Click play to hear Barry explain this anxiety sensation.
Anxiety has a direct impact on the abdominal region. It can make people feel anything from a mild jittery sensation (butterflies in the stomach) to physically sick. Most people tend to get more anxious when they imagine they might vomit, and that worsens the sensation of anxiety, making it all the more likely to happen. The fear of getting sick makes the situation worse. This fear is driven by thoughts like this:
What if I get sick right here and now? What would I do? What would people think of me?
It’s more common for people to fear vomiting in social settings rather than when they’re home, because they think they don’t have a safe place to retreat and feel exposed to social embarrassment.
If you feel sick in your stomach during an anxious period, it’s important to not fight against the sensation or any fears you may have of projectile vomiting.
The solution is found in accepting the sensation in your stomach as it manifests and allowing it full permission to be present. Tell your stomach that it’s fine to feel sick, and if it feels it’s necessary to vomit, then it may do so, and you won’t try to force it from happening.
The reason this approach works well is because, as soon as you allow your stomach the space to feel uncomfortable, the abdominal muscles start to relax. You no longer resist the experience with fear, and your body can flow more freely and release the tension that causes your stomach to feel unwell.
In the early stages, while you’re learning to apply this approach, you might carry a small paper bag with you (like the ones found on airplanes). The bag reassures you that if you get sick, you can do so in a discreet manner. This gives you more confidence to handle the situation. This approach takes a little practice, but with time, you’ll become more confident in allowing the sensations to be present without resistance—and after a while, you’ll feel no need to carry a paper bag around with you.