Sally Aged 40
To cope better with stress and anxiety
“I am not cured of anxiety but . . . the difference is I can now moderate the physical effect”
I arranged to try EFL after seeing a Facebook post by a mutual friend. At the time, I had been trying, with varying degrees of success and failure, to deal with an ongoing problem with stress and anxiety. Having tried ‘traditional’ counselling and medication without much-sustained improvement, I was keen to try a different approach. I will confess to not really knowing what the sessions were going to be like, and whether they would make any difference, however, I really did have nothing to lose, so I decided to give it my best shot!
On the day of the first session I was really quite anxious – I liked horses, in the way that every girl who grew up in the late 70’s wanted to ride Black Beauty – but I had practically no experience of horses, save for an occasional donkey ride at Blackpool as a youngster!! So, to try and deal with my anxiety, I was going to meet someone completely new, in a place I’d never been to, to work with animals I had no experience of – sounds great doesn’t it!! Straight away I was put at ease – the process was explained and how it all worked, as we simply walked around the edge of fields with horses in – nothing too scary to begin with. I was talked through a kind of ‘mindfullness’ technique, steadying my breathing, becoming aware of my body, my surroundings – all of which I could feel start to make me feel calmer. I have since learnt to use this technique (albeit sometimes in shortened form) to help me deal with stressful situations, or when I can feel that I might start to feel overwhelmed. It helps give me breathing space, a pause, before just reacting to whatever is happening – this has been very valuable in helping me to control the effects of anxiety. Now, there is an interesting thought…in the past, I have tried to deal with the problem by removing the anxiety – which is almost always not possible. Instead, with EFL’s help, I have learnt that anxiety itself is not the problem, it is the way in which we (I) react to it which is problematic. Anxiety is a manifestation of a number of symptoms, physical reactions and responses in the body, designed to help us run away from sabre-toothed tigers, or whatever else might be chasing us looking for its dinner. What I now understand is that for various reasons, our bodies now react to all sorts of situations in this way – leaving us in an almost permanent state of readiness to flee…no wonder sometimes things get on top of us.
In my own case, for many years, personal circumstances meant I lived in this constant hyper-anxious state – always waiting for the next thing to go wrong, the next problem I was going to have to solve. By talking about some of the horses, the way they react, the effects of living in this hyper-anxious state really became clear to me. What also became clear was that umpteen years of living like this was not going to be undone in a couple of hours in a field with a horse – this was going to take time. Through working with EFL and these types of horses I have gained a much deeper understanding of how mind and body work together (and sometimes against each other) and how the physical can affect the emotional and vice versa.
I am not “cured” of anxiety – I still get anxious, the difference is that most of the time now I can moderate the physical effects, and buy my brain the breathing space it needs to find a sensible solution to whatever is causing the stress.
It’s not perfect, I am still learning, but I do feel much calmer, and less controlled by the anxiety.