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An Exercise for Anxiety & Stress

The What

Anxiety is a bitch and no one enjoys dealing with this problem. It’s an unpleasant feeling of helplessness or immediate threat that feels real to us, but for other’s it may be considered unrealistic. If someone is discrediting you for having anxiety over whatever, kindly tell them to fuck off because they’re not you nor should they be telling you what you should feel anxious about.

Anxiety is when you have intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Everyone has different levels and reactions to anxiety, some greater than others, some lesser than others, it all impacts us differently, but every single human feels this way at times.

Anxiety can be brought up by many things like having difficult conversations with people, meeting new people, receiving a phone call from an unknown caller, seeing an ex in public, wondering if you left the stove on, etc. These can also be known as triggers. Triggers can vary and send signals to our brain to respond in a reactive and hypervigilant way.

If you have a tendency of being reactive to people when you’re feeling anxious, you don’t always have to do that. You can change how you choose to respond to people when you do feel anxious. Whatever your behavior is you can absolutely change it!!

Just because you’re suffering from anxiety doesn’t mean that you’re not able of doing something to help manage it. You can’t control the emotions you have, but you get to control the behavior that follows from how you feel your emotions.

Nerd Talk First

Everyone has an autonomic nervous system that consists of two major components. Your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is your brains reaction to stress where your heart rate increases, your breath shortens, your hyper awareness heightens and cortisol is produced. The PNS is your brains passive state of being, where it’s more in a relaxed and digestive sense of being. This lowers your heart rate, promotes healthy blood flow, and relaxes the body.

When your brains prefrontal cortex interrupts something as a trigger, your amygdala gets highjacked and then sends signals to your brainstem to respond to the perceived threat. Your body will then go into its sympathetic state of being to best handle the situation.

Whoa, what the fuck does that even mean William? Great question reader who I am imagining in front of me.

It means that the thinking part of your brain (prefrontal cortex) told the feeling part of your brain (amygdala) to tell the doing part of your brain (brainstem) to freak the fuck out and turn the fight, flight, or freeze on (sympathetic nervous system).

The Exercise

Now that we have a understanding of what is going on and what all this means let’s talk about what you can do about it!!

1. Reset your breathing pattern. Pause your breathing for a 2 count then press your lips together and slowly breathe out at a 5 count. Pause for a 1 count then begin to inhale at a 3 count through your nose filling your bellybutton with air and pause for a 1 count. Exhale by pressing your lips together as if you’re blowing into a balloon at a 5 count.

2. Tell the amygdala to shut the fuck up. Your amygdala is telling your brainstem to freak out because it’s feeling some type of way about an unknown caller. If you tell your amygdala to chill, it’ll then tell the brainstem to be less reactive to what’s going on.

3. Rub the back of your head/neck. This is MONEY!!! With both hands behind your head use light pressure and begin to rub underneath the base of your skull all along to the bottom of your neck.

The reason it works

The reason this works is because you are taking control of your brain again by using techniques that could help your current state of anxiety. Breathing helps the feeling brain relax by lowering the heart rate and sending signals to relax the body and mind. The words “shut the fuck up amygdala” helps bring the thinking part of our brain back into your current situation. Lastly, the rubbing of the head and neck is bringing the blood flow and stimulation to the brainstem which helps regulate the breathing.

Action steps

The next time you find yourself stuck with that awful feeling of anxiety begin with your breathing, then tell your amygdala to fuck off, and lastly, rub the back of your neck to help bring yourself back.

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