Anxiety effects millions of people at work, home and life. It is a normal feeling that we all have to varying degrees but to some it becomes debilitating.
Anxiety is part of our fight/flight response that is responsible for our primal survival protecting us from predation and the unknown.
It is a hormonal response to a mental prediction or preparedness to a perceived or actual danger. This stress response, when intermittent, can be healthy and normal keeping our bodies prepared. We will look at chronic conditioning in a moment.
When you perceive a danger the sympathetic nervous system is triggered and the body responds with a sudden increase in hormones, primarily adrenaline and cortisol, to prepare the body to deal with the danger or flee.
The skin becomes very sensitive to vibration and touch to react in any direction, the pupils dilate to not miss a detail and focus on the danger or route of escape, the heart rate increases to push oxygen and glycans to the primary muscles, the blood pressure increases to push nutrients deep, the capillaries are restricted to keep the blood at the core, the muscles tense with a burst of energy to react fast and non vital systems are shut down to conserve energy and nutrients. What a rush!... After the danger is gone it will take about 20-60 minutes for the body to return to pre-arousal conditions. The feeling will pass in a short time.
Lets take a closer look at the NON VITAL SYSTEMS in the fight/flight response. What exactly gets put on the back burner when your sympathetic nervous system is triggered?
The body will temporarily suspend certain taxing functions in an effort to redirect that energy towards survival. Is there a huge physiological expense to digest food? If you are under threat you my not need that meal to process so the body will inhibit digestion.
By constricting the capillaries the body has safeguarded against initial traumas that may cause bleeding out by pulling the blood to the core systems. Another expensive effort is thought and memory storage so the body will exsponge blood from the frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex as the lower brain primes to react for survival with the baser instincts as the blood is redirected towards the motor cortex.
This is just a few of the biological response to anxiety, fear and stress but already we can see the stage setting for problems with chronic conditioning.
Are problems with digestion rampant today? Acid reflux, constipation, ulcers, IBS and inflammation for a short list. Could this be caused by chronic inhibition of the digestive tract?
A small hit of cortisol can help the immune system stave off inflammation but chronic cortisol from stress can impair the development of white blood cells leaving you more prone to viral and bacterial infections.
Circulatory issues like hypertension, headaches, dizziness and fatigue are common. Chronic mental and physical stress is a major influence here as cortisol and epinephrine raise your blood pressure.
The blood reducing in the frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex, which is the center of rational thought, makes it hard to focus, learn new things, store new memories and impairing social development.
Why do we have so much stress in our lives? Do we have any natural predators to trigger our hormones? Not really, unless you count other humans. We still have daily stress like taking a test, giving a speech, meeting new people, starting a new job, meeting a growling dog or threat of discipline at work to name a few.
That fight or flight response is very primal and still ingrained into our natural survival instinct but, it has adapted to the new stresses. Stress at work and/or home, anxiety or fear of change, worry about future events now cause a lot of panic attacks and hyperactive adrenal response.
With the stigma that critical thought is an attack on authority or an emotional outburst is unacceptable and could threaten your employment or social status we literally choke it back compounding the stress. Forcing our bodies defense mechanisms to reprogram.
These new stress factors have now become our predators causing our fight or flight instinct to react to the chemical cocktail we have reprogrammed into our system as we sit motionless. We have introduced a third component to the instinct. Fight/flight or freeze. Maybe we should look deeper at our environment and coping mechanisms.
This new third component goes against every grain of the survival instinct and we have a huge problem coping with the sensations, emotions and feelings. Which is why we end up over stressed, anxious, depressed, chronically ill, confused and injured. Sick, medicated, numbed and out of balance we are unprepared and uneducated on how to cope.
This is about survival and health. These hormones are there to protect us from threats so let see if the threats are real or perceived?
Remember, If you get triggered the results only last about 20-60 minutes but lets try to defuse that bomb before it is a problem.
Here is a game I played that helped me before a stressful situation or just as I felt the stress grow.
"What's in the box?" Look inside the room or your immediate area and inventory everything. The paint on the walls, the pattern of the carpet, the atmosphere, the temperature, the people, what are they doing, what are you doing? Ask yourself is there any rational threat to your life? Why is this true?
"What is outside the box?" inventory that. What time of day is it, what is the weather, what is traffic like, what are the animals doing, where are your friends and loved ones? Ask yourself is there any rational threat to your life? Why is this true?
Now realize there is no reason for a hormonal response to protect because there is no real rational threat? Take a deep slow breath through your nose with your mouth closed and exhale out of your nose repeatedly as you relax and enjoy the peace.
This process is simplified but this is the jist of it and remember this is a training process that takes time. Learning your triggers and timing the process takes time and effort. Give the body process time to learn. It may not seem to work at first but with time and practice the mind and body will learn.
Please feel free to interact or ask questions?