It's a perfectly natural human reaction to everyday situations, and helps us determine how we approach events in our lives. It is - to put it simply - an act of self-preservation. Worry is an evolutionary default: we panic because we sense a threat and our senses become heightened in case we need to escape. Sarah couldn't control her boyfriend, she couldn't control her mom; Sarah also had to learn to trust her own sensory experiences rather than allowing them to overwhelm her entire system. Sarah didn't trust a lot of people, which threw her into a state of great discomfort and activation. When this happened, I had Sarah call me so that we could work on orienting and grounding her. This was as simple as having Sarah feel her feet on the ground or listen to music or the sounds around her. She had to learn to drop into her own senses, but in a way that calmed and soothed her, rather than making her want to run. Even in small increments, this began to build more resilience within Sarah so that she could come into her body, move through discomfort, and be with the experience at hand without attempting to control it or run off into ten different directions all at the same time. This work shouldn't feel hard, because as we continue to practice these new behaviors on a consistent basis, our nervous system begins to learn something new. It starts to learn what it feels like to settle, and settling is soothing. It is your nervous system's natural state, so it wants to go there, and can teach itself to go there naturally when it is provided some space and a little bit of instruction along the way. Why did he put you here--out in the middle of nowhere? Michael pressed. We are the extreme left of the Union army. The Eighty-third Pennsylvania is formed on our right, but to our left, nothing. We are the end of a line that runs from here all the way back into Gettysburg. That means I cannot withdraw. If the Confederate army flanks us, if the Rebs overrun us, they'll come in behind our cannons and barricades, and the Army of the Potomac will be forfeited.

Eighty thousand men would be caught from the back with no protection. And if there're going to try that, first they'll have to come through me. At that very second, Michael heard an eerie sound echoing from down the hill. We sweat because we pre-empt panic with the need to flee, and in the animal kingdom at least, sweating helps your body regulate itself if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to flee a predator. These were all incredibly helpful attributes to have when we were evading the unwanted attentions of a sabre-toothed tiger, but when your main problem that day is `I have to give a presentation at work', having the chemicals in your brain tell you that you need to run for your life and that everything you know is about to come to an end can become more of a hindrance than a help. I had finally managed to get my depression under some sort of control. I say control; I had wrangled it into submission, we were on even terms now, I understood it. I could finally make fun of it, which gave me power over it. I had moved to London in this time, I had met the love of my life, and she understood my craziness and helped me contain it. But as my depression took a back seat my new friend, anxiety, assumed it was his turn to kick my arse. As I had no previous knowledge of anxiety, I never knew it was a condition that could take your life and punch it right in its face. I started finding it difficult to be around people. At first, Sarah was confused by the sense of calm she felt after our sessions. From there, we began to build up to the practice of getting Sarah into that space of calm in the moment of activation. Sarah might call me all wound up and I would have her do an experiment. Tell me that story again, but see if you can slow it down while you tell it, I would tell her. Sarah soon discovered that doing something as simple as speaking more slowly could have a positive net impact in terms of regulating her nervous system. In fact, this is how I speak to my clients--slowly and softly. It's not by accident, because I know that just as our own even voices can regulate the nervous system, so, too, can the voice of another person.

On some level, we all know this: think about how you feel when you have a conversation with someone who is all amped up versus when someone conveys information in a slower, softer way. I then began teaching Sarah to let go of her need for solutions. What would it feel like if she didn't feel a sense of ownership to fix every single problem she saw around her? Rising to a high, thin pitch, a thousand voices strained in a long, continuous scream. It was the Rebel yell. They were coming! Michael caught glimpses of the soldiers through the trees as they ran up the steep hill. Chamberlain had just turned to direct Michael off the rock when the cannon shell hit. It struck the base of the rock and threw both men into the air. As Michael hit the ground, he felt like a giant vacuum had sucked all the air from his body. Before he could check to see if he'd been injured--before he could even breathe--Chamberlain had him by the arm, dragging him to the protection of the wall. Only the cannons were firing now, Michael realized as he tried to get his lungs working again. He could still hear the bloodcurdling yells of the Rebels working their way up the hill. I found it difficult to do my job. I found it difficult to go outside. I had to take time off work. I made excuses to get out of commitments. I was effectively turning myself into a weird little hermit of my own invention. The perfect ally of mental health problems is complacency: you self-medicate with biscuits and blankets and sixteen seasons of a weird foreign cartoon you found on YouTube and don't quite understand but the lack of story structure gives you a glorious sense of freedom. You regard what is obviously a problem with complete apathy and this only results in the condition getting worse.

So I had a stern word with myself. I went out. I went to work. For Sarah, the answer was that it felt uncomfortable. So, we experimented with sitting in that discomfort and allowing others to solve their own issues rather than Sarah jumping in and taking the reins. The more Sarah practiced focusing on herself and her baby, the more she was able to stay out of a reactive state. The more she was able to refrain from attempting to take control of everything and everyone around her. And the more she was able to set boundaries without going into a rage. As all of this happened, Sarah stopped trying to control her boyfriend and realized he would do whatever he was going to do. She also understood that she could make her decisions from there. Ultimately, Sarah chose to end that relationship and today her life is thriving. Today when Sarah comes in, we don't have to walk or remain in constant motion anymore. We can simply sit down and chat calmly for a half hour, then Sarah jumps on the table while I do some somatic work to relax her. He rolled over onto his knees and glanced over the wall. They were within sight. It seemed to Michael that the Confederate army was about to step into his lap. They're right here! It felt like an eternity, but finally, Michael heard Chamberlain call out the order, Hit 'em! A long, rolling crack of rifle fire rang out. It began near Michael and ran like a fuse up the line to the right.

Scores of Rebels fell on the first volley. The Rebels were more careful after that, using trees to shield them from the deadly fire, but still they came. Chamberlain was directing his men and had moved some distance from Michael. I spoke to people. It was all awful, every moment of it was horrible, all I wanted to do was run, flee in any way I could, but I did it. Every interaction, every decision felt like the moments before a disaster. I had full-on anxiety attacks in airports, train stations, at work. A complete lack of control of a situation resulted in me turning into a furious puddle of my former self. I continued to attempt to operate as a normal human being, as if I was some sort of undercover spy among a completely different species, terrified that one day I would be uncovered as a fraud. In the years that followed, my anxiety stayed with me like an ugly rash I couldn't find a cure for, and my depression appeared now and again just to remind me that he was still paying for the room he'd rented in my brain. Despite this I asked my girlfriend to marry me, and she said yes. Well, I downplayed that a bit: once I had drunk enough to convey a certain air of humanity, I asked my girlfriend to marry me. The morning of the big day I was petrified. I tend to focus a lot on Sarah's brainstem, where her overactive fight or flight responses reside. I'm happy to tell you that, today, Sarah is not nearly as reactive as she used to be. She is able to let go and ride the waves in ways that would have been inconceivable earlier in her life. What It All Means Here's the thing about rigidity: it feels safe. It feels like a mechanism to keep the world under control. The problem is that it offers a false sense of safety and it can completely rob a person of the ability to ever experience a sense of embodiment, fluidity, or true joy.