Katy from Thera-sea.co.uk looks at Anxiety and how you can overcome it
Anxiety is a natural response to stress or danger and is a common emotion experienced by most people at some point in their lives. However, for some individuals, anxiety can become a chronic or excessive response to stress, which can interfere with their daily life. The good news is there are plenty of ways to reduce it!
The exact causes of anxiety can vary from person to person and can involve a combination of factors, including:
1) Environmental factors: Traumatic or stressful events, unresolved trauma, or a major life change. Stress is the main cause of anxiety, and while our brain is designed to cope with one big stressor it can become overwhelmed with one too many smaller stressors and confuses this with threats of danger. Our body responds the same to stress and threats of danger and this is why managing your stress first, is essential for overcoming anxiety.
2) Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, menopause and thyroid disorders, can increase the risk of developing anxiety. This is why it is important to have a physical health check to rule out any organic causes.
3) Genetics: Anxiety can run in families, indicating that there may be a genetic component to the condition but this could also be due to learnt behaviour. It’s important to know a behaviour is learned it can be unlearned over time with consistent effort or support form a healthcare professional
4) Personality: People who are naturally more anxious or prone to worry may be more likely to experience anxiety. Negative thinking is again a learnt behaviour that with time and effort can be change to more positive thinking. Keeping a gratitude diary can help to start changing the process. Write down each day two things you are grateful for and three things you have achieved.
5) Brain chemistry: Imbalances in certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, can contribute to the development of anxiety. Exercise, diet, strong community support, sunlight exposure and relaxation techniques are all important methods for increasing serotonin and dopamine.
6) Substance abuse: The use of drugs or alcohol can contribute to the development of anxiety or exacerbate existing anxiety symptoms. It’s important to note that excess drug or alcohol use can also be a negative coping mechanism to manage symptoms of anxiety, which is why it is important to get support with managing your anxiety effectively.
Treatment for anxiety can vary deepening on the cause and severity.
Overall, anxiety can have a significant impact on the brain, affecting its structure and function. However, with appropriate treatment, such as CBT, medication, or stress management techniques, the negative effects of anxiety on the brain can be reduced, and individuals can learn to manage their symptoms more effectively.
Bearing in mind that life stressors can be the main contributing factor to experiencing anxiety, lifestyle changes are usually the first point of call.
If you are experiencing a difficult relationship, extreme work stress or financial difficulties, it’s important to address these first, as other treatments will not be affective if you have not tried to remove or lessen the root cause first.
The best ways to alleviate stress are:
1) Almost any physical activity can help reduce stress. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters and it improves your body’s ability to use oxygen resulting in increased blood flow
2) Deep breathing is a technique that allows you to calm your mind and reduce the amount of stress hormones in your blood. It enables you to calm down rapidly, Improve focus and concentration.
3) Studies involving MRI scans show that the amygdala shrinks in response to meditation practice. As the amygdala reduces in size, the prefrontal cortex — the area of the brain governing our awareness becomes thicker
4) Yoga can help mitigate stress responses by controlling breathing, reducing tensions and focusing the mind on the physical experience rather than our busy minds
5) Adults who sleep fewer than eight hours a night report higher stress levels than those who sleep at least eight hours a night
6) Relaxation techniques such as taking a warm bath, having a hot drink or getting a massage help to reduce our stress hormones
7) Journaling allows people to clarify their thoughts and feelings, thereby gaining valuable self-knowledge. It’s also a good problem-solving tool as people come up with solutions more easily when they write down their worries
8) Engaging in activities you enjoy can reduce stress by promoting relaxation and providing distraction from everyday stressors
9) The body responds to stress with muscle tension, which can cause pain or discomfort. In turn, tense muscles relay to the body that it’s stressed. That keeps the cycle of stress and muscle tension going. Progressive muscle relaxation helps break this cycle by reducing muscle tension and anxiety. It involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group one by one
10) Current findings indicate that music around 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronise with the beat causing alpha brainwaves (frequencies from 8 – 14 hertz or cycles per second). This alpha brainwave is what is present when we are relaxed and conscious
11) A recent study found that people who spent two hours a week in nature (either all at once or over several visits), were substantially more likely to report good physical and mental health than those who didn’t. This study showed there were no benefits for people who did not meet the two-hour threshold
12) Improving time management by writing a to do list, helps to prioritise tasks and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed
If you are unsure of the root cause, speaking to a healthcare professional can help. If you have managed life stresses and ruled out any physical causes other treatments that can be effective are:
After a period of stress your amygdala will remain on high alert, as it is not always good at detecting when a treat or stress has come to an end. This is why it’s important to teach your brain that the threat is no longer there or the stress has come to an end through a series of relaxation techniques.
Following this you might need some additional support such as talking therapies, medication or exposure therapy which you will need to speak to your GP about as a first point a of call.
If you are still struggling with sleep you can speak to your GP, or Katy offers an online consultation service. (Details below)
Please email any questions you have related to mental health that you would like addressing in the next article to Katy [email protected]
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For more in our series click here
For inspiring stories of our friends real life victories over mental health issues see
A life less ordinary
The trouble with weed.
Who rescues the rescuers