The presence of anxiety, of a depressive mood or of a conflict within the mind, does not stamp any individual as having a psychological problem because, as a matter of fact, these qualities are indigenous to the species.” Charles Goodstein, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University Langone Medical Center.
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry. It affects how we feel and how we behave. Anxiety can also negatively affect our biology.
Is Anxiety Justified?
For most of us, it is completely natural to experience anxiety and worry during stressful situations. The world in which we live has evolved at a rapid pace. The feeling of stress, worry, and anxiety has become one of the predominant feelings that our species experiences throughout the day. While many psychological studies, members of upper management, and educators insist that a “little stress” is a useful motivational tool for educational and vocational achievement (such as a test, examination, recital, or interview), creating ANY amount of anxiety (no matter how short lived) has mental and physical side effects.
For Emergencies Only
Anxiety is a form of adrenalin shot. It is a chemical compound released into your neurosystem, which is meant to help you in times of immediate danger. Worry is when your brain produces this chemical due to something it imagined—either in the past or the future. In nature, this “anxiety adrenalin shot” was only meant to be used in short bursts. Unfortunately, your imagination can imagine things all day. This floods your biological systems with the anxiety adrenalin shot chemical for extremely long periods of time causing:
- Difficulty concentrating, distractive thoughts, and feeling as if the mind is going “blank”
- Body fatigue and feeling easily tired
- Sleep issues (trouble falling, and staying asleep, or having sleep that is not restful)
- Muscle tension and trauma
- Heart disease
- Excessive sweating
- Skin breakouts
- Digestive Issues (IBS)
- Restlessness or feeling edgy (becoming startled very easily)
- Sexual reproductive issues
- And too many other issues to list here (you get the point)
Not Used As Designed
The anxiety adrenalin shot is not exclusive to our species. Anytime an animal in nature becomes spooked, the chemical is released to shutdown unnecessary parts of the body (like organs used for digestion and reproduction). It does this in order to heighten their senses and prepare them to fight or run. If the animal finds that it had no reason to be spooked, and is safe, the brain quits releasing the chemical. The chemical is then dissolved and released from the body. If the animal is not safe, the brain continues to release the anxiety adrenalin shot to help the animal run or fight — both of which release the chemical from the body as it is being created. It does this through the breath (80% of all toxins are released through the breath), through sweat, and through movement (the body’s lymphatic “drainage” system works on movement).
Humans, having evolved to the point where most of them spend their day thinking, often release the anxiety adrenalin shot because of the thoughts they think, and not because they are about to be eaten by something bigger than they are. Stressful, worrying thoughts are often thought while sitting, or lying down, which causes the chemical to build up and become toxic — since it is not being released through action. This is what leads to the biological side effects I listed earlier.
Is Anxiety Necessary For Our Survival?
Unfortunately, anxiety has become an accepted and normalized state of mind. This is why many of our species spend the weekend recovering from the week. The creators of the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (an attempt at defining, generalizing, and diagnosing dysfunctional states of mind) believes that “anxiety” is not “dysfunctional” until you feel tense and anxious every day for six months or longer. Well, it dose not take six months for anxiety to negatively affect you. It can take a month, a week, or just an hour for anxiety to negatively affect your life. But, because people think it is “just a part of life” they do not realize that “anxiety” is often an unnecessary and misused emotion.
For example: “Test anxiety” mentally cripples millions of people each day, preventing them from successfully using their mind. If someone has failed a test in the past, and becomes worried about failing the next test, then their mind becomes filled with a de-habilitating, neurological chemical that can prevent him/her from thinking, which creates a self-fulfilling prophesy as it causes him/her to fail his/her next test. But, many studies suggest that a little anxiety is good for the test taker because a fear of failing can motivate someone to study. Fear is a motivator, true, but it is not the best motivator. Fear and stress have mental and physical side effects. Therefore, life goals can (and should) be accomplished without fear, without anxiety, and without worry.
In short… it’s all in your head, which is a good thing because that means you can learn how to control it. You can begin by practicing thought stopping techniques. If you stop the thought, you stop the emotion/chemical from being released into your body.
One technique is the Gassho meditation technique, which there is a step-by-step guide for on this site.
You can also use a “mantra” (a word or sound repeated to aid in meditation). I have my students and clients use the phrase, “Just for today I let go of worry.” They repeat this phrase in their head anytime they begin to worry. Since your brain can’t think of two things at one time, you can derail your imagination with another thought. The brain doesn’t like to be derailed, so it takes practice. You can say it in the morning as a statement for the day, and then as a thought stopping mantra whenever you begin to worry.
Counseling, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, calming exercises, physical exercise, and pranayama breathing practices (yoga breath work) can all help in alleviating your anxiety. Also avoid caffeine, hard street drugs, and cold medicines that act like amphetamines. Try a physical discipline like Yoga or Tai Chi — there’s evidence that moderate physical activity has a calming effect body and mind. Just remember, your brain is used to thinking. Training your brain to not think takes time and discipline, but it’s well worth it.
It is possible to release your anxiety and worry. By learning how to control you imagination, by practicing thought stopping techniques, and by paying closer attention to the care and feeding of your body, you will become healthier, and your mind will become a more pleasant place in which to live. Start with the Gassho technique. After I mastered it, my brain no longer worried, and my mind became filled with soft lighting and throw-pillows.
“Worry is a misuse of your imagination.”Dan Zadra