Let us Talk About Anxiety
Let us Talk About Anxiety
That word that is fast becoming a part of our everyday life. It can be that hesitance about leaving the house to go to that party, the decision to not go to the party, or not even leaving the house at all that day. “I know everyone at the party, so why can’t I just go and why don’t I want to go, and you used to go to parties all the time and be fine”.
Sound familiar? That inner voice that we wish we could just switch off. Wouldn’t that be nice! So, what is anxiety? I describe it as something that wants to keep us safe, almost our first line of defence versus any threat. Fight or flight. Sounds great like that doesn’t it, until that anxious knot in your stomach or chest kicks in, heart rate increases, you feel you can’t breathe and then you are in the middle of your first panic attack. Of course, this is an extreme version of it, but for some this is a reality.
Introducing the Amygdalae
Anxiety can manifest itself differently for some of us, our memories, thoughts, or emotions can trigger our amygdala fight or flight response. We have two amygdalae in our brain, and they are very good at remembering anything that may have caused us stress or caused us to feel threatened. Such as the last time we went to that party, maybe we found ourselves on our own and began to feel isolated or shy. “Why was I shy?” We felt overwhelmed by the amount of people, the lights and the noise were just too much for us. Jump forward to the next time we’re getting ready for a party and begin to feel anxious. Our amygdala is excellent at remembering when and where we may have felt overwhelmed, the amygdala jumps into action. Now imagine the amygdala saying to you “I don’t want to go to the party this time, so I’ll make you feel anxious and sick to put you off”. Of course, it does not give us a reason, just that anxious feeling so we don’t want to go. In it’s own way protecting us from further distress, because the last time you felt threatened and uncomfortable.
Now imagine knowing why you maybe did not want to go to the party and why you were feeling anxious. “I don’t want to go to the party, I feel anxious and sick. It’s because last time we did not like it and it caused us distress” That little bit of extra information would then inform you the reason why, you could then make an informed and logical decision. Such as, “I know we felt isolated and overwhelmed when we went to the last party, but this one is full of all my friends, and I’ll be comfortable with these people. So, I have no reason to feel anxious as the two scenarios are different”. The amygdala cannot distinguish between the two, it’s down to us to rationalise each individual feeling of anxiety for the amygdala.
Changing the Memory.
I speak of changing the memory with my clients, informing yourself and the amygdala that you are safe this time, or will be comfortable at the party. Thinking rationally and asking yourself “what evidence do I have that I won’t enjoy it this time with my friends?” Often, we come up with the answer, I don’t have any evidence. Almost a self-analysis of the situation that ends in us telling ourselves, we don’t have anything to fear. Sounds simple, of course it isn’t and takes practice and your will power to check in with yourself. It alone can be a very powerful way in taking back control from our own amygdala and past events that have shaped them.
Taking Control Back.
Control that you could have over your own thoughts, it can be the main reason we seek therapists for support and counselling. It could be something I could help you with and it’s just a small part of our lives that we can change. Although the results can be life changing.
Find me & Statistics.
You can find me at Counselling-directory.org, where the top searched keyword is anxiety, In January 2024 it was searched 86,028 times, which is close to 39% more than the second most searched word, depression. This tells me it is the very thing we should be talking about, as it is having such an influence on so many of us.