Anxiety Is Not An Emotion

So what is it then smarty pants?

Anxiety is an over arousal of the autonomic nervous system (ANS).

Well that’s cleared that up then hasn’t it?

Yeh I know really helpful isn’t it? But you may have heard of the fight or flight response, this is where the body becomes aware of danger and prepares to have to fight or run away.

Gotta love the Pythons!

So cast yourselves back to when us homo sapiens were developing as a species. Our brains were a lot less developed than they are now – it was all about survival and our lives consisted of what I like to call the 3 Fs. Is it Food? Am I its food – Fight? Or can I F…with it? (That is of course fornicate, what were you thinking? 🙂 )

In this scenario the ANS works perfectly well because it is designed to chase after food or run away from danger. When this system kicks in blood is diverted to muscles from other parts of the body, increasing muscle tension for extra strength and speed. Up go the heart rate and blood pressure, blood sugars and fats increase to supply extra energy, all of this being drawn from elsewhere in the system. Blood clotting ability also increase in case of injury, allowing quicker repair.

All of this is delivered by a complex cocktails of hormones produced in the body – ACTH, adrenaline and cortisol to name a few.

So if we come forward in time to the 21st century. Let’s say at some time we’ve experienced a negative event or a trauma of some kind. Naturally we don’t want a repeat of that experience so we become vigilant. We run it over and over again in our heads, maybe for years at a time. We become hyper-vigilant. All those hormones are generated in the body preparing for fight or flight but we stay in stage one because we are only creating these scenarios in our minds based on our past experience so all the physiological symptoms are created again and again – the increased heart rate, the blood sugars and fat, blood clotting but there’s no release. There is no fight or flight to release all that chemistry going on in the body and so we stay in a state of vigilance – were are anxious all the time.

Anxiety is becoming a big problem is society and is set to become an even larger problem over the next 6 months to a year due to the fallout of the pandemic. Loss of jobs, sometimes for the first time, money’s tight, lockdown tensions, no sense of a better future, for you see anxiety is fixed firmly in the future as far as our cognitive processes work. We feel or suffer it now but it’s all about what might or might not happen in the future. We ‘what if’ a lot. What if this happens? What about that? Then this might happen. And on and on.

So I ask you to think about what it is that has happened, that you keep ruminating about now? What is that one thing that if only it hadn’t happened things would be so much better now?

It follows then that we have to change our thinking and our relationship with the past to allow us more clarity in the here and now. This can be achieved by addressing those issues from the past. People are often prescribed a course of CBT and this has worked for many people. You could also try some of the newer interventions out there of which as a therapist and coach I’m naturally going to push my favourite interventions.

I would recommend the IEMT model (Integral Eye Movement Techniques) for dealing with past events and any behavioural issues that have developed whilst you’ve been stuck with the past. It is so much more than eye movements, it is a suite of models to allow you to deal with the past, recognise no longer useful behaviours and to delve in to who you are at this moment in time. This allow you a greater picture of yourself and the areas open to change if you choose to go along that road.

Therefore if anxiety is about the future I’m inviting you to become more present in the here and now. For there is only now and what you do now is what can help to create a more compelling future and will allow you to worry less about the future. You can’t control the future from now but you can influence it by what you do now. And that at least is a start isn’t it?

#iemt #mentalhealth #anxiety #depression #trauma #ptsd

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