There is no doubt we live in a highly anxious culture. With over 40 million adults in the United States struggling, anxiety is the most common mental health diagnosis in America.
However, there are millions of people every day that are struggling through life but have no idea why or how to overcome it. Anxiety can be tricky to detect and presents differently in each person and let me guarantee you EVERYONE struggles with anxiety. So let’s discover why we experience anxiety and how you can we overcome it.
Anxiety doesn’t seem to help anything. It doesn’t appear to benefit us in any way. So why do we experience anxiety at all?
Our bodies respond to anxiety the same way it responds to actual physical danger. When we are experiencing anxiety we can be safe in our home, but our mind and body react as if there is an actual threat ready to harm us.
Many have experienced the confusion of feeling like they are in danger but knowing they are safe at home or lying in bed trying to sleep. I’m sure familiar with the fight, flight or freeze response when we are in danger. Our bodies react to anxiety in the same way.
A few weeks ago I was driving in traffic and a car almost sideswiped me. In an instant, I was tense, hyper-focused, alert and ready to act. This is fight mode. And we can experience similar reactions with anxiety. Muscle tension, thoughts focused on the problem, alert, unable to rest or sleep and feeling restless or jumpy.
Flight mode is when we run from the threat. You do as much as you can to put space between you and the danger and you do it fast. This can be seen in hoarding or control tendencies that people have. They create as much buffer between themselves and the threat as possible. This is their way of coping with the anxiety that they experience.
If you freeze when threatened, you become paralyzed. You can feel stuck unable to make a decision, your experience brain fog with your mind racing trying to process the threat.
The anxiety response is your body’s natural reaction to feeling threatened. The trouble is with anxiety it’s often a perceived threat or worry, not an actual situation that is going to cause imminent harm.
Here are 3 tips to overcome anxiety and get out of that cycle of flight, fight and freeze.
This exercise tells our minds that we are not in immediate danger so the anxiety response decreases.
This is a really useful tool with kids who are struggling with anxiety because it calms the child who is escalating without them even realizing it. and you’re not saying “calm down”… because we all know that doesn’t work at all. Your brain is tricked by focusing on the things around you.
Here are the 5 steps.
5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings.
4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, a pillow, or the ground under your feet.
3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. If you can hear your belly rumbling that counts! .
2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Maybe you are in your office and smell pencil, or maybe you are in your home and you smell soap or coffee.
1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like—gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch?
You are preoccupied with identifying the senses rather than the perceived threat. In just a few moments what was once panic, is now an awareness that you’re are in a safe environment and your mind and body begin to calm.
#2 Decrease stimulus
There is a lot of information coming at you and your mind is on overload processing it all. When you are experiencing anxiety the part of your brain that perceives threat becomes… well… sensitive or excited. It’s working on overdrive trying to alert you to any potential threat and we can mistakenly perceive something as a threat when it really isn’t.
Do you find that you get hurt or offended more easily when you are anxious? Me too! That is our body trying to keep us safe. Being extra careful perceiving threats everywhere we go. But most of the time these threats are not real.
By decreasing stimulus, we give our mind time calm so it is triggered less easily. Go for a walk, sit in a quiet room, have a long bath, turn off the news, music or tv. Lower the stimulus so your mild can have time to calm.
#3 Staying Connected
We need relationships. But in times of crisis, it can be difficult to find ways to connect, especially for those who are living alone. I encourage you when you aren’t able to connect physically with others, use technology to connect.
There are tons of free apps that allow you to engage and even strengthen relationships. Feeling alone and isolated only compounds fear and anxiety. Be creative, but know that staying connected to other supportive friends and family is a human need and builds resilience.
As believers in Christ, we know that God’s will for our lives is to live in peace and health.
HERE I’ve provided a downloadable list of scripture on peace, rest and calm.
Write these out and post them in your home where you see them often. Be strengthened by the hope that God offers in his promises to keep us and to care for us.