Anxiety tends to carry negative connotations, even though it is a completely normal emotion that we all feel every now and then. If this is the case, it poses the question “what is the real purpose of anxiety?”

It can be said that all our emotions serve us in one way or another, so perhaps feeling anxious is our bodies’ way of checking if we are prepared for any level of danger that might occur.

However, many people enjoy the experience of fear and anxiety when they participate in all sorts of activities, such as rollercoaster rides and sky diving. The interesting paradox here is the fact that there are so many people spending thousands on therapy and medication to mitigate the feeling of anxiety, yet also spending money for the sole purpose of experiencing this feeling.

It is, however, important to note that the anxiety we feel from time to time, while similar to the thrill of an adrenaline rush from a rollercoaster, is not the same as an anxiety disorder. In saying this, what makes that common feeling of anxiety such a negative experience? It isn’t an anxiety disorder and, in fact, we pay to experience this sometimes as a form of enjoyment.

We can therefore argue that common anxiety and fear are not inherently bad emotions. The challenge comes in when we don’t know how to get off the rollercoaster ride within ourselves. When the feeling is experienced unintentionally.

In order to make sense of this paradox, we need to know what the possible causes of anxiety are:

Anxiety can be triggered by many events however the event, itself, is seldom what causes our experience of anxious feelings.

Why do people get anxiety? The causes of anxiety disorders aren’t fully understood, and there can actually be many things that ignite anxiety in people. Life experiences such as traumatic events appear to trigger anxiety disorders in people who are already prone to anxiety. Inherited traits can also be a factor. Anxiety also manifests in a variety of ways and can have multiple triggers for different people.

The thoughts that go along with anxiety are generally future-oriented—we worry about our health, relationships, success and other outcomes. We can even mistakenly believe that our anxious thoughts are helpful in preventing these undesired outcomes, but anxiety feeds itself—we worry a little, we get stuck in our anxious thoughts and we end up worrying even more. Then we experience more of the bodily changes that go along with anxiety. These bodily changes can be intense and can easily be mistaken for other illnesses, which may explain why people with anxiety tend to go to the doctor more often than others.

Good news, though. There are many research supported ways to reduce and manage anxiety, perhaps making anxiety more “treatable” than any other mental health challenges. So what could we do? What do we do when we’re right in the middle of an anxiety attack and need a fast-acting anxiety stopper?

Firstly, we all know about breathing into a paper bag to stop anxiety and even panic in its tracks. But why is this so effective?

There are a few reasons:

Each emotion that we experience has a recipe that we need to follow in order to produce them in our bodies. First, one has to focus one very specific things:

You need to visualise how things are going wrong for you. It is a well-established idea that your mind does not really understand the difference between things that you visualise and events that are actually taking place. This is why movies are such a great industry. Because you get to experience almost all the emotions of the events on the screen. You feel victories of the superhero protagonist and you get to also feel the desperation of the victims as well. While knowing consciously that nothing is real the projections on the screen are not even of real people it’s just light particles on a screen. In the same way when you imagine an event in the future where things are going right or where things are going wrong you will feel the emotions that go with that.

The second component is about self-talk.What are you saying to yourself? What are the questions that you are asking yourself? Are you asking questions such as: what can go wrong? What will people say if I fail? Or are you asking what can I learn, what if I succeed or how will I grow from this experience?

There are also the feelings and emotions that we habitually feel that will influence the self-talk that we engage in and the behaviour that we are willing to initiate.

There are things that we do with your body, we have to go into tunnel vision to truly experience anxiety as well as take fast and shallow breaths to feel anxious. Deep diaphragmatic breaths would make it very difficult to experience anxiety.

Another component is the experience of anxiety, people who frequently experience anxiety may also have a fear of feeling anxious. The mere fear of feeling anxious could set up a thinking loop that makes it all much worse.

These are some internal actions that we need to take in order to experience anxiety and disrupting any of these will make it a lot more difficult to experience anxiety.

When building your anti-anxiety action plan, it’s good to keep a couple of things in mind:

Everyone benefits from different strategies. Just because research has shown such-and-such strategy reduces anxiety, doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be the right fit for you. You’re the best judge of how something is making you feel.
We benefit more from strategies that we will stick to. Even the most effective strategy won’t help you unless you’re willing to do it. That’s why creating an effective anti-anxiety action plan is all about finding things that work for you and that you like doing.
Try as many strategies as you can. By having a greater number of tools in our toolkit, we can more easily reduce anxiety in a greater variety of situations and circumstances.

