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What is Anxiety?

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What is Anxiety?

  • A physical reaction
  • A normal bodily function
  • The reaction is the same for fear, anger, excitement

For example, think about how you feel on Christmas Eve or just before a big holiday. You will find that the physical feelings are similar.

So, what is going on inside us when we are having an anxiety reaction?

The Brain receives information that there is some kind of threat

The brain then orders the release of chemicals into the blood stream

The chemicals prepare the body to deal with the threat

Let’s learn a little more about why this happens…

In the very early days of man, we had to live much more on our instincts. More like an animal does. We had to be ready to react quickly! We had to hunt and kill our food and protect ourselves from predators.

Think about a dog, he may be sitting asleep and someone knocks the door. Within a second, the dog is at the door, barking. He has reacted to a possible threat.

We call this reaction FIGHT, FLIGHT OR FREEZE. Why? Because we either have to fight the threat, run from it or freeze and be quiet and still.

It’s pretty amazing really and one of the reasons that humans have been so successful as a species. We have used this reaction to develop sophisticated strategies to fight many threats. Our brains have grown and developed immensely but what we sometimes forget is that we are still living organisms, we are animals and our bodies are connected to our brains!!

So, let’s re connect with our bodies a little bit so that we can understand just what is going on.

Take a deep breath and relax your shoulders as you breath out.

Take your mind back to the last time you felt anxious or panicky

I want you to concentrate on how it felt in your body.

Where do you feel it?

To help you out, let’s explain a little bit about the amazing work your body is doing whilst you’re reacting to a threat.

The brain releases a chemical into the blood stream called Cortisol. This is sometimes called the stress hormone. It is also the same hormone we release when we first wake to get our bodies moving after a night’s sleep.

So, the Cortisol has a job to do – it prepares the body for action.

  • It pumps blood to the muscles of the arms and legs ready to run or fight
  • It increases breathing rate, making us action-ready
  • It pumps blood to the head to heighten our hearing, vision, etc.
  • It pulls blood and energy from unnecessary areas such as fingers and toes and the digestive system

The body remains in this state for a short time until the threat has been dealt with

The Cortisol is diluted in the blood stream as the body returns to normal function

After effects of an anxiety reaction can include tiredness and crying – also natural reactions.

What an amazing system!

So, I asked you earlier to think about where in your body you feel your anxiety. Let’s look at some of the physical sensations we feel and I’m pretty sure you will identify with at least a couple of them.

  • Blood being pumped to muscles may cause you to feel tense, clench fists, waggle your legs
  • Increased breathing rate might make you feel like you can’t breathe properly, which in turn can make you feel more panicky. Some people think they are having a heart attack

*** just to point out you cannot die from a panic or anxiety attack. As your breathing rate increases if you do not manage to resume normal breathing, your body will do it for you! You will faint and your breathing will return to normal

  • As blood is pumped around the body, you may feel a pounding in your head, headache or blurry vision
  • As blood is not being pumped to non-essential parts of the body, you may experience pins and needles in hands and feet and butterflies in your tummy

Now, take a few moments to think about where and how you feel your anxiety reactions

Well done! You now know what anxiety is! In the next section, we’re going to learn some strategies to help with symptoms.