What is anxiety and what can we do about it?
Every day I see countless pieces of information shared about ‘anxiety’, how it affects us and what we can do about it.
The explanations and solutions are numerous, and sometimes confusing in themselves.
In this blog I aim to explain what anxiety is and how it can manifest itself, from perspective of understanding what actually goes on in the brain when we feel this way.
Throughout most of my life I have defined myself as an ‘anxious person’, and an ‘anxiety sufferer’ much as I hear people tell others they are ‘suffering’ from depression. I am proud to highlight the mental health journey I have been on, and the ups and downs of life, and I am equally pleased that people feel able to admit how they are feeling.
However, attaching ‘sufferer’ and ‘anxious person’ to these labels suggest we are defined by these emotions, and we need to live our lives pandering to them, trying to ‘get rid’ of them and ‘solve them.
Consider this. What if they were a normal human emotions which everyone experiences, part of our make up as much as joy, happiness and excitement are? What if we can’t be ourselves unless we have these emotions and feelings too?
If you haven’t watched Inside Out, a Disney Pixar film, then I highly recommend it. It’s a children’s film with a fantastic and poignant meaning. It shows how all our emotions are important, when they work together, and it helps us to understand how they fit together in our mind.
What is the key to understanding anxiety, anger and depression?
The key is understanding our brain, how it works and how it can impact on our daily lives.
What if I told you that anxiety was a primitive brain reaction to threats in our lives, to put us on high alert and lead us to looking at everything in relation to the worst-case scenario, as our mind is telling us that this is needed for our survival?
What if anger was again, a primitive, caveman brain response to that threat we are facing, where the anger makes us feel physically strong and invincible in that moment to stand and fight or run as fast as we can to get ourselves out of danger?
And depression, our brains way of retreating us from everyday life, interactions, to conserve energy and wait until things outside our cave were safer, more predictable and easier to manage?
Understanding our brain gives us control back, gives us a sense of knowing where our emotions and therefore reactions are coming from at any given time. The pandemic this year has seen us all retreating into that primitive, cave man part of our brain so much more than usual as we have been told that our everyday life which we took for granted is dangerous, that stepping outside our homes needs to be done with caution, with us measuring all things in the light of what might go wrong, waiting for something bad to happen. I don’t need to tell you that this pandemic has not been good for our mental health, how we live and cope with everyday life and how we feel about the world around us.
So what can we do about it?
We can learn more about these primitive brain reactions, and what we can do to activate, our logical, rational part of our brain. This will help us move through the next few months, and years and support our children to do so too.
What is the logical part of our brain?
This part (also known as the pre-frontal cortex) looks at the bigger picture, that perspective, rather than reacting to a situation as it presents itself in the moment. This is what I do, every single day, I bring people out of their caves and back into the real world, where anxiety, anger and depression is a natural, normal part of everyday life but is not the defining, life leading part. Reducing the impact of these emotions enables us to see the future more clearly, with optimism, stop waiting for others actions to make us feel better and allow us to get the most pleasure and enjoyment from life as we can
If you’d like to find out more about understanding how to reduce feelings of anxiety, anger and depression and to encourage a more positive sense of well-being please click here to find out more about my upcoming “Chaos to Calm – Managing your mind to boost your mood” online course which starts on 18th January 2021. Mood will be one of the key topics we explore as we look to helping people get back on track after a challenging and difficult year.