We can all get anxious from time to time and this is quite normal for all of us. But if we are letting this anxiety and worry overtake us, it could then cause us lots of issues on a day-to-day basis. With anxiety, this can either come in an instant, maybe we see or hear something that makes us jump or shocks us; at those times we can become instantly anxious. The other way with anxiety can be that we are stuck on that heightened level of nervousness and anxiety and we can feel a constant high anxiety level for extended periods of time. This first response is quite normal as this is our fight, flight, and freeze response, which we aren’t in control of, this is controlled by our primaeval mind, the part of us that is constantly on alert to protect us and keep us safe from danger. This part of us is amazing and is essential in how we have grown and evolved as a species on this planet. All animals and creatures have their fight, flight and freeze responses and each animal has adapted how they respond due to their different environments. For example, if we are living in a war zone then we are constantly in this fight, flight, and freeze response system, as such we will be on red alert and hypervigilant to our surroundings. This is necessary to help us stay alive in those most challenging times. But what if our bodies are reacting as if we are in a war zone, yet were not, and what is happening in our lives doesn’t warrant the levels of anxiety we are producing? This is often what is happening with the second type of heightened anxiety; we have got stuck on that anxiety level and don’t feel able to switch it off.
If this is happening to you then it will be making your life miserable, you will feel on edge all the time, jumpy and nervous, maybe you won’t sleep well or not feel able to eat, or even do the opposite and feel the need to overeat. We might also get headaches, neck, and shoulder tension, feel overwhelmed and emotional, get angry and agitated or find it hard to concentrate on anything. These are just a few of the many negative things that can be happening to us when we are feeling anxious. If this is a life-or-death situation then we must respond in these ways, but if it is not and we are living with this heightened anxiety, then now is the time to change this.
The more we worry, the more anxious and worried we will become, so taking time to distract ourselves from worries is a great way to help reduce the anxious feelings. Also, another good support is being active, when we exert ourselves by going for a run, we push up our heart rate and a whole host of other responses get fired up within us. This is great, as we need more energy to power our legs to run, but when we stop running, our bodies don’t stay at those high-intensity levels of functioning, they naturally just start to reduce to a more normal level. So, this response is a great one to harness when we are feeling anxious or stuck with this heightened anxiety. Just a few minutes of intense exercise will push our heart rates up and out of the anxious state and move us into the exercising zone. Once you stop exercising, your body will follow the same route it always does after exercise and start reducing those high-intensity exercise levels to a normal level. This is great as it will break your mind, body and nervous system out of the heightened anxiety feeling and help bring you back down to a more normal relaxed level. You don’t need to go for a massive workout or do anything that takes up lots of time, just pushing your heart rate up is the key. You can look at things like HIIT training or get a skipping rope, do burpees, or a run around the block, it doesn’t matter what it is, it just needs to get your heart rate up. After your body has reduced itself from all those heightened needs that come with doing those high-intensity activities, stress levels will drop and also those natural endorphins will be released into your body. These natural endorphins are the best drugs you can ever have to boost your mood and positively support how you are feeling.
All these factors will help with reducing your anxiety, and another big benefit is that you are teaching your mind that if you do get anxious, you don’t get stuck there, you can just release that stress and go back to normal, which will help your mind to break free from the heightened anxiety patterns that you might have formed. Remember that practice makes perfect and the more you stop yourself from continuing to hold those levels of anxiety at excessive levels, the easier it will become to help you let them go. Sara x