When I poll readers, most say ‘anxiety’ is the condition they wish to know more about. So here are some thoughts – about thoughts that can lead to the emotional state we know as anxiety.
How much of a problem is anxiety?
By far, the majority of individuals who meet with me for help to address their needs, state that anxiety as the most intrusive and distracting challenge interfering with relationships, work – and life in general. As if this emotional state wasn’t enough, they are often with physiological dis-ease too, ranging from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). But we don’t want rid of ALL anxiety, that would be foolish…
Individuating healthy anxiety – from the ‘less’ healthy symptoms.
Let’s be clear, healthy anxiety arrives for short periods, to help us address a specific need. Typically this could be to focus on a task, such as a job interview, or beginning a new job. Or, it might be because we are in actual danger!
If we find we haven’t looked properly and have stepped out into traffic, this would be a useful time for the cognition of a stress/anxiety response to send neurosignals to dump ‘action’ chemicals into our blood-stream, so our body is primed and ready to ‘focus’ in a more specific way for the job interview, or to jump back and away from imminent and actual danger.
All this occurs in milliseconds – so unique and special we, and other organisms, are. Many, many physiological transactions occur in an incredibly fast time, before gradually subsiding, (as long as we are otherwise well, and balanced!)
And here’s the rub!
When we observe animals in a herd, grazing peacefully, and if (like us) they become alarmed at a genuine predator (danger) – they run, literally for their lives. But unlike us, they soon return to graze, just a short few minutes after the alarm, and because we know that the digestive system all but shuts down when under duress, we can know that the animals are grazing again because their physiology has returned to a state of harmony, or stasis.
What went wrong for us?
Something in our evolution has allowed for our stress-response to remain long after the ‘threat’ has passed. Many would suggest the lifestyle and information choices we make and have available to us have exacerbated this enduring state of anxiety to what is more often than otherwise, a perceived challenge to our wellbeing.
Emotional Intelligence and the Cognitive Mind
Being ’emotionally intelligent’ is much about recognising (re-cognising!) our own, and others emotional reactions, and consciously checking in with ourselves, ‘knowing’ what is, rather than what it may feel like! Knowing, at least to some degree, what is – or might be happening for others, exhibiting an emotional outburst that appears out of context.
If it feels like an over-reaction, it probably is!
How often have you reacted to a stimulus, only to later regret what you said or did? The cognitive mind, that part of us that tries to ‘inform’ us about the world, just loves patterns. In fact, patterns are it’s fuel! So, it stands to reason, if I think something is a threat often and long enough, it will become accepted to the cognitive mind as fact!
Smartphones, News and the Pace of Life
Many of us know what it’s like to be called in to see someone! Perhaps it was the headmaster, or more recently the boss! Did you immediately think, “oh no, what have I done wrong?” Maybe you had made an error, or, was there ever a time where you thought (re-cognised) you were in trouble (in danger) and to your surprise, you received praise – or a call for help?
This is just one example of so many ‘automatic’ reactionary stress hormone releasing ‘mistakes’ we make on a minute-to-minute basis today with so much readily available information – and while we are so easily contactable.
What’s to do?
When we create more space in our minds – and grow self-awareness we can better access choices about an appropriate response to a potential or actual ‘threat’- and choose a less emotive response. If we do this, we ready our body for fight-flight less often, and if we do that, we alter the very structure and physiology of our brain. This IS neuroplasticity and is a scientific and measurable fact.
To learn more about how to begin to achieve a more objective, less (negative) emotional way of being, subscribe to these posts. They will arrive, very calmly, direct to your inbox so you can read and absorb them in your own time, without any stress!
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).