Fighting Anxiety by Not Fighting It
Updated: Nov 13, 2022
An anxious brain is healthy and a very protective brain because you might have experienced hurt or some sort of trauma in the past and it hits the panic button "just in case". Anxiety happens when a part of the brain, the amygdala, senses trouble. When it senses threat, real or imagined, it surges the body with hormones (including cortisol, the stress hormone) and adrenaline for your heart to start pumping faster, delivering blood quicker to all parts of our body, we feel flushed as our breathing rate increases. Our body tenses up as we hold our breaths in case we get caught or in case people know that we are defective (we believe so), or when we don't want a certain to happen. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that encodes threatening events into memories. Studies have shown that the hippocampus appears to be smaller in some people who were victims of child abuse or who served in military combat or any kinds of trauma we all experience at certain points in our lives. And because we no longer live in the caveman or cavewoman era, and we are no longer chased by lions and hyenas, examples of modern dangers or threats are loss of social connection or important relationships, unfamiliar situations or situations that expose you to vulnerability, being caught unprepared and asked to do something you have no idea how, or risking your job security, and etc. Here are the things you can do to help regulate your sense of safety when you are anxious: 1. Don't force the anxious feelings to go away, you'll only make yourself feel worse. Why? Because when you do that, you are telling the brain not to protect you when it believes that you are in danger. It wouldn't make sense and you'll feel even more anxious and helpless. Being anxious is not the problem. The problem is, you feeling unsafe. 2. Verbalise "I am safe now" slowly and start noticing your breaths. You'll notice your tensed muscles start to relax as your nervous calms down. Breathe slowly. 3. Give your anxious brain a break by hitting that pause button and meditate. Meditating doesn't require you to sit down and force yourself to not think of any thoughts. Meditation doesn't work this way! For one, it is impossible to not have any thoughts, we even have thoughts when we are sleeping! We can meditate when we are walking to somewhere or when we are waiting for our food to arrive or when we are waiting in a queue. Meditating is about detaching ourselves from our thoughts, being not reactive to them. Set a timer on your phone, and start with 1 min, then 2 minutes, then 3 minutes, and watch how you feel more in control of your anxiety. I hope these tips help! Here is my Spotify Podcast for this topic.