Anxiety

3 things about anxiety

I’ve been running workshops on anxiety for a while, but have recently started them up again face to face since covid. I aim to shed light on anxiety – I really believe that knowledge is power on this front, if you understand what’s going on when you feel anxious, you don’t need to be anxious about that at least, it strips away of anxiety. Here are just 3 of the nuggets the participants have found particularly helpful to know recently.

 

Cortisol is up to 50% higher in the morning.

Cortisol is often known as the stress hormone, but it’s what your body fires off to wake you up as well. So, you naturally have more of it in the morning, which can mean you have a heightened sense of anxiety sensations when you first wake up, which dissipates during the day. You’re not broken, that’s natural.

 

The stress responses

Most people know that fight and flight are stress responses, but not many people know that freeze, fall asleep, fool around and fawn are also recognized stress responses.

Fight – physical, verbal and emotional aggression – towards others or self.

Flight – distancing from that problem – sometimes emotionally rather than physically by using distraction techniques.

Freeze – bunny in the headlights, not knowing what to do, taking no action or procrastinating

Fall Asleep – either actually falling asleep or being chronically exhausted

Fool around – “Naughty” kids that mess around are often exhibiting this response, playing the joker.

Fawn – people pleasing, particularly prevalent in women (fighting or fleeing from a man is physically not always possible) so making others happy in order to keep yourself safe.

We all do most of these things now and again, and in response to an actual threat they can be appropriate. They become a problem when used unconsciously.

 

Neuroplasticity

When you learn, think or do something different to the norm, a new pathway is created in your brain, and in a small way your brain actually changes shape a wee bit. Each time that new thing is repeated, that pathway gets a little stronger. Pathways that have been used many times are really strong. Consider the first time you do something as picking your way through a dense forest, compared with the ease of gliding down the motorway when it’s something you’ve done a lot.

This works for and against us. In our favour, it means we can eventually, with hard work and determination create new pathways. Making it hard for us, we all have a motorway network that get us to places we no longer want to go. We really have to create space for ourselves to choose the mentally more difficult option and reward ourselves each time we do, whilst acknowledging and accepting that we’ll find ourselves on that slip road headed onto the motorway now and again!

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