Sadly anxiety has become the number one Mental Health issue in North America. It is estimated that one third of the American adult population experiences anxiety in their life – National Institute of Mental Health. To put this in perspective: these numbers are similar to the obesity statistics of 2011-2012. So what is anxiety really, why has it become such a big issue and more importantly what can be done about it?
We all experience anxiety in our lives at one point or another. Occasional anxiety is quite acceptable and a normal part of life. We may be anxious when interviewing for a job, while awaiting test results, when in a life threatening situation or having to make an important decision.
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease typically about an event in the past or the future. Feelings and the degree of worry can vary quite a bit depending on the individual can’t they? I am sure you can think of at least one person in your life that is overwhelmed, stressed out, nervous or shall we say anxious? On the other hand very likely you also know of a different kind of person, you know the one I am referring to; the one that seems to handle it all, juggling a career, school, kids, … and is just a ball of life and energy no matter what happens. How can that be? They both have eyes, a nose, lungs, a heart and a mind.
AAAHHH the mind. Even though the anatomy is similar, the way it is used may be different. We are on to something here, can you sense it?
Most of us have this notion that the mind can be divided into the conscious and subconscious part. Most of us are also aware that the subconscious part is the biggest engine of the two. The one that drives your behavior,thoughts and therefore feelings. Compare it to your computer’s programming. This program of yours has a very simple yet effective mechanism in place. We use different words for it, some of them may be familiar, they all are referring to the same: the fight-flight response, sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system or our basic instinct for survival.
What does this have to do with anxiety?
Thank you for asking, we are getting to the nitty gritty here.
Play a game with Yasmine
What happens to your body and your emotions when you find yourself in a situation that is uncomfortable, makes you nervous or let’s go big: life threatening. Perhaps a speech you’re about to give, the boss called you in her/his office, the doctor really wanted to speak with you, a partner that couldn’t talk to you on the phone but had to see you in person?
– sweaty palms – panic
– queasy stomach – expecting the worst
– heart starts beating faster – feeling worried
– breathing shifts – muscle tension
– worse case scenario’s seem to always win – feeling drained
Let’s keep playing; what are some of the symptoms associated with anxiety? What are some of the bodily reactions when we feel threatened or in danger? YES!! similar to the above. This means we can conclude that non life threatening situations are also activating our basic instinct for survival. See our mind doesn’t know the difference between reality and fantasy. Movies aren’t real, they are a projection of images, yet we respond to them with our emotions, we laugh, cry, get scared or if it’s a bad movie we may yawn. The movies we decide to play in our head, based on a past or future event, trigger the same program. WOW! so it IS all about the mind.