Trusty ol’ Webster’s defines anxiety as “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it.” That sounds like a vicious cycle to me, one that almost every human on this planet seems to struggle with at some point in their journey through life. In order to understand why that should come as no surprise to any of us, let’s take a deeper look at what exactly happens in our body that causes us to fall into that cyclical mindset of self-torture. Keep well in mind that tummy butterflies is completely normal and not what this discussion will be about, the monster we will be tackling today is the crippling fear caused by normal, everyday things like work emails and leaving the house. Note that I am simply a curious mind compiling what I find to the best of my abilities when it comes to topics dealing with medical details and absolutely not a doctor or healthcare authority.
It is my opinion that all life has had plenty of time to evolve to exactly what it needs to be in order to survive and thrive. When we look out into the ecosystems that exist all around we can see that no detail is overlooked. Nature (god, God, Goddess, Gods, the Energy, the Universe,… you get the point) knew exactly what it was doing to craft stable systems. Every living thing is perfectly adapted to fit into its role in the cycle of life and death. That got me thinking about what purpose anxiety served our prehistoric ancestors. The average human in antiquity faced life or death decisions much more often than we do today and developed a “fight or flight” response to these situations, technically all life has it in some form or another. The human response is focused in the adrenal glands, secreting adrenaline and other catecholamines into the body to prepare it to either run quickly or fight hard. The influx of these hormones raises the rate of both heartbeat and breath in order to oxygenate the muscles for maximum usage causing tension and sweating. All of that sounds very similar to what anxiety feels like because its the contemporary reaction to an instinctual response. People just don’t stare down woolly mammoth, holding nothing but a sharpened and fire-hardened stick like they used to anymore.
Why is the ring of a doorbell equivalent to standing in the sights of six tons of muscle armed with tusks was my next question as well and conditioning is the short and generalized answer that I can come up with, but that is a blog rant for another time. I want to help you tackle the monster now that we know why anxiety was, and still is, vital to our survival. Its something no one will every be rid of completely, its hardwired into our brains to react in an instant to something that we connect with survival. Learning to manage the levels of anxiety in your life is the achievable goal.