Dealing with Anxiety
There was a time when we only used our fight or flight responses for real life and death situations, perhaps a ferocious tiger growling about to pounce or a natural disaster of some description.
Of course we still have those life or death threats in today’s world, but our current lifestyles have ensured we are exposed to a barrage of new threats on top of that…a car speeding towards you in the street, a house on fire, an armed person about to attack, a falling airplane…you name it we’ve got it! We are experiencing information overload and face a lot more exposure to the fight or flight response.
These dangers are just as real as any past dangers and they are the reason we have our fight or flight response, to kick our survival instinct into gear and get us to fight (confront the danger) or fly (run away from it) in order to save our species.
When ‘fight or flight’ goes wrong
Now what happens when we are so overloaded that it goes beyond the real dangers? When realistically there is no immediate life or death threat, but the fight or flight response kicks in anyway? All that adrenalin, increased pulse rate and oxygen levels, muscular tension in preparation for your chosen response…has nowhere to go and nothing immediate to be used on. When that happens, we can suffer with anxiety.
There are many symptoms that can be experienced while the body tries to deal with this misplaced response, such as:
- A ‘freezing up’ of the body creating muscular discomfort
- Psychological paralysis that makes you feel ‘stuck’ in place
- Sweaty palms
- Lack of sleep
There are a whole lot more symptoms that can be felt during this unpleasant experience that we call anxiety, but those were some of the common ones.
Too much physical overload in one go, and not burning off that natural reaction to a threat, can encourage physical and mental ailments and often result in a chronic state of anxiety.
Why do we get anxious?
This happens when our subconscious minds get a little mixed up about what’s dangerous or not. You could say the subconscious mind is responsible for storing the information we take in, so that we know what’s what, and know how to act. Many of us growing up were told lots of things were bad, or to constantly be careful and other various confusing messages. In some cases we may have suffered a specific form of trauma that made its mark on us and on how we see things.
That means we’ve grown up with a mental blueprint that is still telling us that certain things, like missing a bus, moving house, travelling, not looking a certain way, spending money (add your own anxiety inducing situation here) is very bad or stressful, and therefore when we come across any of these old situations that our subconscious mind has labelled ‘bad’ we now feel unnecessarily anxious an awful lot.
We can also suffer with anxiety whenever we feel any type of pressure from certain situations, say exams, deadlines, peer pressure or any other expectations. This is because we have a fear of failure. Failing, to our survival instinct, is another form of losing ourselves and not surviving, even though we know intellectually that how we feel about failure is a personal view and will not kill us. This again links back to how we were told to perceive failure when we were growing up.
How can we deal with anxiety?
There are various ways in which to tackle this, but the thing we need to do first and foremost, and this might seem strange; is to befriend ourselves again! We are so incredibly hard on ourselves and walk around telling ourselves and each other, to ‘snap out it’…no, no, NO! Your subconscious mind is just trying to do what it was programmed to do and is attempting to protect your life, no matter that it’s inconveniently ‘barking up the wrong tree’!
So begin by thanking it for trying to protect you, and tell it that it’s time to work together in a new and improved way (talking to yourself is no longer the first sign of madness, so I encourage you to babble away nicely to the reflection in your mirror).
For more permanent results, we need to reframe how we have been seeing things thus far. Hypnotherapy is very good for this; it bypasses the surface conscious state and gets right into the subconscious, the root of the mind, in order to unravel old ideas and introduce new, positive ones into our complex minds. New ways of perceiving things then begin to take hold and more preferable reactions to situations can be experienced; the results tend to happen quite subtly and automatically, as though it has been your natural behaviour all along.
Massage is another excellent way of dealing with anxiety. With a regular massage you are giving yourself a space to nurture your being as a whole, and you will be giving your over-processed and stressed mind a chance to be calm and collected.
Not only can massage aid in settling your emotions, but at the same time the physicality of it moves and circulates everything in your body, dispersing the anxious energy within you, also softening and warming the tensed and contracted muscles.
Regular meditation, self-hypnosis and deep breathing is very effective as a complement to therapies, because regardless of which form of therapy you choose or not, it’s important to help lower your levels of anxiety as often as possible, so that your mind gets more and more used to periods of calm and relaxation, and less and less used to feelings of anxiety.
That way we need only experience stress in a positive motivational way to get things done, and life-saving fight or flight mode only when it is really needed, the way our minds and bodies were originally designed to!
Ema Borges is a massage therapist and hypnotherapist based in Central London.
Website: Dynamic Calm