What is anxiety, why do we have it and What do we do about it?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear. We are worried that we are not okay or safe and that something bad is going to happen to us. We may also be feeling anxiety because there is an immediate threat to our safety or a perceived threat to our safety. The perceived part is important to understand and remember moving forward.
Our human brains are biologically wired and designed to keep us safe. As human beings, we are designed to survive and therefore we have the need to feel safe. The human brain’s job is to scan for threats to our safety.
Within our bodies, we also have something called a Nervous System which is the fight, flight, or freeze response. To learn more about the nervous system (see my blog titled NERVOUS SYSTEM (FIGHT, FLIGHT, FREEZE)
We feel anxiety, when we are experiencing an over-active sympathetic nervous system which is relaying messages to our brain that there is a threat, when there is no actual threat to our safety.
Anxiety will flood your mind with intrusive and worrisome thoughts because your brain is doing its job and searching for all the possible things that could be the threat. Your mind will keep replaying these unwanted thoughts and will keep going over them again and again, until a threat or some meaning is made of it. You will conclude or convince yourself that something bad is going to happen.(Perceived)
You can experience a panic/anxiety attack when your body is releasing the excess activation from your sympathetic nervous system.
Three things you can do when you are experiencing generalized anxiety, or a panic attack is:
- Change your language:
Rather than say to yourself: “I am experiencing anxiety” instead say “My Nervous System is acting up” For most people, the word anxiety is upsetting because it comes with negative associations. However, the term nervous system is a more neutral term which will not trigger the same response as repeating the word anxiety over and over in your mind.
- Challenge your own thoughts with new thoughts:
When the intrusive and worrisome thoughts start going and going, instead of engaging in the thoughts, try reminding yourself that all that is happening is that you are experiencing activation in your nervous system. Often, the thoughts will not be based in fact and most likely will not be true because these thoughts are worse case scenario! All that is happening is that your brain is doing what it was designed to do, to make sense of what us happening, search for threats and to keep us safe.
- Try re-orientating your mind and body to the present moment:
Often when we are experiencing activation within our nervous system, this is a result of us thinking about something that has happened to us in the past or something that we are thinking may happen to us in the future. Your brain and nervous system are responding to this and trying to make meaning of this. For most people, in the present moment, you are safe, and things are generally are not horrible or wonderful, but things are neutral.
A helpful practice to do, is to try re-orientating your mind and body to the present moment by engaging your five senses.
Engage your five senses by looking around and naming colours of objects you see, feel the chair your sitting on or your feet on the ground, list sounds that you hear out loud, or you can smell something or taste something.
Seven things you can do to optimize your mind and body to lower your general anxiety:
Release emotions: Do not bottle things up. Crying is healthy. Anger is healthy, when released in controlled ways.
Exercise: Do something, you need to move around.
Nutrition: You can have treats, but you need to consume protein, vegetables, fruit, and other healthy stuff
Sleep: if you do not rest, your nervous system can not reset, and your body can not heal.
Mindfulness: Meditation and yoga are helpful, but you can just be mindful with any activity by itself (Stop multi-tasking)
Phones: Get off your phone, social media creates anxiety.
Hire a Therapist or a Counsellor for unbiased, professional, and helpful support and guidance. (I know two people you can work with, let me know if your looking)