11 Tools to manage Anxiety

Journal: Although we don’t want to obsess about every little thing that makes us anxious, keeping a journal to record the thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and behaviours that arise when we’re anxious can help us gain more awareness about, and perhaps a greater sense of control over, our anxiety

Control your breathing: Breathing exercises can help you relax, because they make your body feel like it does when you are already relaxed. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax..

Exercise: You probably already know that exercise is good for you. But did you know that regular cardiovascular and weight training exercise is a good way to increase parasympathetic activity (and feelings of relaxation) in the longer-term?

Eat foods that lower anxiety: Research suggests that some foods cause anxiety while other foods relieve it. For example, foods naturally rich in magnesium and zinc are thought to help us feel calmer. Similarly, foods like salmon, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids and foods like sauerkraut or kefir, which are high in probiotics, appear to help reduce anxiety.

Limit Caffeine intake: Caffeine is stimulating and can result in increased energy, but whether that energy is positive or negative can depend on how anxious-prone we are. If you tend to be an anxious person, try opting for herbal tea instead of caffeinated black or green tea. And drink decaf or dandelion coffee instead of regular coffee to keep your anxiety at bay.

Listen to calming music: When we experience something anxiety provoking, we produce the hormone cortisol. Cortisol helps prepare our bodies for a fight or flight response and curbs other bodily functions that are not essential to the stressful situation. A little cortisol is needed to function. But too much cortisol is not good for our bodies and it can inhibit things like sleep. So we really want to get our cortisol levels back down after we experience something that arouses anxiety. Listening to calming music after a stressful event helps us reduce the cortisol levels in our bodies Without this calming activity, the study suggests that our cortisol response continues to rise, even after the stressful event has ended.

Sleep until rested: You may already have a hunch that anxiety makes it hard to sleep. But a lack of sleep can also contribute to more anxiety. That’s why poor sleep and high anxiety can create a cycle that’s hard to stop. So it’s super important to do whatever you can to get some good sleep. Basic tips for improving sleep include exercising earlier in the day, not drinking caffeine after lunch (or not at all) and turning off TVs, computers and smartphones at least a half hour before bed.

Try Mindfulness: Anxiety is often characterized by a desire to avoid the things that induce fear. Mindfulness, in some ways, is the opposite. It involves turning toward our emotions or the things that cause our emotions with present focused awareness and acceptance. It involves noticing what is happening all around us and inside our bodies in a non-judgmental way. Mindfulness often involves meditation, but it doesn’t necessarily have to, as mindfulness is really just the combination of present awareness and compassionate acceptance.

Combat anxiety with joy and focus on positive things: It turns out that people high in anxiety tend to focus more on the negative things than the positive things. By deliberately focusing attention away from the negative things and onto positive and neutral things, we may be able to reduce anxiety. Positive emotions are a powerful tool for undoing negative emotions like anxiety and the bodily responses that go along with it.

Put a stop to rumination: You know when you just keep thinking about the same thing over and over again? Maybe you’re replaying something someone said to you—WHAT DID THEY REALLY MEAN WHEN THEY SAID THAT?! SOMETHING BAD, I’M SURE. WHAT WAS IT? You probably know that thoughts like these aren’t helpful, but they just keep going on a loop, and you’re not sure how to stop them. That’s rumination. And it leads you to get anxious about something in the past that you have no control over. So how do you stop? One of the most effective ways to stop rumination cycles is to distract your mind with solving an unrelated problem.

Confront your fears: A considerable amount of research has found that confronting your fears (often with the help of a coach or psychologist) is a highly effective way to reduce them. For example, if we’re afraid of heights, going to high (but safe) place and staying there until our anxiety subsides teaches the body and mind not to be afraid. Confronting chronic anxieties is a bit more complex, but can still be helpful.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms of anxiety and how much they are interfering with your life, getting professional help can be the best solution. If you are constantly asking yourself “Why do I feel anxious?”, if it’s hurting your relationships or career or if you feel it has compromised your overall quality of life, it’s time to seek help.

As always C Beyond Health is here to serve you as far as:

The highest quality supplements
Personal recommendations
Live blood analysis
Organic- non-GMO-, vegan-friendly, gluten-free foods
Life coaching to guide you through these tough times for and even more health and wellness.

Come see your health differently. Visit our website or come and see us in the Hemel and Aarde Village (call 028 316 2848) or Eastcliff Village (call 028 312 4299).