It is neither a weakness or a failing to suffer the symptoms of anxiety. Whether we suffer intermittently right now, or most of the time, we CAN always do something to help reduce – and even remove the sense of dread associated with it. Read on to see my tips for a less anxious life.
Before I share how we can manage the anxiety, it’s useful to know a little more about WHY we suffer.
Anxiety feels like fear but, unlike fear, is the result of future-based thinking. Fear is more concerned with present moment, perceptions and obvious threat. Fear, therefore is usually relevant!
We have evolved to be able to subconsciously act on fear-based sensory stimuli – without conscious consideration – and this is a true life-saver. To be able to jump away from danger in an instant is amazing and requires a myriad of actions within our body to complete the life-saving process associated with the adrenaline response we know as ‘fight-flight’ (or where more appropriate, playing-dead).
The flood of neurotransmitters that galvanises the human into action (or inaction) is also (somewhat falsely) created when we ruminate about future-based possibilities. We are blessed with imagination but with this gift comes the challenge of reigning in and not succumbing to imaginary monsters and negative outcomes.
Because, when we do get involved with this unhealthy way of ruminating, we inform our body to act as if in fear-state, releasing cortisol and setting the fight-flight processes in motion in error. Then, we judge that anxious state, and this judging creates yet more cortisol, and this gets us even more terrified; so, the organism, that is us, answers the demand for yes, you guessed it – more cortisol!
Clearly, that’s not a good thing! We have tricked the body into believing it is under attack and needs to take immediate action. The body has prepared for this imagined threat, reducing the efficiency of the immune-system, diverting blood away from the digestive system, organs, and parts of the body not required for fight-flight, sending the blood supply to the limbs and heart.
The conscious mind is dulled, making clear and rational thinking difficult, breathing becomes shallow, and when there is no method to exhaust and complete this alert state-of-readiness, we are left feeling dreadful.
This, now and again and especially when useful, such as with a stress-response to exam or performance needs can be helpful and even improve our performance for the task in hand, but when a state-of-alertness becomes the default, we risk longer-term illness and clinical exhaustion.