Anxiety - a feeling we have all experienced at some point in our lives.
Standing up in front of the class to give a talk, waiting for exam results, going for an interview, then wondering if you’ve got the job, starting a new job, dealing with an outspoken workmate, walking home late at night in the dark or trying to find the right train to catch while you're in a foreign country by yourself!
So many situations or experiences stimulate a fight or flight or stress response in our bodies that we experience and label as anxiety. Some experiences are more traumatic and deeply life-changing than day-to-day stresses.
a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.
strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen.
And the opposite emotion of anxiety is excitement…
a feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness.
something that arouses a feeling of excitement.
Did you know...
Anxiety and excitement are basically created from the same chemicals in our body – adrenaline and cortisol.
They're made as a natural stress-response to surviving or thriving, an instinctual response developed throughout evolution. They're created either in response to life-threatening situations “run as fast as you can, that dinosaur is huge”, or life-enhancing situations, “gee that person is cute and strong, we‘ll definitely make healthy babies together”.
In both expressions, adrenaline makes the heart beat faster, cortisol surges, and the body prepares for action. They follow the same chemical/brain pathways of arousal. The only difference is that excitement is a positive emotion, focused on all the ways something could go well, while anxiety is a draining emotion, focused on the ways we can fail, be hurt, get embarrassed or lose something or someone we care about.
The brain is the organ that labels the chemical release and also files that response and situation away for future recognition and as a shortcut to a response.
Which brings us to the learned response - our brain interpretation of the situation at hand...
Imagine if instead of feeling anxious about waiting to walk into the interview or starting the new job, we tell ourselves that the butterflies in our tummy are excitement.
Identify positive, exciting outcomes as being excited in anticipation of the new experiences and learning, potential of making new friends and workmates. A positive experience!
We’re taking the stress out of the chemicals flowing through our body, rewiring them in our brain to lift us up, which enables us to express ourselves to perform and function our best potential. How much better is that than the stress of the moment blocking your thoughts and freezing your tongue?
A major traumatic experience registers a scar that requires healing on all levels of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual to reset our stress responses.
Over time, the stress response to anxiety has a very real effect on our health. Adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, heart palpitations, heart muscle weakening and heart attack, alopecia (hair loss) disruption of hormonal cycles such as irregular menstruation, PMT, early onset menopause, infertility, weight gain, weight loss, night terrors, inability to sleep, dementia, and the list goes on.
Our personality can also be a victim of anxiety, being affected in social interactions, relationships, our sense of safety and ability to function in different situations. There are so many devastating ripple effects of anxiety when it becomes the boss.
When we recognise that daily stress is a part of life – our bus runs late, we get stuck in traffic jams, we don’t get the job, that person intimidates us – we learn that we are in control of how we respond to stress.
Once we identify our stress triggers, we can work towards releasing our mental, physical and learned reactions to stress.
We have many tools available to manage stress levels and to retrain ourselves away from the emotional and physical drain of continuous anxiety. Here are some of our favourite ones...
Make time to rest, have breakfast or lunch. Eat sitting down and without talking on the phone. Take out some of the social engagements or release the last-minute rush to work knowing you're against all odds to get there on time, and knowing no amount of stressing will change that.
Reducing and eliminating stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and sugar helps our brave little adrenal glands to regulate and flow. Our adrenals sit on top of our kidneys and are the little factory releasing adrenaline and cortisol. Try substituting the afternoon coffee with caffeine-free herbal teas to hydrate. Keeping your fluids up also helps to combat brain fatigue so you can sleep better at night.
Relaxation is training the brain to stop the non-stop chatter, planning, thinking and processing to allow the body to recharge and repair.
Yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, reading a book (not on the phone removing the temptation to social scroll!) breathing techniques, having a massage or acupuncture, making or listening to music are all very effective ways to RELAX.
Create time for friends, conversations, laughter and hugs. Healthy friendships are powerful feel-good, brain and body chemical reset medicines.
Research supports the findings of elevated levels of endorphins after laughter and time with good friends. Endorphins are the "happy high" brain chemicals and keep us young and mentally alert - more of this please!
This could be volunteering at the local opshop, soup kitchen or animal shelter. Giving back is so fulfilling, restores our sense of worth, purpose and connection with others and kindness - that magical ingredient for a healthy life and healthy community.
A balanced diet, plenty of sleep and regular exercise are our essential daily basics. Essential as this is where it all starts. We cannot repair the oxidative stress of our busy lives without a whole food, fresh and unprocessed diet, sleep to recover and repair, exercise to move it all through and keep the body tuned in and turned on = nourish to flourish!
Concentrated foods such as in a smoothie are both tasty and make it easy to enjoy your daily nutrients. The plant world is full of good sources of balanced nutrients in a form your body finds it easy to break down and absorb.
Phytonutrients such as chlorophyll can be found in organic wheatgrass, quercetin can be found in berries (Acai Berry Beautiful is packed-full!), restorative enzymes S.O.D that defend against oxidative stress can be found in barley grass (which is in our Nourish Blend). Balanced profiles of minerals and vitamins are all found in plants.
This means that if you're tired or fatigued, adaptogens help to energise and uplift your body. If you're wired and stressed out, adaptogens help to fortify and stabilise your body. Our food can definitely be our medicine!
These professionals can help you find the pathways to recognise your own individual stress triggers and identify ways that work for you. Sometimes they also allow you to simply have the conversations you can’t have with anyone else, which can help you get through the tunnel and out the other side.
Learning to react to stress in a healthy way is the power button. You are in control of your stress, not the other way around. Even if a current situation cannot be changed immediately (hello 2020), embracing techniques to retrain the brain, redirect thoughts and emotional patterns, strengthen the physical body with a balance of rest, healthy diet, exercise and play enables us to take positive steps forward to manage the impact the stresses have on us.
That’s a game-changer.
Love and light
Amanda & Robyn xx
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