Anxiety is much more than being afraid, it can actually make certain tasks physically impossible. Things that seem like simple, easy tasks to complete to the average person, can bring extreme feelings of nervousness to someone suffering from anxiety. We understand here at big heart that this disorder can be very detrimental to all people involved including the person suffering and their friends and families. Our recent Overcoming Anxiety with Horses course uses horses and their intuition to help develop skills to cope with these anxious thoughts and feelings.
Anxiety involves many different physical and mental symptoms like panic attacks, uncontrollable worries, hot flashes, shortness of breath, nausea, feeling disconnected, and many more. It is a unique experience for everyone. To learn to overcome these symptoms, strategies involving meditation, mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy, are extremely effective.
Meditation is very relaxing and beneficial for the average person. Its calming effects are proven to improve overall health and mood when practiced over a period of time. Someone dealing with anxious thoughts can benefit even more from experiencing this relaxation even for a small portion of the day because it gives their mind a break. Anxiety is caused by many unwanted, uncontrollable thoughts that never seem to never rest. They constantly flow, and many find it difficult to get a break from all the worrying. Meditation gives these people a chance to let their minds rest and take a break from the stress of their everyday lives. Using apps like “calm” or searching online for a guided meditation are great tools to help you meditate. Horses can also be used as a form of mediation. Standing with a horse and petting it can create the same relaxation and mental break as a guided meditation. Horses are very calm themselves and spending time focusing on the horse helps to avoid other anxious thoughts.
Being mindful is also another useful tool. If you can learn to be present and in the moment, while you are living everyday life, this will contribute greatly to being less anxious. Focusing on the here and now instead of other things that are happening later eases the mind. Mindfulness teaches you to use regular, everyday tasks as a distraction from a racing mind. Some examples of mindful activities include scanning your body to become more aware of it, grounding yourself by becoming aware of your surroundings or simply focusing on eating a sandwich. All these things help your mind stay in the present moment, blocking out any other fears or worrisome thoughts that might have been flooding through your mind. Horses are a fantastic way to be mindful. When dealing with a horse, there is a lot to focus on and be mindful of. You can focus on gently petting the horse, or carefully feeding, grooming, bathing, or riding the horse. All these tasks require attention that allows you to be mindful while completing them.
Another helpful strategy is using cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a goal based treatment that takes a hands-on approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior to help overcome fears or difficulties. We can use horses as an example of this strategy. If someone has an extreme fear of horses, this therapy tactic can be used by first showing the subject a picture of a horse. They might be very mildly afraid, but they feel okay. The next step might be taking the person to a barn with no horses. They can be in the environment where the horses are, so they can get used to it. It will also strike fear in the person, but they should be able to handle it. After that, they could go and look at horses from a distance. They take slow, small steps of being introduced to the stressor until they eventually overcome the fear. This type of therapy can be administered by another person but can also be done on your own if you are willing to start taking small steps.
The end goal of using all these methods is to learn to recognize, understand, and overcome emotions caused by anxiety. Each one of these strategies helps in its own way, and since everyone’s experience with anxiety is different it may take a combination of these methods and others to really overcome the anxious thoughts. Whether these methods are successful for you or not, we hope that these strategies can be used as a starting point on the way to recovery.
Big Heart Equestrian Blogger