Helping You Manage Your Stress and Anxiety
Feel Stressed and Anxious all the time?
Most of us at some time in our lives have encountered some form of anxiety and stress. It is often quite normal in certain situations when we feel that we may have something important to do. However, sometimes anxiety can become more severe and it starts to impact your day to day life.
You may suffer from an increased heart rate, shortness of breath when you become anxious and then these symptoms pass over until the next time. Or you may find that you get panic attacks, feel that you are going to be sick or faint and then stop going to social events or seeing friends as you are struggling with going out. This then really starts to impact your life.
Anxiety itself (and stress) can be at the root of many different disorders. We may think that we are suffering with a phobia such as claustrophobia but at the root of the phobia is anxiety. Other forms of anxiety can be seen as:
- Phobias – there are many phobias often with a specific cause but usually people cannot control the anxiety that comes with them.
- Social Anxiety Disorder –
- PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Why Do We Get Stressed and Anxious?
Anxiety and stress is actually a natural bodily response to a situation – called the ‘flight or fight’ response. If your mind perceives a threat then your body will naturally prepare you to either run or fight. What happens is that the human body decides whether a situation is stressful (such as coming across a large, dangerous animal) and this is based upon a number of factors such as sensory inputs (which can be what we hear, what we see or smell in this circumstance) and whether we have a stored memory of this situation happening before. The thalamus in the brain collects all of these sensory inputs and then passes to the amygdala which attaches any emotional content to these experiences. If the brain then judges the situation to be stressful then the hypothalamus is activated and this is in charge of the stress response.
When this flight or fight response is activated a number of stress hormones are released and we have the urge to either flee or confront whatever is the stressor. Our field of focus also reduces so that the stressor becomes the main focal point of our brain and any other stimuli are reduced (for example the peripherals of our vision becomes more unfocused as we focus on the target causing the stress)
At this point feelings of anxiety are automatically triggered within the brain on a subconscious level and our breathing becomes shallower with an increased heart rate. This is because our brain is helping our bodies get ready to run as the increase in heart rate pumps more oxygen into our arms and legs. This also results in the shut down and restriction of non-essential blood vessels which results in reduced bleeding if we are cut. We then also have another set of hormones released, the endorphins which then act as a natural pain suppressant and they also mop up the adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol when the body and brain feel that they have reached safety.
So all of this happens during the flight and fight response (usually flight) and is a natural function of the body and mind. However in the case of stress this flight or fight response is being triggered as the mind and body cannot distinguish between a real threat and a perceived threat and therefore the mind reacts as if this is a very real threat and so all the feelings of anxiety, increased heart rate and release of hormones all occur.