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What is anxiety and how can I ease it?

What is anxiety? 

Emotions play an important role in life. Everyone has emotions they help us work out how to respond or behave in life situations. But sometimes emotions can get so big and overwhelming they are hard to handle. 

Anxiety is an emotion, a normal and helpful emotion which is there to keep us safe and warn us of danger. It could be a much-needed warning sign that you need to make changes in your life. It can help you focus when sitting an exam or help you cross a road safely. It only becomes a problem when it starts to interfere with daily life and you avoid situations that would be considered normal. 

By learning how our brains work we can begin to understand our emotions, which may help us learn ways to calm down the big emotions and show them in a more helpful way to respond in the future. 

Anxiety disorders are very common. Around 1 in 8 children and young people have experienced an anxiety disorder and it affects nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. Researchers have found that people who suffer with anxiety can be better at dealing with real threats as your brain learns to processes much quicker. 

Its different for everybody but some common signs and symptoms are:-

  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge.

  • Being easily fatigued.

  • Having difficulty concentrating.

  • Being irritable.

  • Having headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains.

  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry.

  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.

  • recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.

  • Excessive yawning. During anxiety attacks, hyperventilation is a common response leading your body to feel it isn't getting enough oxygen. ...

  • Phantom smell. ...

  • Brain shivers or zaps. ...

  • ‍Phantom vibrations. ...

  • Tremors. ...

  • Eye problems.

Anxiety in the brain?

Our brains have evolved to help keep us safe from danger. But our brain can’t always tell the difference between danger and stress. When your brain is really stressed it may think you are in danger and respond by trying to keep you safe. This response is the flight fight and freeze response. 

The 3 parts of your brain involved in the fight, flight and freeze. 

Brain stem or survival brain – this part of your brain is responsible for your body, like your breath, your heart rate, movement and exercise, sleep. Basically, the stuff that helps you stay alive. 

The limbic system or your emotional brain – this is responsible for your emotions.   

The frontal lobe (smart brain) this part is responsible for higher functioning thinking, stuff like reading writing, communicating, and solving problems. 

When you’re in danger your brain triggers the fight flight and freeze response. It does this by sending extra energy to your survival brain, emotional brain, and body so you can be faster or stronger to fight or run from the danger. 

However, this extra energy must come from somewhere, so to do this your smart brain goes temporarily offline. Once your safe and have calmed down your brain returns to normal. 

The problem is sometimes our brain can’t tell the difference between danger and really big emotions, so while the smart brain turning off in some situations can be really helpful if you came across a bear or an angry dog acting without thinking would be really useful. It wouldn’t be so helpful in times of big emotions when we need to be able to think, maybe if had a test or if a presentation to do. A big part of managing our emotions is figuring out when our smart brain is going to switch off and figuring out how to keep it switched on. 

Our body can’t stay at this level for long periods of time, and it can be exhausting, hard to cope with and overwhelming. 

Learning how to calm your body which in turn will calm your survival brain is great place to start easing your anxiety. You can do physical things such as breathing exercises, going for a run or going for a shower. Meditations, mindfulness, colouring in, or mind games and distraction techniques this helps keep your smart brain switched on, talking to someone you trust can be beneficial or even journaling. 

This takes practice and time. 

As with most mental health issues you can find a huge amount of information online and websites dedicated to them, this is a brief overview of anxiety, what’s happening in your brain and a few tips to help calm it. Please feel free to get in touch if you would like information on how counselling can help with anxiety or would like to discuss how we could work together. You can get in touch via email, telephone or text.  

Anxiety: Welcome
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