If you want to control your anxiety, you first have to understand what it is and what it does to you. Symptoms of anxiety can include feeling tense, having a rapid heart rate, increased breathing, sweating, racing thoughts, trembling, digestive issues, and muscle twitching. While the physiological symptoms are the most noticeable, they aren’t causing the cause of anxiety, but rather the effect that anxiety causes on your body.
Understanding the Basis
Anxiety is caused by a rush of adrenaline. A very basic and easy to understand example occurred thousands of years ago, when humanity was no more than a hunter-gatherer society. At that point in human history, we were not the top of the food chain, and therefore were in real danger when certain animals came near. Let’s say as a prehistoric human you saw a pack of saber-toothed tigers. You would realize the clear and present danger that you are in, and your body would naturally responds to this danger by producing adrenaline. Without that adrenaline, you would not be able to go into fight or flight mode, and would not be able to save yourself from the tigers. That adrenaline would cause a primitive form of anxiety.
Now, fast forward to present day. Normal, when anxiety is felt today, it is not due to an animal attempting to prey on someone, in fact, often our anxiety is being caused by our thoughts, even if we are not aware we are having them. These thoughts usually pertain to a lack of control over our environment, which is, in its most basic and simple form, similar to the saber-toothed tiger situation. Anxiety can be spurred by thoughts of a plethora of things, such as having nothing to say at a party or thinking that driving over a bridge is unsafe. These thoughts, whether conscious or subconscious tell our body that our safety is being threatened, and our bodies respond by releasing adrenaline. The difference between us and the hunter-gatherers that preceded us is that they used the adrenaline produced. The unused adrenaline in our bodies is what causes the symptoms that we have come to associate with anxiety.
What You Can Do About It
Knowing what something is caused by is the first step to controlling it. Even if you don’t know which exact thoughts caused you to feel unsafe, it is important while you are feeling anxious to reinforce that you are, in fact, safe and while you may not have control over your environment you do have control over how you respond to your environment. Mentally reinforce that the symptoms you are feeling are being caused by a chemical reaction in your body, and the safer you believe yourself to be, the quicker you will be able to calm down. Solution options that are commonly used include finding a way to use the adrenaline or saying the thoughts that are coming into your head aloud in order to truly understand them. Some feel that deep breathing calms the symptoms, thus causing the adrenaline rush to subside.
By understanding anxiety and how it works is the first step in beginning to control it. The next step is to speak to a therapist.