I have noticed that sufferers don’t seem to be aware of the fundamentals of anxiety or if they do then they have a tendency to easily forget and to go back to worrying instead (that was what I used to do a lot of too). So I have put together what I think is the essential basics. I hope it helps.
BTW: this is assuming that there is nothing wrong with us medically and we have been diagnosed as suffering from GAD.
Anxiety is FEAR
Fear can be REAL or it can be IMAGINARY
The reptilian part of the brain, the part that is designed to react FAST to danger (the fight or flight mechanism) cannot distinguish between real fear and imaginary fear.
There isn’t much time to distinguish between real and imaginary FEAR when split seconds could be the difference between life and death – we’ve not been designed badly, we’ve been designed well.
When we sense DANGER, when we get anxious, all sorts of things happen in the body. Chemical reactions occur; blood and oxygen are pumped to the vital parts of the body. The parts that are ONLY vital for fight or flight are switched on (which can lead to trouble down the line) and the OTHER parts, the parts not vital to fight or flight are switched off, by-passed, ignored (which can also lead to trouble down the line)
To get anxious over REAL DANGER is healthy, as it obviously could save your life. Real DANGER usually passes quite quickly and when it does we SENSE that and our minds respond by switching off the fight or flight mechanism and everything returns to normal….after a while, depending on the scale of the “event” of course.
So we must get the SENSE that there is no danger present then IE: Must be able to relax again, in order to de-activate the fight or flight response.
To get anxious over IMAGINARY DANGER, IMAGINARY FEARS is, in most cases, counter-productive, because when this happens we rarely, if ever, relax again and when that happens we get stuck, thinking all-sorts of Imaginary dangers and fears.
When we get stuck imagining all sorts of dangers and conjuring up all sorts of fears (imagining illness or fearing what the future will bring) then we are continually using our minds, continually activating and triggering the fight or flight response and that is not what is supposed to be happening.
We need to do the opposite of that, we should be switching off, relaxing and sending signals to our already tired minds and bodies that everything is OK.
So we are not operating ourselves in the manner in which we were designed (and that is the ONLY problem here) we are operating incorrectly and that leads to trouble down the line.
When the fight or flight response is continually activated, we are continually switching on the parts that are vital for fight or flight and switching off the parts that are not and when this happens, over any length of time, the system starts to overload through over-use or mal-functioning through under-use and as a result weird things start happening.
Strange symptoms occur; in our bodies or in our minds and what do we do to ourselves when we start to experience those - we worry!!.
When we SEE danger in any sense, FEAR is induced and what we must realise is that FEAR is anxiety and it is anxiety that is producing all our ill’s. However we do have a tendency to forget this (amazingly easily in fact) and that is because we are not operating from a calm perspective, we are already operating from a perspective of fight or flight and so REASON goes out of the window as we don’t have time to use REASON - we have been designed by our maker to react quick - as not reacting could mean DEATH.
But this is where we go wrong, because THERE IS NO REAL DANGER, we forget that the danger has only been imagined and in doing so we allow in FEAR. Now this FEAR may not be very apparent to us, because the logical portion of our minds have been switched off (and we have forgotten this bit) because we don’t have time to debate, ponder or reflect here and our brains are screaming IT’S TIME TO PANIC MAN, THERE IS DANGER PRESENT.
So FEAR which is unconscious IE: under our conscious radar is induced. and FEAR is anxiety (or anxiety is FEAR) and anxiety must AUTOMATICALLY invoke the fight or flight mechanism, there is no alternative, if FEAR is present at a high enough level, then this mechanism will be activated and this is to be expected as we are literally hard-wired for this to happen.
We have a panic button in our heads called the amygdala and when the amygdala is stimulated then the fight or flight mechanism is activated. Now this panic button (the amygdala) is programmable so we have to be very responsible with it, because the more things we interpret as DANGER, the more things we FEAR, and the more things we FEAR then the more sensitive the amygdala, the panic button is.
This is how phobias work, a phobia is programmed into the amygdala and therefore as soon as we see something we have a phobia of, no matter how silly it appears to other people, the amygdala is stimulated and the fight or flight mechanism is activated. Once this happens the logical part of the brain is bypassed, because we have no time to be logical according to our primitive brains our lives may be on the line and so the adrenalin is released AUTOMATICALLY to help us kill it or RUN for our lives.
So we have to be careful what we THINK – because all this THINKING is programming the amygdala and once that is activated we go all primal and logic goes out of the window.
When we are not careful what we are thinking and fearing then the system can become hyper-sensitive and the fight or flight mechanism becomes over used. When this happens we start to experience the body and mind mal-functioning IE: not functioning as it should do, and that is what we notice and when we SEE/Experience weird mental or bodily functions.
Now when we see those things happening then it is quite natural that we panic at first because OUR BODIES AND MINDS ARE MAL-FUNCTIONING. But if we are not careful, if we do not SEE the truth, the reality of what is going on we will end up doing the opposite of what we should be doing and that is worry. Now if we worry, because we don't know what is really going on and therefore IMAGINE some more FEARS then all we will be doing is programming more “things” that will activate the amygdala, the panic button in our brains.
If we make this mistake, then all we do is induce more anxiety, which sends out more DANGER signals, which switches on parts of our bodies (and mind) or switches off parts of our bodies (and mind) that creates more symptoms which we don’t like the look of, which sends us into MORE PANIC, which programs more “stuff”, which activates the amygdala – which is how we have been designed to avoid DANGER, but there is no DANGER and so we wonder what the hell is wrong, this induces ANXIETY and that produces more FEAR and AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! …………………… This is the anxiety TRAP that we all get caught up in.
