Anxiety is like a giant, hungry baby, crying for attention. It can be loud, hard to ignore, and evokes strong feelings and emotions that can overwhelm. It can cause your internal temperature to spike instantly turning your face red like an apple. It can raise your heart rate in a “fight or flight” response. It also acts like a trickster that sneaks up on you and says “BOO!” making you feel like you want to jump out of your skin when it strikes. And when it has had its way, you are left feeling drained and exhausted. Over time, if the source of the anxiety is not addressed and resolved, it will continue to trigger internal responses and be easy to provoke. Have you ever experienced any of these reactions? If so, you are not alone.
Some anxiety may be the result of a chemical imbalance and may require medical support. This article is not intended to treat or diagnose anxiety. It is, however, intended to arm you with knowledge and help you identify common triggers. By understanding the ‘why’ and ‘how’, you can begin to get ahead of the experience and prevent future events.
Where does anxiety come from, and what is it trying to tell us? Is anxiety from external or internal sources or pressures, or both? Is anxiety your enemy, or could it be a helper?
The short answer is that our bodies are hard-wired with a complex internal communication system that activates a cascade of events intended to save our lives. Back before humans had a means of protection from wild animals, their primary response to threat was to run, or stay and fight. The body produces all the hormones needed to do both. Thus the name “fight or flight”. The process begins in your brain, then moves to your spinal cord and is controlled by your nervous system.
What are the threats today, and how are we responding to them?
This is very tricky, because we rarely have wild animals chasing us, so the threats are diminished. Nevertheless, those threats, while nominal, can stack up. You might say that a diminished fight or flight response is also referred to as ‘stress’. Our society has become very complex with what seems like a large number of systems that we are required to navigate in our day-to-day lives. Add to this the extensive programs we participate in (government, work, health, family activities) and choices we make out of necessity (shelter, work, food, clothes.) And if these systems fail us, or we fail within them, our lives or well-being can feel threatened. If you are the sole provider for your family, the pressures can really add up, increasing the fight or flight response (AKA – stress.) Financial instability is another large threat as it can result in the loss of shelter and food, two of the most basic needs. Isn’t it amazing that we have such sophisticated networks whereby we can survive and flourish, and yet, we can feel disconnected and alone without help? It’s time to evaluate a few of the common triggers you can control, and use the internal tools that support your survival to your benefit.
How are you managing day-to-day pressures that may be causing your anxiety?
Identifying them is the first step. Then, relieving the stress to your body caused by anxiety is the next best action. Finding healthy ways to support your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health are critical to moving you out of anxiety and channeling your energy positively, for positive change.
The easy choices…not the best ones though
To offset the pressures of daily life, entertainment from TV shows and movies are a quick fix to make you feel good. Plus mobile devices offer a never-ending stream of information like social media, search, chat, and news from every location on earth. It’s so easy to get lost in other people’s lives that we forget to live our own lives and develop our best selves. Do you remain tethered to your phone, always listening to the drama of other people’s lives? Have you ever asked yourself what impact these influences have on your mental well being?
When you hear sad stories, and see violence depicted in the news or shows, upsetting information, how does that feel in your body, and what do you do with those feelings? Do you suppress your feelings? Do you process the information? Whether real or fabricated events evoke emotions and physical reactions, notice and evaluate. Make sure you balance the “inputs” and you are not allowing yourself to feel overwhelmed with information that you have no control over or cannot influence. When you feel like information is too much, perhaps it is and your body is telling you “stop”. Listen to your body, it’s trying to tell you what you need, or don’t need.
Our bodies and feelings are the indicators of what’s working or not. In this way, anxiety is a friend, not a foe.
Ignoring your feelings and discomfort is like abandoning the wisdom from a sage and throwing caution to the wind. Your body is trying to warn you of a conflict. Without resolve, there is a consequence. Be willing to weigh your choices and evaluate how they impact your life, and the life of those you influence. Conflict unresolved can take a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual toll. Don’t ignore the warning signs.
As a young child, I remember a saying in the classroom at school – garbage in, garbage out. What we put in our beings has a direct impact on how we feel. We can truly only control ourselves, so making sure we are feeding our brain, heart, mind and your body good stuff is pretty important. Mind, mood and body altering options like sugar, caffeine, alcohol and drugs offer temporary relief, and they may exacerbate anxiety and never get to the root cause. If we are numbing our senses, or altering our natural chemistry, we will be less attuned to our bodies natural warning system and what it’s trying to communicate.
The Better Choices
Anxiety is a tool to inform you of something that needs attention in your life, or course correction
Perhaps it’s time to slow down and evaluate:
1. Are you running from anxiety and sabotaging your natural warning system by ignoring the messages?
2. What are your natural reactions when you experience anxiety? Is that helping the problem, or just masking the problem through avoidance?
3. What are your top priorities?
4. What are the steps you can take to change your course of action for the better?
Being honest with yourself and making adjustments that will reduce anxiety in your life is an enormous gift to give yourself and those you love.
Here are a few tools that reduce the effects of anxiety and stress:
- Write down your goals, hopes and aspirations. Keep them accessible so you can remind yourself to stay focused on what truly matters.
- Determine if your needs are getting met. Psychology defines basic needs as:
a. Physiological needs – Food, water, warmth and rest
b. Society needs – Safety and security
c. Belonging and love needs – Intimate relationships and friends
d. Self esteem – Prestige and feelings of accomplishment
e. Self-actualization – Achieving one’s full potential including creative activities
- Physical exercise is a great way to relieve all kinds of stress. Did you know your body has a natural way to feel great? While people use opiates (drugs) to improve their overall feelings of wellness, when we engage in physical activities, our natural endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine. Yoga, walking, running, biking, swimming, working out, lifting weights, dance, whatever it is, find a workout that is right for you. It will boost endorphins which will help you feel more positive, calm and relaxed.
- Positive affirmations of your worth – In this society our worth is often defined by how much we make and our possessions, which is a false sense of security as financial markets collapse. We must recognize our own worth and gifts to the world. Loving and accepting yourself, whatever your circumstances is key. Try these on for size:
‘I am ok, I am enough’ – This speaks to our feeling of not keeping up with the expectations of society, our lack of value for ourselves, or not measuring up to what’s expected of us. Another good one is – ‘Whatever happens, I’ll deal with it’. You can’t avoid uncertainty but you must have confidence in your ability to handle it. It’s important to acknowledge anxious thoughts, rationalize as much as you can and then dismiss them. Suppression is never the answer and can lead to other, destructive coping mechanisms. Every human is perfectly imperfect, and imperfectly perfect.
What have you found that has worked for you? We would love to hear how you deal with anxiety in your life. If you are struggling, we are glad to lend an ear.
While you may feel alone, just remember, you are not alone. We are here to help. There will be times when you just need to talk to another woman too. An Adult! We know about that and we’ve been there.
Our local office in Downtown Vancouver is located at 214 E 17th St, Vancouver, WA 98663. Our Main Office number is (360) 694-8156 or you can call anytime After Hours at (800) 550-4900. We want to be a positive support to you in any way we can. Please always know, you are not alone!