We have all at some point experienced situations we believe we are unable to deal with because we feel they are beyond our realm of coping mechanism. They can leave us feeling vulnerable or afraid and when our self-confidence is low we doubt ourselves and/or believe we are not good enough. We fear we don’t have the resources needed, so our innate ability to deal with life’s challenges diminishes, fear kicks in and anxiety takes hold.
Anxiety is our natural internal alarm system to warn us of danger
Unfortunately the brain is unable to differentiate between real or imagined danger and physical or emotional threat. The reactions are the same regardless of whether you have imagined the danger or are in a real threat situation.
Anxiety develops as a result of the discrepancy between the reality of a situation and your belief to cope. The original trigger or underlying cause is often rooted in the past, in an event or incident that happened in childhood, when you didn’t have the capability or knowledge to deal with it. A child doesn’t have the same resources and experiences as an adult and yet he/she will feel they should know how to cope and are left traumatised by their freeze response. The trauma or incident leaves its imprint and kicks off anxiety as a natural defence strategy, sometimes immediately and other times it surfaces later in life.
I once worked with a lady who became highly anxious whenever there was a thunderstorm. She hid in cupboards or under blankets; she refused to go out for fear the house would be struck by lightning.
- Reality – the thunderstorm
- Belief – it will destroy her house
We found out that she was a young child living in London during WW2 when V1-buzz bombs were dropped demolishing half her neighbourhood and her family took shelter in the cupboard under the stairs. The lightning and sound of thunder triggered the memory of the bombing raids.
Let’s dissect anxiety into bite-size sections and explore its impact:
You find yourself in a new situation or one you may have experienced before but for some reason this time your confidence is a little low.
You believe you’re not able to deal with the situation, that you’re not good enough and will get it wrong; that you won’t be able to cope or can’t control it; that you don’t deserve it and will be found out.
These thoughts and beliefs are rooted in self-doubt and the belief that you’re not good enough.
Stress – Fear
Stress levels increase, you fear or doubt your ability to deal with the situation and that you will collapse or embarrass yourself in front of others; you fear you’ll go into a full blown panic attack, or that you’re suffering from a serious illness and will pass out or die.
Your muscles tense, your stomach tightens, your breath quickens, hands become clammy and shaky, you begin to feel light-headed and/or nauseous, and develop an internal vibration throughout your body that can escalate to visible shaking.
When your torso muscles tense and your belly tightens, not only does your stomach become squashed creating the feeling of nausea, your lung capacity reduces. The breaths become shallower creating a need to take more frequent breaths to get the same level of oxygen into your blood stream. This increases your heart rate and can make you feel lightheaded as you’re pumping oxygen in short bursts.
You feel tearful and/or angry; you fear the internal battle to stay calm and keep the anxiety at bay, a battle you dread and feel you can’t win; you want to hide or hibernate.
Damage – Danger – Loss
The cocktail of physical and emotional symptoms, combined with the stress and fear that something terrible will happen, triggers thoughts of imminent disaster, danger or loss.
Anxiety explodes, sometimes triggering a panic attack. You fear the anxiety and panic, believing that something awful will happen – lose control, pass out or even die.
You start to create distractions to avoid dealing with the symptoms; you keep yourself busy and may gradually develop obsessive-compulsive behaviours as a way of avoiding the internal emotional turmoil you feel.
What triggers your anxiety?
Do you wake up in the morning and feel anxious before you even get out of bed? Do a meditation for 10-15 minutes before you get out of bed. There are plenty available on YouTube, find one that suits you. You can use 1 minute meditations in short bursts throughout the day, even if you’re at work. Go and sit on the toilet and take 1 minute to come back to yourself, connect with your body and remind yourself that all is well.
What is the root cause of your anxiety?
Have you explored the root cause of your anxiety? Do you remember when or how it started? Were you in an abusive childhood home or bullied at school? Or have you experienced some trauma that left you with anxiety?
You may become so used to it and comfortable with the routines you put in place to cope or avoid anxiety that you start to identity with it even though you hate how you feel.
Who would you be if you didn’t experience anxiety?
What would you do if you were free to live without anxiety?
If you’ve been affected by what you’ve read and would like help, contact Carla Devereux on 0121 745 9044 to book an appointment.