The way out of the anxiety trap is to stop the fight or flight response.
The way to stop the fight or flight response is to not get anxious
The way to not get anxious is simple, but incredibly hard both at the same time. Acceptance is key, accepting the strange feelings/sensations/symptoms whatever they may be is the answer, because acceptance is being FEAR-LESS and if you are fearless then the fight or response cannot be activated. Doing this is hard however, and especially so for a worn out, FRAZZLED brain. And it is because acceptance is hard, that we find we can’t do it, our weakened minds just haven’t got the willpower (especially on the bad days) and when we find we can’t do something - as human beings, especially anxiety suffering human beings, we have a tendency to give up.
But all that thinking about giving up does is get us all depressed, upset, angry, frustrated, agitated and ANXIOUS again and what happens when we get anxious, when we project IMAGINARY FEARS and IMAGINARY DANGER into our minds? You've got it!!!
So the way around giving up is further acceptance, acceptance that these strange feelings are present and are going to be with us for some time. Now I know this is hard to ACCEPT, but there is no magic pill, no magic bullet and so ANY resistance is futile and just detrimental to your recovery.
Acceptance IS THE ONLY WAY to re-program and to de-sensitise that PANIC BUTTON, that so easily brings shredded nerves, weird, symptoms, depression, negativity and ANXIETY (please tell me if anyone has found another way) and ANY refusal to accept that "this is how things are for now", is just going to cause more thoughts, more mental agitation - and mental agitation is not what we want here.
This is where OCD may kick in, now I don’t want to go deeply off into any other realms (which is why I have not discussed medication, medication is not my forte and so I will leave that for someone else to discuss) because this is supposed to be the basics, so a basic description of OCD is just being stuck with a thought and all that latching onto a thought does (any thought), is simply create something else for us to worry about. Now this happens because, put very simplistically, we have become a bit of an adrenalin junkie and the mind has gotten just used to operating on adrenalin and OCD tendencies are just its way of getting us to produce more. The mind is very clever, very resourceful and really this is all we need to understand about what is happening, any further analysis is just further doubt, worry, concern and further mental activity which WILL ultimately lead us back to anxiety again and why we so easily get stuck in the revolving door, the TRAP called ANXIETY.
What better way to get locked in? What better way to create fear in our minds, what better way to keep ourselves anxious than an intrusive thought? YET all they are still ONLY thoughts.
We have been designed to have the freedom to think whatever we want. However our conditioning may say that we are not supposed to be having these thoughts, our upbringing may demand that we do not, our schools, our churches, our parents, our society, our televisions, newspapers, etc. may have conditioned us to BELIEVE that we should not be thinking certain things – but what is the problem they are ONLY thoughts, so where is the discomfort coming from, where is this fear coming from, where have we got the IDEA from that we are not supposed to be thinking something??
Thoughts are just like money, there is nothing wrong with money – it is what you do with that money that can lead you into dark places. So just like money there is nothing wrong with a thought - BUT IT IS WHAT YOU DO WITH THAT THOUGHT that will lead you into dark places, so just act responsibly.
We have the freedom to respond to thoughts in any way we please, yet we have the responsibility to act properly with them also, so the good ones, the healthy ones are kept and the bad ones the unhealthy ones are merely discarded. NOT kept and held in the mind until they drive us to near insanity, because we have thought them - so what we've thought them - just let it go again, like you do with every other thought.
So the way to accept all of this is to KNOW that what we are currently experiencing is merely (and it is merely, there is nothing more sinister going on, we just think it is) the body re-adjusting, putting itself back right. Resetting and re-using organs and parts of the body properly again after days, weeks, months, even YEARS of improper use.
SO REMEMBER THIS :
This is a simple process – we just don’t understand it and so make it far more complicated than it actually is or needs to be.
Our bodies have a blueprint for good health and in most cases, given the correct conditions, they can return to full health in quite a short period of time.
EVERYTIME we allow anxiety back in, we take a step backwards, but as long as there are more forwards steps than back, we will be fine.
It is a marathon and not a sprint. Some people can do it in a sprint, but not many, so patience is required because there may be a lot of imbalance’s that need to be corrected within our system and where there is more imbalance, then more repair work may have to be undertaken.
No two people are the same and due to this and the amount of work that may be needed to be done in order for us to heal again, we can become impatient with our minds and our bodies, simply because they are not healing fast enough for our liking. Yet our bodies and minds will only heal at their own pace, all they are asking of us is that we take care of them again, to love them again, rather than falling out with them because they are letting us down - they cannot be rushed, only nurtured - all rushing will do is breed impatience and all impatience will do is breed more anxiety. If it takes 4-6 weeks to repair something as simple as a bone – how long do you think it might take to repair something as complicated the brain??
Reducing anxiety as much as possible will give you the best chance of recovery, but we must be vigilant because anxiety (FEAR) can creep up on us in a myriad of disguises and we could be back programming that panic button again without even realising it. The mind is such a powerful tool that this is where our TRUE responsibility lies, we have to be so careful what we allow ourselves to think, and feel, because what we think and feel really does shape our futures - yet how many of us can truly say that we are masters of our own minds? (BTW: CBT, Mindfulness and Meditation WILL help enormously with this)
Finally if anxiety does get a hold on us again, then so what! It’s no big deal, it’s no matter, and certainly nothing to worry about again, because further worry is the wrong action. All we do is release it again and go back to getting on with things. If we can continue to do that, to continue to learn to drop anxiety, continue to not allow anxiety to reside within us, to rise above anxiety and be patient and vigilant not allowing anxiety to dominate our state of being, then one day WE WILL BE FREE of anxiety.
Best wishes to you all.