Anxiety, Tension and Physical Pain



Just came across your blog few days ago. I am suffering from anxiety for almost 15 yrs. Took Zoloft to control my anxious thoughts about something bad is happening to my body. My eyes and head become so tight and tense and then I suffer from pain because of these contracted muscles for 2 or 3 days. Nothing gets my mind off the pain. When I suffer from pain during those days more and more negative thoughts about the past conversations come up and I become more tense. Cannot relax at all. Then it becomes normal for 2 days. This has become a cycle of pain and rumination for me. I would really appreciate your advice. Thanks.



So the eyes and head become tense due to anxiety, not the Zoloft?


Whenever I feel normal and relaxed, I get nervous and kind of start to tense up and either my eye muscles or head begin to contract and I get anxious and feel pain. No more relaxed and feel very irritated and unhappy. I feel this is more of a habit of tensing up for no reason, just compulsive habit. This stress has had a significant bad effect on my body health. 

Recently I started taking Zoloft antidepressant, but it did not help me at all. Not sure what purpose does tensing up serve?  

I am just scared of this pain as it just starts anytime, maybe linked to negative thoughts in my mind.


Ok. It is useful that you can see that this tensing up seems to be some kind of habit, and that it serves no real purpose. We could say that it serves to try to protect that which feels anxious or insecure inside, or that it tries to contain the anxiety and prevent it from being released. It seems to be a kind of resistance.

Obviously you can not stop it from happening. It can not be controlled at your will, since there is an opposing inner will that wishes to tense up and contract. So the only option is to no longer oppose it. This may seem difficult, since I am sure that after the tensing up happens, the pain itself brings resistance to what is being experienced. You may feel as if you are engulfed in resistance, frustration and aversion.

Simply be aware of what happens. Do not judge, interpret or try to stop anything. Let it happen. You need not try to detach or separate, since this is still some kind of resistance or intent to escape. Fully allow everything. Watch the tension arise from a neutral standpoint. Don’t identify with the habit of tension, and don’t take responsibility for it. You have already mentioned that it is an energetic pattern, so see it as no more than this. Don’t fight with it any more, and don’t call it bad.

Habitually the judgements and inner resistance will arise, but allow this as well. Remain as a space in which it all happens, an uninterested space. The feeling of “me” that suffers all of this, however real it may seem, is still a feeling or thought that you are aware of. The entity that suffers all of this is not what you are. Be aware of what suffers all of this, and see that it has no real foundation or tangibility, it is just a thought/feeling.

There is a natural tendency to fear this pain arising again. This tendency is not what you are, it is just another feeling you are aware of. As much as possible, adopt a different standpoint, of no longer fearing the recurrence of the pain and tension. Fearing just makes it worse, and can even trigger the tension again. Be surrendered, have no opinions, no ideas about how you should feel or what kind or person these feelings make you – none of these ideas are true. You are beyond everything, you are awareness, which is not a “thing” as the mind may predict, awareness is not an object or image, it is what you naturally are. So everything else has nothing to do with you. Leave these energies to play themselves out.  

If you can welcome pain as if it is pleasure, this can be very healing. It may sound crazy, but try it as a weird experiment. Take the pain to be pleasure, as if it is somehow enjoyed. This allows you to fully accept it, and it opens you up for healing. It also reverses suffering.

You can admit that this tension-pain cycle has become so strong that there is nothing you can do about it. All you can do is surrender to it. In this way it can be a very powerful teacher. These kind of things force you to go beyond resistance and sensations, if you treat them the right way. The mind sees it the opposite way, as if these things should not be there and must be eradicated – but this just makes pain worse.

If you can treat pain, anxiety and the thoughts that come with it with allowance and non-judgement, this is what heals them. Resistance fuels them. Instead of trying to relax, fully allow the feeling of not being relaxed. If you allow yourself to feel tense, then there will be some background of comfort. Drop your opinions about how it should be, and fully allow what is.

Seeing that the tension serves no useful purpose can also help. This is not judging it in a negative way, but just noticing the futility of it as it arises. Not trying to stop it, but noticing that it just serves to create pain can help withdraw your belief and interest from it. The same goes for the associated thoughts of past conversations – watch how they love to create drama and pain, as if there is an addiction to suffering. Observing in this way can highlight and therefore weaken the human madness inside.

