Anxiety is a mental, emotional, and physiological response to the perception of threat to your sense of safety and survival. It's your body's attempt to protect you from perceived danger. Anxiety is a natural part of human existence.
Anxiety and the Amygdala
The amygdala is the part of your brain that is responsible for memory, emotions, libido, fear, anger, and anxiety. When you perceive a threat or sense danger, this activates your amygdala, and a fight, flight, or freeze response. This also sends stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine into your bloodstream. Over time, this chronic stress response can damage the nervous system while reinforcing the anxiety pattern.
Common Causes of Anxiety
There are many potential causes and triggers for anxiety including: negative thinking and core-beliefs, stress, life transitions, medical conditions, thinking about the future, ruminating on the past, substances, inflammation in the gut, lack of sleep, codependent relationships, low self-worth, trauma, noise pollution, compassion burn-out, pent-up emotions, and genetics.
Anxiety can manifest as worry, rumination, difficulty breathing, tension in the body, physical pain, digestive issues, difficulty sleeping, binging behaviors and controlling behaviors. Anxiety attacks are similar to general feelings of anxiety but are more intense and difficult to control.
Panic attacks tend to come on quickly and are the most intense forms of anxiety. In a panic attack, people often feel like they are going to die and the fear is very immediate and not necessarily about the past or future.
You can rewire your brain and alleviate symptoms of anxiety by practicing consistent relaxation and stress reduction techniques, as well as working through trauma and making healthy lifestyle changes. Over time, your brain will make new connections and neural pathways, causing you to become less reactive to the perception of danger.
Negative thinking, stress, and trauma can cause, trigger, or exacerbate anxiety. Below, you'll find helpful practices to help you counteract the stress and anxiety response.
Negative thoughts can trigger painful emotions, which activate a stress and anxiety response. Meditation, journaling, and any physical activity will help you to release your thoughts and get out of your head and into your body. To read more about how to overcome negative thoughts, click here.
Acute and chronic stress can trigger and reinforce anxiety. If you experience major or minor stressors, it is essential to have a daily practice to release stress in a healthy and productive way. Exercise, making artwork, journaling, walking, talking to a trusted friend, being in nature, and breathing exercises can help you to reduce stress.
Unresolved trauma can trigger anxiety. If you are dealing with symptoms of trauma, it's important to help your body to process and integrate your experiences. You can do this by meeting regularly with a counselor or coach. While you might not be able to get rid of anxiety entirely or erase trauma, you can reduce the impact of trauma and stress on your body and mind.
While there's no overnight cure for anxiety, practicing consistent stress reduction techniques and making ongoing healthy lifestyle choices and will help you to manage your thoughts and emotions.