Anxiety, Panic, Worry & Fear - Here's A Different View!
Updated: Nov 25, 2019
First up - Everybody feels anxious!
Butterflies in your stomach before a job interview, that queasy feeling as you step up to make a speech or the “rush” that propels you out the door when you are running late - these feelings of anxiety are as uncomfortable as they are instantly recognisable….and they're a totally normal part of being a human being!
But if these feelings are so uncomfortable, why do we have them?
The answer is simple: protection!
The body has developed anxiety, panic, and worry as a protective alarm system to aid in coping with potential threats and dangers.
In simple terms:
Anxiety is the anticipation of imminent danger
Panic is our response when the danger is immediate
Worry is a mental strategy to avoid future dangers
Anxiety, panic, and worry are all part of the way humans experience fear. Each of these aspects involves the anticipation of danger or threat. As Psychotherapists, we define anxiety as:
"a normal, innate emotional alarm response to the anticipation of danger or threat."
This means that fear is part of our biological make-up as human beings. We don't learn how to become anxious - we’re born with it because it helps us survive. In very plain terms: Anxiety serves as an "alarm" to protect us from harmful aspects of our environment.
This protective alarm system is even more amazing when you consider that the protective function really exists on two levels: a "preparation" mode and a "reaction" mode.
The preparation mode, consisting of anxiety and worry, helps us prepare for future danger or helps us prepare for threats which may be delayed. This type of fear tells us “You're not in danger. . .YET! But let's prepare for what may lie ahead.”
The reaction mode is designed to help us cope with immediate threats and it functions as an escape alarm. It’s more intense and shorter-acting than anxiety and is designed to help us deal with immediate danger. While true panic only lasts a few seconds, it prepares us to get out of the way of danger. This is often referred to as a "fight or flight" reaction - improving our ability to either face the danger (fight) or run from it (flight).
Even in today's world, without the risk of being ambushed by sabre toothed tigers, this evolutionary alarm system still serves us well. Imagine crossing a busy street and suddenly a car swerves toward you, horn blaring! That instant, amazing, adrenaline pumping, automatic response that has you jumping backwards to safety? That’s panic! The moral of the story: Even though fear isn't a pleasant emotion, it is necessary to our survival. Anxiety, worry, and panic are designed to protect us, not to hurt us!
Research suggests that each of us has an optimal level of anxiety that contributes to positive performance. Too much anxiety and you can't concentrate - we “freeze” - our minds and bodies “locked”. Too little anxiety impairs performance with insufficient attention and energy delivered to give the desired outcome. So feeling appropriately stressed about important upcoming events or in the face of challenging life events, is absolutely in our best interests
Am I too anxious?
It’s often difficult to self assess our anxiety levels - to tell if anxiety is abnormally high. A good rule of thumb is asking yourself: "how much does this feeling keep me from doing the things I like to do?”. The answer can be very telling.
The following are some symptoms that indicate that you're experiencing “excessive" anxiety:
Muscle Tension (particularly the neck, shoulders & lower back)
Frequently upset stomach
Stressed in Social Situations.
Any one of these symptoms alone can be debilitating but having “excessive anxiety” means struggling with a variety of them - it means your protective alarm is going off just a bit too often and too early and it's interfering with your life! Remember, anxiety is healthy and helpful. Excess anxiety is not!
The good news is that our bodies have incredible resilience and amazing capabilities to restore the natural balance. Resetting your anxiety levels, rebalancing your body’s responses and resolving the underlying issues is not only possible, it’s what we’re designed to do. For more information on resolving excess anxiety, quickly, gently and permanently visit www.pstbythesea.com