In a world that’s increasingly fast-paced and competitive, anxiety has become a part of our lives. Dr David L Raffle, clinical and forensic neuropsychologist, and director at the Raffle Brain Institute, explains that it all depends on our sensory perceptions. Our amygdala, an almond-shaped organ in the brain that decides what’s dangerous, sends signals throughout the bodies to fight or flee. Our sympathetic nervous system responds by dilating our pupils, making our mouths dry, increasing our heartbeats, and causing us to sweat. When the brain reacts this way (to seemingly non-threatening situations), it’s called a panic attack. If the effects persist, it’s called anxiety.
Read on for some helpful tips in dealing with this phenomenon:
1. Worry Smarter
Worrying is a habit that’s hard to break out of, despite how pointless and damaging it can be. So think of it as a mere tool to finding solutions. Make a list of the things you are worried about, and create a worry period, where you focus on those issues till you arrive at a solution. Avoid worrying outside of this time period. Over-thinking and over-analyzing never solves the problem.
2. Take Control
Evaluate the concern you are dealing with. Is it within your control, or outside of it? When you can do something about it, make a time-bound action plan, like drawing up a healthy menu plan if you’re concerned about your children’s diet. If it’s outside your control, like worrying about meeting with an accident someday, stop your thought process right there. Embrace your feeling of fear instead of pushing it away. Ask yourself why you’re feeling such fear in the first place. The answer might be a revelation, and calm you down.
3. Be Mindful
When you think you’re about to lose control, try and distance yourself from your current thoughts, feelings and surroundings just enough to be able to observe them. This gives you the ability to detach, and think clearly. Breathing deeply or walking are relaxation techniques that help calm down, and supply much needed oxygen to your brain, helping with mental clarity. The change of scenery is immensely helpful.
4. Seek Help
This can mean different things to different individuals. While a therapist or counselor is ideal for some, a close friend or family member is more approachable to others. Find a source of understanding and guidance that will help you. Clearly then, avoid people and situations that fuel or feed your anxiety.
5. Get Fitter
Research indicates that people who are physically healthy, and avoid narcotics, alcohol and nicotine, are better equipped to deal with anxiety. We recommend moderate exercise, which releases endorphins that reduce anxiety. Adopt habits like drinking green tea or chamomile, which calm the body. Present in green tea, an amino acid called L-theanine helps curb a rising heart rate and blood pressure, while some compounds in chamomile (Matricaria recutita) bind to the same brain receptors as drugs like Valium.
Armed with these tips, we hope you find it easier to negotiate a healthy and happier path through life.