Welcome to the world of 5 million other Aussies. Most of us at some time or another get anxious. For some it can be devastatingly debilitating. For others it is but an occasional fleeting episode.
Some interesting research shows that learning acceptance helps with recovery from anxiety. Sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it? But the theory is that accepting the symptoms for what they are instead of being terrified of them, enables you to be more in control of the anxiety.
So imagine this. You have the flu. Your nose is runny. You feel lousy. You got a fever. But you accept it for what it is. You’ll get over it.
Using the same process to manage symptoms of anxiety gives you the ability to control it better. That, and knowing how the brain works during an anxiety attack.
The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline increase when anxiety kicks in. The body is getting itself ready to launch into the ‘fight or flight mode’ controlled by the amygdala. It kicks into the protective drive. Pulse rate increases, breathing becomes faster and more shallow, mouth gets dry …
Problem is, this can happen at times when we are not in serious danger from being eaten by a monster. If it keeps on being triggered it can become that debilitating all-consuming anxiety that so many sufferers fear.
However, knowing that the amygdala has gone off the rails when the symptoms kick in gives an advantage to getting it back into normal working order. This is where acceptance will help. For example if those monkeys are busy chattering and bouncing around, instead of getting all anxious and worried about it, just let them chatter away. Accept the ‘snotty nose’ of anxiety, knowing that by doing so the amygdala will begin to realise that there is no imminent danger. The monkeys will stop chattering. Over time, the amygdala will return to its default setting. The same process can be applied to other symptoms as well.
You will probably also have noticed that there’s a lot of stuff out there about Mindfulness, or being in the Now Moment. There’s a good reason for that. Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness regularly can reduce the size of the amygdala. Ergo, smaller amygdala, less anxiety. This can happen in as little as eight weeks of practicing mindfulness meditation.
Contrary to what was believed many long years ago, brain neuroplasticity is a real thing. Our brains can and do change, grow, develop new neural pathways. So retraining it by regular practice of mindfulness helps with managing anxiety.
Another good reason to meditate. You don’t have to jump in the deep end. Start slow and build on it. There’s lots of really good guided meditations on YouTube. You might like to start by checking out Smiling Mind and Headspace.
Still the Mind