Take a moment to ask yourself this questions:
-avoid going to the supermarket in case you see certain people?
-avoid applying for your dream job in case you don’t get it?
-not sleep well because your mind is full of worrying thoughts?
-drink more than you would like each night to recover from the day?
-have an upset tummy or aching muscles?
If you answered yes to any of these, you may have Anxiety.
It can be hard to know if you have anxiety, especially if you have lived with it your whole life. You may have come from an anxious family and thus it was modeled to you. Maybe you developed it slowly over time or maybe you are not sure what you are experiencing.
Anxiety is a natural response to life
We all experience anxiety at some point as anxiety is a natural response to life’s stressors. When we are changing jobs, moving, have financial or relationship troubles we may experience anxiety. The only issue is when anxiety becomes extreme, when it becomes larger than the events that trigger it and it starts to interfere with your life. When we experience chronic stress and anxiety it can wreak havoc on us mentally, emotionally and physically.
The difference between anxiety and stress
Anxiety and stress are often confused for each other as they both work on the same “fight, flight or freeze” system in the body and mind. They also share very similar physical sensations. The key difference is the cause of anxiety and stress. Stress is caused by external pressures that we are having a hard time coping with. When we are stressed, we usually know what we are stressed about such as a busy schedule, pressure at work, or a disagreement in a relationship and when the stressful situation is over the symptoms of stress usually disappear.
Anxiety is designed to keep us safe
Anxiety can be harder to identify then stress. Anxiety is focused on fears or worries about the things that could potentially threaten us. You can also develop anxiety about anxiety itself. It’s believed that anxiety was developed in humans to warn us that there may be some sort of danger present, such as a wild animal. When we are fearful it can sharpen our senses and activate our thinking, due to the fight or flight response to help us deal with whatever the threat may be, that is, running away or fighting off the wild animal.
Anxiety is an alarm system
In the past people who had a strong anxiety and fear response would be better able to survive and reproduce during our hunter-gather times. The issue is today we are not under the same threat as we were in the past, but our alarm system still responds as if we are. Our alarm system still automatically and pre-consciously shifts our attention to possible threats, when there is no real threat. It’s like the smoke alarm in your house, it goes off whether you have burnt the toast, or the house is on fire. It doesn’t know the difference.
How to recognize Anxiety
Anxiety is made up of three parts: thoughts, physical sensations, and actions
Our thoughts are very powerful, and anxious thoughts can come in many different ways. You may have thoughts of of being judged by others, failing in school, and other different fears and worries about other areas of your life. If not managed properly, these thoughts can then trigger anxiety.
2. Bodily sensations
Anxiety shows up in the body. You may feel your heart start to go faster, notice a shortness of breath, you may start to sweat and feel hot, you may start to shake, and your stomach may start to hurt. These signs are your body getting ready to take action with either fight, flight or freeze.
When we feel anxious and thus threatened it activates the fight, flight or freeze response in the body. This system in the body prepares us to take action to protect ourselves.
• Fight: When we feel we are being threatened we may use the fight response to push back. We may confront the person or act aggressively.
• Flight: When we get taken over by the flight response, we may feel the urge to escape or run. We may leave the party if we feel embarrassed.
• Freeze: This is the last resort response to a threatening situation and sometimes it is the safest. We may be unable to move or act against a threat. If you were robbed at gun point you would not want to run or fight, freeze would be the best response.
Self-care can help with anxiety
When you have anxiety your thoughts, bodily responses and actions are hijacked by the Fight Flight Freeze system. When we are in the system for too long you can wreak havoc on your nervous system. This system puts a lot of stress on the body as it is constantly pushing adrenaline and cortisol through your body . It is important to notice when you are feeling anxious regularly and not ignore the warning signs. Daily Self Care can help you with anxiety, by bringing calming activities into your life. Things such as taking time to exercise, adequate sleep, meditation, deep breathing, talking to trusted friends, and doing things that bring your joy can all help relieve anxiety.