The stress of anxiety

Anxiety places a massive burden on society, in terms of the impact it has on the people suffering it directly, as well as all of the families, friends, workplaces and associated people who all feel the negative impact of anxiety upon them.

In many ways, Anxiety can be considered a misuse of our natural stress response. The way that people deal with anxiety matches the experience of people who suffer extreme stress. They are based on the same physiological mechanisms, and understanding the stress response can help people better cope and manage with their anxiety.

If we consider anxiety to be a poorly directed stress response, it can help explain many of the underlying elements that create anxiety and therefore help point to specific things that we can do to naturally treat it.

People will invoke a stress response when they feel out of their comfort zone, in danger, out of control or feeling that they cannot cope in the circumstances, which are key elements of what drives the anxiety response in many people.

People with anxiety often report that they feel unsafe (in normal or social circumstances), they feel out of control, they feel overwhelmed and they feel unable to cope. Being so far out of their comfort zone, the naturally invoke the stress response – even though an external observer would think that it wasn’t needed.

Anxiety is entirely subjective, and the way that individuals respond to their circumstances is entirely based on their subjective evaluation of what is happening, rather than what others might see or feel. This is why anxiety can be isolating – the person suffering is responding with anxiety even though others around them cannot understand the reason for or the nature of the response.

Stress is associated with increased preparedness for action. It shows up as increase in heart rate, breathing, muscle tension, sweating, changes in attention and focus. These are the some of the common things that people with anxiety also report about their experience of an anxiety episode.

When we feel stressed, we first deal with it using our logical brain and can think our way through our problems. However, there is a threshold for stress, and once we pass this, our logical brain shuts down and we shift to instinctive, defensive responses. We enter ‘fight or flight’ territory, and we respond to keep ourselves safe as if we were under severe physical threat.

Long term exposure to stress can affect hormone balance, disturb sleep, interfere with thinking and create a feeling of constant overwhelm. Chronic stress can build up and push us over our threshold.

We can intervene in stress at three points:

  • We can reduce the number of stressors we face at one time, creating less chance of overwhelm or being pushed beyond our threshold.
  • We can reframe what the stressor is, and learn what is truly threatening to us, and what is not
  • We can take a break from the stress, allow our mind and body to shift back to better ways of operating, and learn from the stressor so that next time we face it, we can know that we can deal with it.

Interestingly, we can also deal with anxiety in the same ways – modify the anxiety triggers, modify how we see the stressors, and build learning around them so that coping in enhanced.

In the clinic, using strategic therapy embedded in hypnosis, we can create fast, effective and long lasting natural solutions to your anxiety and how you deal with it. By understanding the link between anxiety and the misfiring of the stress response, it may just help you see that small alterations to how you operate in the face of stressors can have a massive difference on how you get to enjoy life.