Anxiety is a general term that is used to describe feelings of nervousness, fear, dread, apprehension and worry. Although, from a life coaching perspective the feeling of being anxious does not feel positive, it is in fact just the brain looking out for your best interests by reacting to a perceived threat or danger from the outside world. Anxiety is a powerful way for your brain to keep you alert so you can get out of a dangerous situation.
Contributing Factors of Anxiety
Since our environment is generally safe these days, why then do some people suffer with the ongoing anxiety issues? Answers to this question are varied and fairly unique to the individual. Studies have found genetic links that may predispose higher anxiety issues in some individuals. However, the results are fairly inconclusive. Diet and stress often play a key role in feeling anxious as both have the ability to elevate stress hormones, complicate blood-sugar levels and alter cognitive function. Learned behaviour from parent to child is a highly destructive attribute that can get passed on as children are highly influenced by their parents overall behaviour. Trauma, whether it is diagnosed or not can create many unconscious triggers that will fire off and increase stress levels.
The average person has a lifetime of coping mechanisms built into their brain and nervous system, which ensures that the person stays as safe as possible. These coping mechanisms run behind the scenes and only make their presence known when they detect signs of danger. They will do this by alerting your senses toward the threat, which in turn will place more focused attention on the outside world around you. This attention will then change the your thought patterns so your thoughts start asking questions to further hone in on any potential danger. Common thoughts may include: “What if I am in danger?”, “Should I remove myself from this situation?”, “Did I notice something unusual over there?” etc. The more the person perceives that there is an immanent threat, the more their unconscious processing will gear their body to fight, flight or freeze by elevating heart rate, sweating, tunnel vision, poor cognitive function, release of stress hormones and hyper-vigilance.
A person suffering with anxiety will have a hyper-sensitive nervous system from years of over-use that will dump stress hormones into the blood stream with very little provocation. Its like a nervous person holding a loading gun. Almost anything will make that person “trigger happy.”
What Can Be Done?
The first thing to do is correctly evaluate the situation. Look at the people around you. Notice their body language. Are they exhibiting signs of stress and/or fear? If there is no visible indication of danger, then immediately recognise that you are merely reacting to your own limited and unconscious behaviour patterns. If there is no one around you, then stay vigilant, but remain calm and do as mentioned below.
Since your adrenalin and cortisol will be moving through your blood stream, you can expect to feel uneasy. This is its purpose. Your job now is to remain calm and breathe deep & controlled.
If you are in an unsafe area, by yourself, around unsavoury characters or in the middle of the night, then get to safety. This will not be a time to ignore your intuition. If however, this is not the case, then answer the problematic questions that are racing through your mind with something like this. Example 1: My heart is pounding and I’m scared… Answer: I have correctly assessed the situation and there is no threat. Your heart is a powerful muscle and it can handle this situation just like its done so in the past. Its alright to be scared, but there is no threat in the immediate vicinity. Example 2: I’m dying!… Answer: No you are not. The body’s hormones are creating a surge in adrenalin and cortisol, which is causing havoc on your mind and body. You will get through this! Example 3: I don’t know what to do!… Answer: Remain calm. Breathe deep and calm. Sit down if you need to. Although this feels like its never going to end, trust me, it will!… It always does!
This Is Just Your Imagination
You might be thinking that you left your imagination in school, but let me assure you that when your anxiety is peaking, its your imagination that has gone wild. Watch the story that plays out in your mind… and now look around you and see if that story is playing out in front of you. The more you convince yourself that the story in your mind is real, the more your body will think its real. Once the body thinks its real, it will do its best to ensure your safety. Remember, if there is no immediate threat around you, then your mind is making it all up!… and your are the director of this crazy story.
Our imagination is incredibly powerful and has always been with us, only now most of us use it to help us worry about life and create stressful stories.
The more you practice controlling your thoughts, the stronger you will get and the less such things will impact your life. This may take time and practice, but I can assure you, you have been practising your old negative behaviour’s for a long time, so now its just about changing your practice strategies.
Thanks for reading,
Donovan – Life Coach