Anxiety happens when your personal situation overwhelms your body’s ability to cope with it and you have a body response to it. Do you ever find your back crawling with ants? Or get hot and sweaty or cold and frozen despite being in normal temperature? Do your legs become shaky and your mind goes blank? Do you feel like throwing up and you have an urge to empty your bladder or bowels? Do your eyes feel like they could pop out of their sockets and your hearing suddenly becomes supersonic. This is anxiety. Anxiety comes from the fight, flight or freeze syndrome when we are faced with danger, perceived or real where adrenaline rushing through our blood stream causes the reactions mentioned above.
Fight and flight serve a purpose, either facing the danger head on, or fleeing from it which helps you live another day. Freezing under dangerous conditions also serves a purpose, if you are a mouse. When a mouse is cornered by a cat, it will freeze, hoping the cat will think it is dead. When humans freeze it can mean they are trying to not be noticed or when they feel they have no hope of escaping the situation and are resigned to their fate. These are all survival skills, Charles Darwin’s survival of the fittest, body-made reactions to help you live long enough to reproduce and pass your genes on to another generation.
Even though it is unpleasant, anxiety is a primitive emotion and serves an evolutionary purpose. In the past, high levels of anxiety and stress came from lions, tigers, bears and woolly mammoths roaming the earth. The grizzly bear in the room can now be a school/university assignment, the thought of housework, gardening, maintenance around the house, or even going to the shops.
While high levels of anxiety are crippling, small doses are motivating for us. It allows us to formulate plans of action. Without which we might never get started on a project. The problem starts when we are fully activated without the capacity to come back down again. We are all revved up but nowhere to go. Prolonged stress and anxiety can lead to long-term debilitating mental and physical afflictions.
Being pro-active in your life can help reduce anxiety. Taking your power back, learning and having mastery over your situation can give a sense of control. Also owning your stuff, taking responsibility for your anxiety, without blaming someone else or the situation can help you process your feelings. Whatever your situation is, divide it into manageable pieces over a realistic time frame and note your gut body sensations and feelings throughout. Going into that body/mind connection and listening to our anxiety with curiosity can quell the feelings somewhat. This gives us an understanding of how our body works under stress. You are now actively facing the tiger in the room and staring it down.
When shopping or cleaning the bathroom feels like running away from a grizzly bear, perhaps it’s time to engage with our “personal demons”, such as job stress, financial stress or relationship stress. Naming the emotions associated with our stress/anxiety levels helps to tame the tiger. Try doing a self-guided visualisation tour in your head of what you are about to do before attempting to do it can reduce anxiety. Visualise yourself getting ready, getting dressed, cleaning your teeth, walking out the door, getting in the car and reaching the shops. Do some slow deep breathing which acts on the nervous system by slowing it down and reducing the anxiety level. Progressive muscle relaxation can also assist in reducing anxiety. Becoming in-tune with your body, learning the early warning signs of increased anxiety. This can help you work into those frozen areas to release all that blocked negative energy.
Anxiety is not a life sentence. Small anxiety levels are motivating. Going into the anxiety helps you understand how your body works. There are ways to help you survive and push through the anxiety. Learning mastery over anxiety gives you power and control back in your life. And who doesn’t want that?