What happens to the body when we are anxious?
People with General Anxiety Disorder spend at least 5 hours worrying daily. That's five times more than their non-anxious peers. For comparison, take a look at some other statistics about the average American's use of time:
Average time per day spent eating: about 1 hour
Average time per day spent driving: about 1.6 hours
This excessive and chronic worrying takes a tangible, physical toll on the body.
When you feel as though you are in danger, your sympathetic nervous system enters a state of "Fight or Flight". You do not need to be in any imminent or rational danger for this state to activate. You only need to believe you are at risk. In this state, your digestive and immune systems shut down. Blood diverts away from the part of your brain used in rational thought. The body floods with cortisol.
Cortisol is a stress chemical. It decreases bone density and immune function. Cortisol also increases body weight and blood pressure.
When you feel safe, your body enters a healing mode known as the "Relaxation Response". Immune, digestive, and wound recovery systems begin functioning again. Your blood pressure lowers. Breathing deepens. Blood returns to the part of the brain used in conscious thought.
Being in a state of Fight or Flight for a prolonged period can be taxing on the body. Chronic stress drains physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Take active steps to counter the Fight or Flight Response. At the same time, you can use the following techniques to elicit the Relaxation Response.
Below are some tips you can use in your daily life. They will diminish the toll that anxiety takes on your wellbeing. Read on to start your healing and recovery process.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that affects your body in many ways. It increases heart rate. It prevents calcium absorption. It often causes "jitters"--feelings of extreme nervousness.
For those working through an anxiety disorder, these symptoms can exacerbate their condition. You may feel "locked into" stress. It may be difficult to deepen your breathing or slow their heart rate. That's the last thing an anxiety sufferer needs.
Some anxiety sufferers may try using alcohol to self-medicating. Twenty percent of people dealing with social anxiety also deal with alcohol abuse. As alcohol levels in the blood rise, a temporary sense of relaxation follows. Within a few hours of consumption, however, anxiety returns and increases. This can create a vicious cycle. People use more and more alcohol in an attempt to fend off higher and higher levels of anxiety.
Another substance used to self-medicate anxiety disorders is nicotine. Researchers say that anxiety is one of the major reasons people relapse into smoking. When absorbed, nicotine temporarily blocks certain receptors in the brain, increasing relaxation. But, like alcohol, smoking can actually worsen anxiety over time.
Dehydration contributes anxiety in a few ways. Hormone delivery disrupts because of poor blood flow. Your muscles become tense. Your brain, which is 85% water, experiences decrease function and changes as a result of water loss. These factors add up to a physical stress on your body systems, resulting in a sense of anxiety. Aim for around eight 8oz glasses per day.
Anxiety can be an exhausting condition. The mental and physical strain of constant stress and worry is enough to leave you worn out and depleted. That's why sleep is all the more important for anxiety sufferers. Ensuring you get enough sleep at night gives your body time to heal and recuperate.
Sometimes, anxiety may cause you to experience insomnia. If so, many techniques discussed below will help.
Benefits of Massage therapy include:
- Decreased cortisol--the body's "stress" chemicals
- Increased endorphins--the body's "feel good" chemicals
Massage as an anxiety treatment has an impressive track record. A 1-hour massage lowers cortisol by up to 30 percent after one session. Researchers found people who had massage for 12 weeks had a 50% reduction in anxiety symptoms.
Self-massage dates back thousands of years in Chinese and Ayurvedic practices. Try massaging your hands and feet, your shoulders, your neck, and your face. Massage is great by itself. You can also try massage with meditation, yoga, or after you've finished exercising.
Acupressure is an ancient Chinese healing method. It involves putting pressure with the fingers on certain points of the body. One study found acupressure therapy reduced depression, anxiety, stress, and general psychological distress.
Trained acupressurists perform acupressure. You can also look up self-acupuncture techniques to use yourself. Many of these techniques are discreet, even in public places like a bus or your desk at work.
Studies have found yoga to have a moderating effect on the nervous system. Hormones, nerve impulses, and physiological factors are all altered through yoga practice. Gentle stretching deepens breathing and releases endorphins. These factors communicate to your body and mind that everything is OK. This turns on the Relaxation Response.
Tai Chi and Qigong
Tai Chi and Qigong combine moderate-intensity exercises with breath-work and mindfulness. They've been practiced for thousands of years in China. Research shows they increase immune function and endorphins. They also reduce inflammatory adrenaline, and cortisol.
Anxiety sufferers can become chronically tense. After awhile, it's hard to recognize what being relaxed feels like. Progressive relaxation techniques helps you distinguish between tense and relaxed muscles. By tensing and releasing, you recognize when you are starting to get tense during the day. This enables you to “cue” a relaxed state when you start feeling anxious.
Scientists found meditation activates brain regions that control executive function and worrying. Study after study shows that even a single meditation exercise reduces anxiety. You can think of meditation as a workout for your brain. During each exercise, brain "muscles" involved in regulating emotions strengthen. Over time, these exercises make your brain more capable of overriding disordered thinking.
There are over 60 neurons in the brain that react to the way we breathe. These neurons are connected to the arousal center of the brain. The arousal center receives signals from these neurons. They either set off alarms in the body, or keep you calm. By learning to control your breathing, you can turn off the Fight or Flight Response. At the same time, you turn on the Relaxation Response in the body. As with meditation, controlled breathing takes practice to build up the mental "muscles" involved.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Research has shown Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treats all types of anxiety disorders. CBT helps people to notice negative patterns and distortions in the way they think. You learn to recognize how negative thoughts contribute to anxiety. You also learn how to behave and react when anxiety is triggered. In this way, you gain a sense of control. CBT help you take active steps to cope with and overcome anxiety.
Exposure Therapy (ET)
When you're afraid of something, your initial instinct may be to avoid it at all costs. Exposure therapy challenges you to confront your fears instead. ET introduces you to your anxiety triggers in a controlled and gradual way. A therapist coaches you on how to react in these situations. As you practice, you build confidence and skill in confronting your triggers.
Four brain chemicals play an important role in anxiety and related disorders. These chemicals are serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Many pharmaceutical medications for anxiety effect one or more of these chemicals.
Pharmaceutical medications have many harsh side effects. Some people decide to forgo pharmaceutical treatment in favor of alternate therapies. ANTIDOTE+ products provide a natural alternative treatment option.
ANTIDOTE+ products contain a blend of compounds called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids have been shown to manage anxiety symptoms. not only do they decrease anxiety, they also alter the way the brain responds to stress.
These cannabinoids, unlike pharmaceutical medications, are completely natural extracts of the hemp plant. Side effects of these cannabinoids, when they occur at all, are relatively mild effects like dry mouth and drowsiness.
Cannabinoids are absorbed into the bloodstream, either topically or orally. Once absorbed, they travel to the brain and trigger cannabinoid receptors.
These receptors regulate the chemicals serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, and GABA. They:
- balance mood
- control emotional responses
- adjust sleep
- regulate social behavior
Studies continue to demonstrate the effectiveness of cannabinoids in reducing anxiety symptoms. ANTIDOTE+ provides a natural, effective alternative for anxiety sufferers who can't or don't want to use traditional pharmaceutical treatments.
Bringing it all together
If you are struggling with an anxiety disorder, know that you have many treatment options available to you. Try out different treatments and see which work best for your unique needs. For best results, build a holistic treatment plan that supports your physical, mental and emotional health.
* Always consult your doctor before discontinuing any medications.