Now?
Anxiety is a major issue that causes significant negative impacts to individuals and our society. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America more than 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety, and it is the most common mental illness in the country. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, overdose deaths involving anxiety meds that treat anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, seizures and insomnia have quadrupled between 2002 and 2015. Qigong solved my anxiety problems without the help of medication, and there’s growing evidence to support the notion that meditation and mind-body disciplines are effective in relieving anxiety.
The Mayo Clinic states that meditation and yoga (a discipline with many similarities to Qigong) as lifestyle choices can help ease anxiety. A recent experiment at Michigan Tech found that just one session of meditation might reduce anxiety levels for as long as week; and a study documented at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) determines that, “meditation programs had moderate evidence to improve anxiety.” The conclusion of the NIH study states that, “clinicians should be prepared to talk with their patients about the role that a meditation program could have in addressing psychological stress.” Although allopathic treatments may be necessary in some cases, I agree that we should be referring those who suffer from anxiety to the mind-body methods that helped me and are being shown to help others.
The Real Benefits
The greatest benefit of my Qigong practice is not only that it relieves anxiety, but that it gives me self-reliance in the management of my emotional and mental health. Qigong helps me release negative emotions and thoughts and cultivate positive ones such as courage, perseverance, trust and patience, so that I am more emotionally and mentally resilient. These are the benefits of Qigong that I hope every one of my students receives by participating in my classes and programs.
My online course, “The Five Elements – Affirmations & Qigong“, has some great resources for releasing negative emotion and cultivating positive energy. The course has some amazing tools that you can use to quickly calm anxiety; transform anger into patience; worry into trust; sorrow into courage; and much more. Enter the promo code, 3phases, at checkout, and you can add my book, “The Quadrant and 3 Phases,” for no extra charge (just pay shipping).
If you are interested in taking Qigong lessons from me, I provide instruction to groups or individuals in person or online. I enjoy working with families or with small or large businesses or organizations as well. To find out more you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit my website, www.adamholtey.com.