Anxiety & Stress Explained
What is Anxiety
When our body feels threatened it activates the sympathetic nervous system. Initially this triggers powerful chemicals such as adrenaline and noradrenaline to be released. This in turn leads to a cascade of changes to increase our mental alertness and physical capabilities to enable us to respond better to the perceived threat.
At low levels this can be helpful since it promotes engagement and activity, but when this becomes acute this cascade of responses is proportionally stronger and prepares us to physically fight off the threat, or run away from it (the ‘fight or flight response’).
Way back in time, this acute response to a perceived threat may well have been appropriate, where a physical response to fight off some predator was essential. There are times when this can be useful, such as if there is an angry dog chasing us down the road where a boost of physical energy will help you get away from any danger.
But unfortunately for us, modern life introduces a whole load of stimuli that we perceive as threats – having a performance appraisal at work, for example – where the changes brought about by the fight or flight response are of no use at all. Our body prepares us for action, but we can’t act. So instead of discharging this energy and returning us to a state of alert relaxation, our bodies remain in a state of high alert. And for many, these perceived threats keep on coming.
To compound this problem, many of us are immersed in an environment – caring alone for a dying parent or demanding child, navigating the challenges of the workplace – where those perceived threats just keep on coming, and where there is nothing we can reasonably do to get away from them.
In instances where the short term stress response cannot be acted upon, levels of the hormone cortisol rise, resulting in anxiety, frustration and anger.
When this persists, it results in chronic activation of the stress response system and the concurrent high level of cortisol have negative health consequences. In such an environment, the many physiological processes that the body undertakes to ensure we thrive in the long term – sleep, digestion, immunity, growth, play – are suppressed. It also has detrimental effects on our emotional wellbeing, limiting our ability to think slowly and clearly, darkening our perspective on the world and reducing our ability to maintain loving relationships.
Collectively, these effects are what we recognise as anxiety. Anxiety is currently prevalent in UK society – around 10% of us are suffering from an anxiety disorder (MIND) at any one time, with women being almost twice as likely to suffer from it as men.
How Is It Affecting You?
You may feel stressed
You may experience increased heart rate and rapid breathing which may be perceived as shortness of breath and sweating to panic attacks.
You may be constantly worrying
You may start to worry about even simple tasks
You may anticipate problems at every turn
You may have low self-esteem or feel insecure
You may have a short attention span
You may struggle to feel still or calm
Or millions of other possibilities, some even apparently unique to you.
Using modern techniques To Help Do Something About It
Early on we will calibrate where you are so we can track your progress.
We’ll explore in as much depth as you feel comfortable with, what you feel has contributed to or caused your problem and look at ways in which we can release that so that, from the beginning, we are focused on changing your mindset.
We’ll use a variety of modern therapeutic approaches to assist in this process and I’ll teach you tools and techniques to last a lifetime as we move you forward to living life with ease and confidence.