You will be aware anxiety is a potent emotion; we’ve all felt it. It can be useful, and it can also be devastating!
Anxiety Can be Useful
Without a stress response, we would fail to act when we need to focus most. When we inadvertently step out into traffic, or attend the interview; both set in motion neurotransmitters that create a shift in our physiology to prepare for action.
When Anxiety is Devastating
When we are so constantly exposed to stress and anxiety, we may be unable to switch this state-of-alert ‘off’. This can mean over time our adrenal glands become exhausted, and the immune system works far less efficiently. (One reason we get ill when under prolonged duress with infections, tonsillitis, mouth ulcers, and colds!)
Added to this, our digestive system is unable to do its work well, leading to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), indigestion, acid-reflux and poor transit of nutrients – and waste! Our cells ability to regenerate are adversely affected leading to increased risk of cancers and other potentially life-limiting dis-ease!
And our ability to ‘be’, to enjoy life, here and now, is compromised when we are on 24/7 threat-alert!
You will likely have read for yourselves, from me and many others, that life today with so much exposure to information via the medium of smartphones & tablets, 24/7 news on television, we become negative – and perhaps less healthy in our thoughts about the world around us – and in general.
When we think this way, we become less balanced in mind and body.
Sleep is so commonly affected, relationships with partners, our children, and colleagues too! The intolerances are also found in the gut with diet – and the associated quick-fixes. Alcohol and other less healthy diversions are taken on and when in excess – and with growing regularity, these too may create a negative snowball effect for our wellbeing. Addictions also become a real possibility for some.
What else might be contributing?
When we are in a state of constant alertness, brought about by the bombardment on our senses, what happens when we begin to lose control over that in which we think we need to be in control of?
Back to our Beginning
If, as so many of us were, we experienced in our formative years anything other than a sense of being loved, safe and nurtured, this matters in later life too, because these feelings and beliefs don’t leave us with adolescence. Our innate sense of our place in the world as adults comes in no small part from those early years. Whether we feel safe to express ourselves when we are happy, and when we are less so, are also determined, in some way by our formative experiences and conditioned belief system.
There are other contributory factors possible too, of course. Genetics play a part, and the health of our host when in the womb are examples. But if I was to understand, as a child, that I had to be ‘alert’ for a parents loss of control (temper perhaps – or just in a state of anxiety or depression themselves), or the teacher tried to discipline and teach us via the medium of abuse or threat, then I am open to be pre-programmed to feel this way in later life.
The Inner Child
Those things I have come to believe are important based on my early life – and to which I am exposed to every minute, of every hour – become too important, the emphasis falls prey to hyper-vigilance, and so it becomes clear, both as a child, and now as an adult, when my resilience runs low, so do my tolerances!
When this happens, the cards can come tumbling down… manifesting for the individual as uninvited ‘panic’, loss of self-belief or worth, intolerances with those around us, to name a few.
Some Good News
Physiologically, the ‘default’ reactivity’ to stimulus, the default state of anxiety can, outside of the emotion when ‘live’, be modified. The ‘go-to’ area of the brain, when under perceived threat, can be ‘re-wired… with practice to return to the part of the brain associated with rational thinking and decision making; something that is lost when under great stress/perceived threat. The ‘go-to’ area of the brain when under perceived threat can be ‘re-wired…
To access this ability for returning our cognitive reasoning to the best ‘go-to’ position; that of rational thinking, to determine appropriate response (rather than inappropriate reaction!), we have to slow down our thinking – and our actions – or behaviour. However, this is not without challenge! It ‘feels’ counter-intuitive to take our hands off the steering wheel, even if the ‘car’ is out of control! Yet, with careful guidance and support this is what is required to re-educate the mind to a healthier, thinking unit once more.
Evidence is in abundance as to the changes we can ourselves bring about when we return our thoughts back to greater calm. Neuroplasticity is real. We CAN change the very structure of our brain with appropriate, healthier ways of thinking.
I encourage you to read, explore and absorb the possibilities for living in a less anxious, more healthy way. You could also find a recommended therapist to help skilfully guide you to where you are better served – in your mind and body. This is an area of successful thinking that is anything but a failure for you, the uninvited anxiety sufferer.
Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).