Weak Legs/Jelly Legs and Anxiety
Anxiety creates the sensation of weak or “jelly” legs. When anxious, adrenaline is released into your body. The adrenaline can make sensitive people feel very weak in their muscles—especially the leg muscles, because they’re supporting the body. You often hear people say that when they have to stand up and speak, they go weak at the knees and fear they might topple over. It’s important to note, however, that the jittery sensation you may feel in your legs is not a signal that your legs are any weaker—they’re not. In fact, your legs are being primed for movement, so don’t fear that they’ll go out from under you.
If you’re out walking, then continue to walk; if you’re standing in a line, then continue to stand. There’s no need to find a place to sit, and doing so often reinforces your anxiety about weak legs. If you train yourself to continue to do what you were doing, you’ll quickly learn that the sensation of weak legs is an illusion and your legs are strong and well capable of supporting your body. The more you challenge anxious sensations in this manner, the faster the sensation will disappear. Many of the anxiety symptoms are worsened by anxious thoughts about the sensation. For example, if you feel your legs go weak, you may jump to extreme conclusions:
Weak legs mean I’ll fall over—and that means I must be about to faint!
When you think like this, the anxiety can then trick you into feeling dizzy, thereby creating an even greater cycle of anxiety. The answer, as you’re now well aware, lies in accepting the sensation and moving on. Don’t try to wish the sensation away or pretend that it doesn’t exist. Simply say this to your body:
Okay, legs, I understand you’re feeling a bit weak. But I really don’t feel it’s something serious, so I’m going to finish my walk regardless.
By not retreating, you build up your confidence to the point where you’re not bothered by the sensation—which, in turn, creates less anxiety, resulting in fewer occurrences of weak legs.
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