Are you tired of feeling weighed down by the relentless burden of anxiety? Does it seem like anxiety is constantly holding you back from enjoying life to the fullest? If you’re struggling with the impact of anxiety on your mental health, relationships, and daily functioning, you’re not alone. Anxiety can be overwhelming and debilitating, affecting millions of people worldwide. There are practical coping strategies that can help you overcome the challenges of anxiety and learn how to cope more effectively.
Why do we Experience Anxiety
Anxiety is a complex emotional and physiological response to perceived threats or stressors. It involves the activation of the body’s stress response system, which is designed to prepare the body to respond to potential dangers. When we are feeling anxious, our body has shifted from the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” or “feed and breed” system, to the sympathetic branch of the nervous system, also known as the “fight, flight, freeze or fawn” system. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for preparing the body to respond to perceived threats or stressors by initiating the stress response and is activated during times of stress, danger, or intense physical activity.
There are two pathways to the activation of our stress response one is through our prefrontal cortex (the logic centre of our brain that is located iin the forhead region over our eyes) and the other is activated through the amygdala/thalamus (although the amygdala is actually involved in both paths). The amygdala pathway is often referred to as the “low road” (see video below by Russ Harris) and when the brain detects a sensory message of danger via the thalamus, it automatically sends this information to the amygdala. The amygdala then shares the message and rapidly activates the other parts of our brain and our body to prepare itself to respond to a threat with a fight, flight or freeze response with the release of cortisol and adrenaline. If a person notices that they are feeling anxious for no apparent reason, this is a sign that the amygdala pathway has been activated.
The second pathway involves the prefrontal cortex, which is the thinking part of the brain. This pathway into the stress response, known as the “high road” is a response that is activated on a more conscious level through the evauation of information, either our thoughts or in our environment. This danger can be real, remembered or percieved. These thoughts from the prefrontal cortex then activate the stress response by sending a message to the amygdala about the danger that needs to be responded to.
Watch this video below by Russ Harris who explains more about these pathways into the experience of anxiety.
Signs of Anxiety
Anxiety is a common and normal human emotion that we all feel from time to time. However, when anxiety becomes chronic or overwhelming, it can significantly impact our daily lives and relationships. Anxiety can manifest in a variety of ways, and symptoms can vary from person to person. Here are some common signs of anxiety to watch out for:
Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
Sweating or trembling
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Fatigue or muscle tension
Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
Excessive worry or fear
Difficulty concentrating or focusing
Irritability or restlessness
Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
Negative self-talk or self-doubt
How to Cope More Effectively with Anxiety
Here are some practical strategies that can help you cope more effectively with anxiety:
1. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness involves being present and fully engaged in the current moment, rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety symptoms.
2. Exercise Regularly
Physical activity can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters, and can help reduce stress and tension in the body.
3. Connect with Supportive People
Talking to trusted friends or family members about your anxiety can help you feel less alone and more understood. Consider joining a support group or seeking therapy to receive professional support and guidance.
4. Practice Self-Care
Self-care activities such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in hobbies or activities you enjoy can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
5. Challenge Negative Thoughts
Negative self-talk and self-doubt can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Practice challenging these negative thoughts by focusing on evidence that supports positive beliefs about yourself and your abilities.
When to Seek Professional Help to Cope More Effectively With Anxiety
While these coping strategies can be helpful for managing anxiety, they may not be enough for everyone. If your anxiety is interfering with your daily life or you’re finding it difficult to manage on your own, consider seeking professional help. A therapist can provide additional support and guidance in managing anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety is a common experience, but it doesn’t have to control your life. By recognizing the signs of anxiety and taking steps to manage it, you can feel more in control and improve your overall well-being. Consider incorporating some of these coping strategies into your daily routine and don’t hesitate to seek professional support if you need it.
If you’re struggling with anxiety and would like support in developing coping strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Restore Renew Revive Counselling & Couples Therapy. I am here to help. Contact us at 902-702-7722 or visit our website at https://restorecounselling.ca to learn more.