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Perhaps you’ve heard the stories of canaries in coal mines. Miners would take these yellow birds down into the depths of the earth because of their sensitivity to harmful elements – these birds would sound the proverbial alarm that would signal danger to the miners giving them time to escape before they could be harmed beyond repair.

Many authors and thinkers have drawn comparisons between anxiety and these sensitive yellow birds. Anxiety, when viewed as an alarm, opens up a range of possibilities. 

Anxiety, when viewed as an alarm, opens up a range of possibilities. 

What would it be like to view your anxiety with curiosity rather than criticism? 

As a person in recovery from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I’ve experienced different manifestations of anxiety in my body. Over the years these yellow canaries have transformed from being my foes to being my friends. 

Some who experience anxiety speak of symptoms that reside in the mind – hypervigilance, irritability, racing thoughts, etc. While I personally experience these cognitive symptoms to a degree, I have found that my primary, yet faint alarms reside in my body – the stuff of flesh and bones. As research grows, we are starting to grasp the sacred connection between the brain and body. 

What would it be like to view your anxiety with curiosity rather than criticism? 

My physical symptoms have ranged from muscle spasms to difficulty breathing, body twitches, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and a sense of panic coursing through my body. At different times and in different seasons, these symptoms come and go, presenting themselves in different packages and combinations. 

There have been times when I have used whatever I could to numb out and tune out – to silence my personal canary. I have had many moments of finding myself weary, dusty, bruised, and empty on the bottom of the “mine” and giving in to this truth: sweeping symptoms under the rug, bottling pain up, shoving indicators down (or whatever metaphor you’d like to use) is as silly as muzzling the gift of the canary’s sensitivity to harm. 

Through therapy, a supportive community, and a belief in divine redemption, I met the challenge of exchanging criticism of my pain for curiosity around my pain with hope and trepidation. I find that as I embrace curiosity, anything can be a potential gift or messenger of insight that can help me continue the journey of “getting through it” when “getting over it” isn’t an option.

I find that as I embrace curiosity, anything can be a potential gift or messenger of insight that can help me continue the journey of “getting through it” when “getting over it” isn’t an option.

If I could share a magic pain reliever or a quick fix, I’d do it in a heartbeat. The reality is that this is the long journey of suffering, redemption, and finding gold in the dunes of the desert. Perhaps you may find comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in this journey. There is beauty in your story even if it seems sandy, dusty, and lonely. Take heart, and listen for the birds.

I wonder what your “canaries” are… what’s telling you deep below your surface that there’s a threat or potential harm?

Need help dealing with anxiety? Contact us to learn more.

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