That anxiety is tough to deal with is something we all know. Feeling hyper vigilant and on edge is exhausting and takes up much mental energy. But did you know that there are other effects anxiety can have on your body?
What happens to us when we are anxious?
First of all, anxiety is a stress response emanating from the survival brain (fight, flight and freeze brain) which informs the central nervous system that a threat has been detected, that things are not OK and that the body needs to prepare for appropriate action. Whether that means running away, fighting or remaining frozen depends on the situation but what all survival responses have in common is that they take up a lot of the body’s resources. Stress hormones are then released into the body (cortisol and adrenaline) which results in an elevated heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate as increased levels of oxygen are directed to the muscles to be able to flee or fight.
When this happens the body will prioritise the perceived”emergency’ and de-prioritise other critical functions that are deemed non-essential to us in a crisis even is these functions are integral for our overall well being. These are:
- The Immune System
- The Digestive System
Let’s start with the immune system. An anxious mind may may result in more colds and coughs, or viruses and other aches and pains that comes from an immune system that is not being prioritised. Our bodies are designed to detox, fight and heal most things by itself, given proper nourishment and rest, however when your physiological resources are being utilised elsewhere in the body the immune system can’t keep up and we could get sick.
Next follows the digestive system which is quite a classic for anxiety sufferers. IBS anyone? When the mind perceives a threat and we start feeling anxious, one of the side effects can be an upset stomach. In really bad cases, when we really are very frightened, we may even loose our bowels. This is our survival brains method of making us light and agile so we can run faster from the danger – emptying of bowels is just that. Getting rid of excess baggage.
When our mind feels it is under attack, the last thing it is preoccupied with is creating another life. Hey, why would you make babies if the world is a scary place. So fertility is one of those functions that may be out of action until the perceived danger is gone. When clients come and see me with fertility issues we work on calming down the nervous system to send messages to the mind that they are safe and that there is no perceived danger.
Relaxation and calm breathing
If any of these resonate with you. Try to incorporate a relaxation practice daily into your routine. Meditation is good and there are so many apps these days which helps regulate a practice, even a short one, to make it habitual and easy. Mindfulness is another practice which is super useful and focuses the mind on the here and now. Hypnosis is another way of calming down the nervous system and accessing the subconscious mind, reprogramming more helpful thought patterns and behaviour. You can go and see a practitioner or use self hypnosis available on the internet.
Simple breathing exercises whilst listening to relaxation music is another effective method to do away with stress hormones . The important bit is that you sit or lie down, breathe and see if you can notice your thoughts, bodily sensations and sounds around you without engaging emotionally – simply observe.
Wishing you good mental health!