Anxiety shows up in the strangest ways. It can creep in like a shadow sneaking up behind you, or it can hit you like a lightning bolt with an electrical charge of energy. It can disguise itself as high performance, surging you into action like a “fight” response, or it can paralyze you in a “freeze” response, or it can polarize you in a “flight” response and make you run the other way to avoid people, places or things.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that 31% of adults experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Rates are higher for females and even higher in adolescents and millions go undiagnosed too, so actual rates are probably much higher across the board.
It’s natural to have some anxiety from time to time. It’s a built in response that lies deep within our brain to help us scan our environment for things that are threatening or dangerous. But many of us experience anxiety at levels that impede functioning or interfere with our ability to thrive at work or at home.
Our body responds to the anxiety alarm bell with cortisol and norepinephrine which increases our heart rate, pumps blood to our muscles and moves more air in our lungs. It generally kicks us into high gear to move us into survival mode.
The problem is, anxiety doesn’t discriminate between a mild stressor and a saber tooth tiger. When the anxiety alarm goes off inside ourselves, it’s full steam ahead. Many clients I work with have had one significant stressor set off a very large anxiety response, then they don’t come all the way back down to baseline before the next alarm goes off, and so on and so on until they find themselves living in what we call a “hypervigilant” state.
They find they have a hefty dose of anxiety pumping through their systems on a regular basis and it doesn’t take as much to move them from a simmer to a full boil. What I tell clients is – we want to move that all the way back down to a cold pot.
How do we do this?
By building a practice of restoration and relaxation. Short, simple breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness practices and yoga classes can be therapeutically beneficial.
By reaching out to friends, family and supportive people.
By increasing our attention to self-care, particularly our sleep, nutrition and exercise.
By keeping a thought journal and evaluating which thoughts might be based in cognitive distortions.
By reaching out to a professional therapist or psychiatrist who can help you build coping strategies and process through how your anxiety shows up and what you can do about it or assess whether or not a medication might be right for you and your symptoms.
There are lots of ways we can tackle our anxiety. And the sooner you get help, the better you’ll feel. We want to be sure to stop anxiety from growing and the best way to do that is to seek support!
For more helpful tips on moving from surviving to thriving, click here to check out my youtube video.