There are many different symptoms of anxiety. We all know the symptoms well, but do we know what is going on inside our bodies? Do we know why all these symptoms happen? What triggers our anxiety?
All animals have the fight or flight response to danger. It is what gives mothers the ability to lift cars off their children, zebras to escape a lion and our ancestors to kill a saber tooth tiger. The fight or flight response is a series of hormones triggered one after another by dangerous situations…or not so dangerous ones.
Let’s imagine something a lot of us can relate to. Confrontation. Imagine you are confronted out of the blue by an angry customer who is accusing you of charging them too much. Completely thrown off, your heart starts to pound. Your head goes foggy and your mouth goes dry. Your body tenses up and maybe you start to shake. What’s happening in your body is a series or hormone and chemical reactions that are designed to be released when you feel you’re in danger.
Our adrenal gland releases many hormones including epinephrine.
Epinephrine creates glucose giving us a burst of energy.
Our blood pressure gets a boost (heart starts pounding).
Blood flow is increased to muscles giving our body extra strength and speed (tension).
Your lungs expand thus giving you the heavy rapid breathing which in turns makes you light headed.
And in case we take damage our blood clotting speeds up.
All this happens in a split second. Leaving you standing in front of an angry person dazed, shaking, sweating and tense. 30 seconds later the customer realizes it was their mistake apologizes half-heartedly and walks away. You compose yourself the best you can and move on to the next customer. You are shaken up for the rest of the day. In fact, you may find yourself for the next few weeks anxious and not know why and forget about the traumatic event that took place weeks before.
The fight or flight response is a major thing for our bodies to go through. You can understand why frequent triggers can leave a person with adrenal fatigue and depression. In the past when triggered we would run, fight or die. That was how the chemicals left our bodies. In everyday circumstances, those outcomes are not options. You’re not going to run away from the customer, you’re not going to fight the customer and most likely you won’t die. So what happens to the chemicals in your body? The cocktail of hormones and chemicals released creates cortisol. Cortisol left in our body increases blood pressure, suppresses immunity, turns glucose into fat and can even shut down the reproductive system. This knowledge opens our eyes to why generally healthy people in their 40’s drop dead due to heart attacks. It also may explain anxiety. Next time you’re anxious and you’re searching your mind for something to stress about because you don’t know why you’re feeling it, think back…was your fight or flight response triggered? You may have to go back days. Even if it was for a second your unexplained anxiety is probably related to that chemical response days ago that was designed to protect you. The pent up adrenaline produced from your experience with that nasty customer needs to be released.
Next time you have a confrontation and you begin to feel the signs, your heart pounding and shallow breathing, deal with it immediately. Regulate your breathing to deep, long slow breaths. This will keep your head clear which then will tell the body that you’re not really in any kind of danger. This will take some practice, but over time you will discover that you have trained your body how it is to react to “imminent danger.” After the confrontation is over, go for a jog, do some jumping jacks. Anything to burn off that cortisol and keep your body healthy and anxiety free.