Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders that can significantly affect a person’s life and happiness. In this article, learn about anxiety and what happens in the body, plus get some top tips on how to keep calm.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is the body’s natural physiological reaction to stress that causes us to feel fearful or nervous. It is a normal emotion that most of us feel in situations such as going for a job interview, giving a speech, or taking an exam. While anxiety is an unpleasant feeling, it is sometimes helpful as it spurs us on to do our best or change a situation we aren’t comfortable with.
But for some people, these feelings of anxiety persist long after the initial trigger and are so extreme, that they cause interference with everyday life and prevent them from carrying out their normal activities. This level of anxiety is recognised as a category of medical disorders, known as anxiety disorders. These are the most common forms of emotional disorders and can affect anyone.
Uncontrollable worrying or negative thoughts
Difficulty falling asleep
What happens in the body when you experience anxiety
Anxiety stems way back to the earliest days of humanity when we faced multiple threats from things like predators. It existed to set off alarms within the body to prepare it for action and was crucial for survival.
When faced with danger, the body sends out a rush of adrenalin, a hormone that causes physical changes in the body to prepare it to fight or flee, such as a raised heartbeat, sweating and heightened senses. This is known as the “fight or flight” response and is responsible for those feelings of anxiety you experience.
However, in the modern day, we no longer face the same threats. Our anxieties now revolve around work, money, health etc. There are many small triggers in our lives that can cause unnecessary overactivation of the fight or flight response, which is believed to underpin clinical anxiety disorders.
Tips to combat anxiety
Ashwagandha is a medicinal herb that has been used for thousands of years to treat stress and anxiety. It works by regulating chemical signalling in the nervous system and reducing levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which contributes to feelings of anxiety.
Meditation is a great tool to help you relax, let go of worrying thoughts and ground yourself in the present moment. It often involves practising controlled breathwork, which can help slow your heartbeat, alongside focus and emptying of the mind. Multiple studies have found meditation is extremely effective at reducing symptoms in those with anxiety disorders.
When your fight or flight response is in action, it can often help to do something physical and to focus on your body. Yoga is both a great form of exercise and can also help calm the mind, especially if you focus on your breathing during a session.
Write down your thoughts
When you have a million thoughts whirling around in your head, it can compound feelings of anxiety. Writing down what is making you anxious can help take you out of your head and make it seem less overwhelming.
Talk about your feelings
Talking about how you feel either with a friend, family member or professional can help you feel supported and less alone. It may also help you work through your emotions and feel more motivated to overcome them.