Finally, without resistance, it can be helpful to be aware of other areas of the body. It is easier to do this at first when you are not engaged in some outer activity, but can be done any time. All the energy and attention can often rise up into the head (through thinking) and into the eyes (through perceiving the world and thoughts with intense interest). Be aware of this. Also be aware of the feeling of existence of the rest of your body - that fact that your legs, arms and body all exist – just feel from within. You may feel nothing at first, as if the body is somehow numb – that is fine, don’t try to reach some next experience, just be with what you can feel. This can help balance the attention and withdraw it from being constantly sucked into the mind and senses. The attention will habitually go back to the mind – this is not to be judged, it’s fine – once you notice, you can be aware of the body again.

The key to dealing with unhappiness (or anxiety, irritation or any other painful emotion) is to drop your intention that it be different, to no longer wish or want it to be gone. If this is not possible, be aware of the intention it be gone, be aware of the resistance to it. Then allow it to be as it is. Do not be dependent on any emotion for you to feel relieved. Welcome what comes, accept what arises. Then you are free, even if the emotions are still there. When you don’t wish them to be different, you no longer perpetuate them and you no longer cling to them through resistance, so they lose their energy. Without resistance, you are no longer holding or supporting them. Acceptance, strangely, actually helps you dissolve and let go of these energies that arise. When you let them be there, they don’t want to stay. They only want to stay with someone who doesn’t like them. They love to fight, hate to be unopposed.

Be crazy. Become comfortable with the inner nervousness that triggers all of this. Don’t fight it or try to cover it up. It is just energy seeking release, so let it rise, even if it starts to shake the body or become more intense, see it as apart from you, only watch what happens. It may attach itself to thoughts of “me” and “I”, and take over the mind, but still you can watch this happen. What is it that can watch all of this?

Thank you for your question, if you need clarification or have anything else to ask, feel free.

All the best,


Comments for Anxiety, Tension and Physical Pain

(from previous website)

Jun 15, 2014
tension anxiety NEW
by: anonymous

Hi I can't believe iv just come across a diagnosis to my anxiety! Iv suffered for 10 years feeling very similar symptoms - is this called tension anxiety? I haven't come across a post like this before and feel some relief already to the post above!!! I know my negative thinking feeds the tension in my case and I'm petrified of the tension/pain coming on . so to get practising on this how do I not fear the tension? Where do I start to master this horrible situation? Thanks

Jun 16, 2014
Anxiety and Tension NEW
by: Adam -

Hi. I'm not sure what it's called, it's not really a diagnosis, just some advice that may help with something like this. 

To not fear the onset of the tension, give up arguing with the experience. Don't cherish opinions about it, what it is, who you are, or what you should be feeling instead. Don't call it wrong or bad. Let it be, as much as possible. Give up the fight. 

Notice that even the fear of the experience arises by itself. It is not what you are. Let it arise, but do not take it to be what you are. 

The biggest suffering is wanting the experience to be different, and believing you have control over the experience, when really you don't. You are not responsible, since the experience comes and goes by itself. Let it, don't stop it or manipulate it. 

It helps to draw the attention away from the head, by simply being aware of the rest of your body. Feel the rest of the body from within. Feel that your legs, feet, torso, arms exist. Even if you choose only one body part, this can be very helpful, since the attention habitually rushes into the neck or head and creates pain. You need not think about anything, but be aware of how it feels to have a body, how the body feels to be alive, to exist. Be with the feeling, it brings you in touch with stillness, intelligence, being, and gradually the mind becomes one with it. 

I will be writing an article in the near future more about tension/pressure headaches which you may find helpful. The basic message will be nonresistance to the present experience, and feeling the energy of the body from within to re-direct attention from a build up of pressure in the head. 

You will be surprised that when you give up taking charge of your inner experience, when you are no longer judging it or arguing with it, it loses power. 

To master a situation, stop trying to master anything. Lose your ideas about the situation or experience, and don't be a slave to the experience coming or going. When the tension or anxiety arises, naturally there will be resistance to it, a desire for the experience to be different - but even this is a spontaneous appearance, so don't fight it. Notice that whatever experience is there, the awareness that you are remains unchanged and unaffected.