Robin D. Webb
When you are experiencing anxiety, your body’s “fight or flight” responses are triggered, and your body undergoes the physiological changes as follows:
- Major release of catecholamines.
- Major release of cortisol.
- Major release of renin.
- Blood shunted from skin and gut to major muscles.
- Brain is placed on high-alertness mode.
- Brain waves are often rapid Beta type.
- Blood pressure, pulse, oxygen consumption, blood glucose all becomes elevated.
- Immune System usually erupts and then shuts down.
God has designed our bodies with the ability to adapt to many situations. There are many unique things that the human body can accomplish, which are nothing short of astonishing, including how we cope with everyday stresses. When we encounter danger, for example, our body shifts into high gear and prepares to take immediate action.
The “fight or flight” reflex, as mentioned earlier, activates the entire body. After the brain structure called the Amygdala sends a distress signal, the Hypothalamus activates the Sympathetic Nervous System (SYNS), by sending signals through the Autonomic Nerves to the Adrenal Glands.
The Adrenal Glands responds by triggering the release of Catecholamines (that includes adrenaline and noradrenaline) into the bloodstream. When these Catecholamines are released into the body, this results in an increase in your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. Your pupils dilate, and there is an increase in blood flow to your muscles, brain, legs, and arms.
This fight or flight response prepares your muscles and primes your body for action, which allows you to perform under the pressure of an imminent threat. The stress created by the situation is beneficial because it makes it more likely that you will be able to respond effectively with whatever threat or situation that you are facing.
What Causes Anxiety?
While your mind and body are similar to others in many ways, they often function in unique ways. Some people become greatly distressed when they see a snake. For other people, they are comfortable stroking a snake or keeping it as a pet.
In the same way, some people can stand up without prompting and speak in front of a crowd of strangers, but other people are afraid to even speak at a birthday party surrounded by friends and family. While there may be things about which many people feel anxious, each individual will have situations that cause them anxiety.
Anxiety can be caused by environmental stressors such as when you have difficulties at work, conflict in your relationships, or family issues. Additionally, anxiety may be attributed to medical factors such as the effects of a medication or due to an underlying disease. Lastly, one’s genes can also play a part in how severe one experiences anxiety. People who have family members with an Anxiety Disorder are more prone to develop the symptoms as well.
Anxiety can disrupt functioning in daily activities and various areas in our lives, to include school, work or home environments. If you are prone to anxiety, it can make something as simple as going to the grocery store a painful ordeal. If you find yourself feeling severely anxious, and the anxiety lasts for a long period of time and seems out of proportion, it is possible that you may have an anxiety disorder.
Six Ways to Reduce Anxiety
Listed below are six ways to reduce anxiety and reclaim the joy that the Lord gives and desires for us.
1. Make lifestyle changes
Our emotional, physical, and psychological wellbeing are tied closely to one another. Your physical disposition affects your emotional wellbeing, and vice versa. Sometimes, anxiety is tied to one’s environment and physical wellbeing.
Watch what you eat, as your diet can affect your levels of anxiety. Caffeine can also give you the jitters and mimic the symptoms of anxiety. Too much caffeine can have the effect of decreasing the production of the feel-good chemical Serotonin in the body, resulting in a depressed mood. Eating a balanced and healthy diet can go a long way towards feeling healthy and your body being better able to cope with stress.
Getting good sleep, as well as exercise, helps you deal with stress by reducing the stress hormone Cortisol in your system, and it helps you have more emotional stability to deal with unexpected life experiences. If your workload is overwhelming, find ways to reduce it, ask for assistance, and developing and implementing effective time management plans can also do you a world of good.
2. Face your anxieties
Do not always avoid what causes you anxiety. Sometimes, it can be tempting to avoid the things makes us feel uncomfortable. For example, if social gatherings makes you nervous, it seems like a good idea to avoid the discomfort and skip get-togethers with others.
However, that can lead to Avoidance Anxiety and a downward spiral into more, not less, anxiety. Instead, choose to look at the gathering as a time of fellowship and consider taking a friend or acquaintance with you to help ease your level of discomfort, or explore addressing the challenge in Therapy, develop additional techniques and strategies to deal with the stressors causing your anxiety.
Whether you do this under the supervision of a trained Therapist or on your own, sometimes the depending upon the event, the best way to get past anxiety, is to go through it.
3. Learn new techniques
Another one of the ways to reduce anxiety is to learn to manage anxiety in the moment. Deep breathing exercises and mental exercises, prayer and meditation can help you to replace anxious and negative thoughts with positive ones, and help you cope with anxiety in the moment.
4. Be proactive
You can be proactive in learning coping skills and other anxiety reduction techniques. Other techniques such as meditation, taking walks, taking long baths, and listening to music can help you cope with anxiety.
Journaling is another one of the ways to reduce anxiety. Journaling can help you slow things down and process your experiences and thoughts more effectively. Whether you keep an electronic or physical journal, writing your thoughts down helps you become more aware of your own moods, thought patterns, triggers, and much more.
When you identify your feelings and understand the thoughts and lies that may undergird them, you can submit these to the Lord and choose to trust what God is saying in that moment. Our anxieties can be rooted in untruths about God, ourselves, others, and the world around us. Journaling helps one uncover those untruths and begin implementing the truth, and letting it shape your thoughts and actions.
“I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
Journaling also has the added benefit of helping you look back and see your triumphs and past strategies that were effective in dealing with anxiety, which can help you here and now.
6. Seek help
Talk with a friend or with a professional. If you find that your anxiety is overwhelming and may actually be an anxiety disorder or a type of phobia, speak with a mental health professional. They may likely recommend a treatment plan which will consist of a combination of psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, and/or medication.
Anxiety has its place in our lives, but it ought not undermine our well-being. Certainly, the Lord desires that our anxious thoughts don’t get in the way of enjoying our lives or trusting him, and so He calls upon us to cast those cares upon him (1 Peter 5:6-7) and to substitute anxious thoughts with prayer and thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6).
If anxiety is a struggle for you, know that you do not have to handle it by yourself. God created us as relational creatures, and we flourish, thrive and grow in relationship with others. Make good use of your existing support network, or if you do not have one, there are support groups in the community and small groups in the local Church that exists to partner with you in your wellness journey.
You don’t have to struggle alone. Reach out to a Christian counselor today and make an appointment to begin discovering effective ways to reduce anxiety in your life. Your counselor will journey with you, as you grow in understanding what causes your anxiety and how best to cope with it.
“Working”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Depressed”, Courtesy of Joice Kelly, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Anxious”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stressed”, Courtesy of Ave Calvar, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License