This month I wanted to address anxiety. With the current state of world events, a lot of people are experiencing increased levels of anxiety. For some people it is about financial problems due to losing their jobs, for others it is fear around getting sick, or fear due to the isolation. The list of what people are worried about right now seems endless.
When people are in a state of high anxiety, they move from normal “Beta” brainwaves to “High Beta” which is also commonly known as “Fight or Flight,” or a state of survival. You may think that sounds strange and that you aren’t so stressed that you feel like running or fighting, but when you are in a constant state of worry, frustration, competition, anger or fear, your body reserves energy for running or fighting even if that moment doesn’t come.
What this means for your body is that all of the different systems of your body that rely on signals from your brain to your autonomic nervous system, are not happening because in that state of survival, your body needs all of its energy for keeping you alive, it isn’t a time for digestion, reproduction, recovery, or the numerous other building projects your body is always working on.
What has happened with human evolution is that we rarely need that strong survival mechanism of fight or flight, however we have conditioned ourselves to respond that way for emotional reasons rather than physical survival. When the fight or flight response is triggered in non-life threatening situations such as giving a big presentation at work, meeting a deadline, disliking or feeling competitive with co-workers, pressures at home with a spouse or children, and the list goes on and on, we can get stuck in that “High Beta” state.
Think about all the times that you or someone you know has had physical problems, health issues that seemingly came out of nowhere but they know they have been under tremendous stress for a significant period of time. Divorce is a good example of long-term stress for many people where they experience health problems, but there are many. Below, I have listed the systems of the body and what they are responsible for. Any or all of these systems are greatly impacted by the stress response.
As you go down the list, consider times in your life when you may have experienced a health problem with any of these systems. What was going on in your life when you had the problem and did it go away when the problem was resolved? The first system on the list is Circulatory; hypertension or high blood pressure is one of the most common problems that people living in a state of survival experience.
1. Circulatory system:
Circulates blood around the body via the heart, arteries and veins, delivering oxygen and nutrients to organs and cells and carrying their waste products away. Keeps the body’s temperature in a safe range.
2. Digestive system and Excretory system:
System to absorb nutrients and remove waste via the gastrointestinal tract, including the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines. Eliminates waste from the body.
3. Endocrine system:
Influences the function of the body using hormones.
4. Integumentary system / Exocrine system:
Skin, hair, nails, sweat and other exocrine glands
5. Immune system and lymphatic system:
Defends the body against pathogens that may harm the body.
The system comprising a network of lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid called lymph.
6. Muscular system:
Enables the body to move using muscles.
7. Nervous system:
Collects and processes information from the senses via nerves and the brain and tells the muscles to contract to cause physical actions.
8. Renal system and Urinary system
The system where the kidneys filter blood to produce urine, and get rid of waste.
9. Reproductive system:
The reproductive organs required for the production of offspring.
10. Respiratory system:
Brings air into and out of the lungs to absorb oxygen and remove carbon dioxide.
11. Skeletal system:
Bones maintain the structure of the body and its organs.
You may wonder then, what am I supposed to do about this? How can I fix it? The answer is simple yet it takes practice and commitment. In my last newsletter I wrote about meditation. In meditation, you can absolutely strengthen your immune system, you can create health where there was disease.
Think about it, if stress, anxiety happens because of the thoughts you are thinking, and then your body breaks down over time because of being in that state, (that is how it happens), then couldn’t you reverse that process by thinking better thoughts and feeling better feelings? The answer is Yes!!! With practice, you quiet your mind, you focus on what you want rather than all of those problems you used to focus on. You begin to feel a little better every time you focus in that way.
The biological outcome from practicing this is that you signal white blood cells that signal certain genes that begin to activate receptors and DNA that produce proteins called immunoglobulins, they are anti-bodies or proteins that block viruses and bacteria. It is essentially your body immunizing itself.
When you feel the emotions of love, friendship, generosity, kindness, and a sense of being safe, your heart releases oxytocin and nitric oxide, this is just the beginning of the chain reaction of incredible things that your body can do to heal itself.
This is something I as a therapist can help you with and it’s something you can absolutely learn to do on your own. If you are ready to be in control of your mental and physical health, call me today to schedule an appointment.