Battling anxiety while working, taking care of your family, and trying to live a life that is satisfying and fulfilling is exhausting and definitely not fulfilling. No matter how much you do and how hard you try, you still end up almost every day fearing for the future and dreading tomorrow’s challenges. Those negative thoughts you’re having about yourself and life are only increasing your anxiety and depleting your life energy. You feel you’re falling deeper and deeper into anxiety and you don’t know how to take back control over your head and emotions. Well, you’re not alone, evidently almost half of the population is battling some type of anxiety disorder. But what is it about us that we are so susceptible to anxiety? And is there something we can do to become resilient to stress?
What causes anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotional response, it involves feelings of fear, uneasiness, and dread. It’s also an essential, temporary, state you experience when you’re in danger or under stress. When stressed your body goes into survival mode, it redirects its resources from normal “rest and digest” functions to functions needed for “fight or flight”. The changes are instant, adrenalin and cortisol are released, your heart rate goes up and starts pumping blood into limbs, leaving organs for digestion, waste management, and general maintenance depleted, blood vessels constrict, and the liver releases increased amounts of glucose to fuel muscles and give you the energy to stay and fight or to run away fast.
This is a powerful process that is essential for your survival when you are faced with an external danger like a wild animal or something. But having this kind of reaction when somebody cuts you off in traffic, while sorting your finances, or your boss gives you more work than you can possibly handle, well it’s a bit too much. What’s worse, your body can go through this whole ordeal several times a day.
Normally, stress response comes when triggered and goes away after the situation that has triggered it is over. But sometimes things can go haywire. After prolonged periods of stress and intense worry or an extremely traumatic event, you can remain “frozen” in this survival mode.
Risks of untreated anxiety
Temporary effects of anxiety on the body are increased heart rate, constricted blood vessels, increased blood glucose levels, slowed down digestion, waste expulsion, and general maintenance processes. When this happens from time to time and your body has enough time to recover there is no harm done. But if you’re experiencing anxiety your body is constantly enduring these conditions. That can lead to heart problems, cardiovascular diseases, inflammations, poor immune system, digestive diseases, chronic pain, depression, and insomnia.
One thing you can do every morning to strengthen your nervous system
Life is stressful, always has been and always will be, and there is nothing we can do about it. But what we can do is help our nervous system regulate itself better and become stronger. By doing this one thing every morning you will reset your nervous system, help it release built-up stress and anxiety, and strengthen it so it becomes more resilient in future stressful situations.
You can do this while still lying in bed. Lay on your back. Interlace your fingers and put them behind your head so that the bottom of your head lays in your hands. Your hands will help you keep your head stable and centered. Now without moving your head shift only your eyes to look to the right and stay so for a minimum of 30 seconds. Bring your eyes to the center and take a few breaths. Then shift your eyes to look to the left and stay so for another 30 seconds, or more.
You can find more details about this practice in the video below.
Why does this work?
Since stress manifests itself physically in the body, it’s only logical to deal with it on a physical level as well. There are ways you can directly communicate a message to the part of your brain that is the source of a stress response. And there are ways that you can stimulate your nervous system to strengthen it and increase its stress tolerance.
Side to side eye movements quiet the amygdala, the part of the brain that is in control of the stress response. The theory is that these eye movements happen when we walk or run forward. When we move forward we observe the world left and right. And these eye movements are the ones that will send the message to the brain that the threat is being taken care of. They will also end the stress response. This is an ancient coping mechanism that was only recently discovered but there are already many studies proving its effectiveness. To find out more search for EMDR therapy.