I do understand that the symptoms of anxiety can feel quite alarming and unfortunately the worry about the symptoms can keep the anxiety cycle going. When I talk about the anxiety cycle, I hope that understanding it will be a first step to you breaking free of anxiety.
The Anxiety Cycle
Your brain has responded to your stress by sending signals to your body to remain alert, to watch out. This means during a period of stress, which you body interprets as ‘danger’, you will have been running on adrenaline and so unable to relax, sleep, maybe even eat. This was the way you survived a situation or got a job done.
You have had an acute incident recently, or years ago, or prolonged stress over a period of time. Then, when the ‘danger’ passes you have found that your symptoms have not passed, this is when you are stuck in an anxiety loop or cycle. Even when there is no need to be alert and ready, you body continues now to have a racing heart and to feel agitated. I see this like a switch or a burglar alarm that has become activated but never switched off, after the need for it is over.
Step One: Know that your brain and body system did what it needed to do at the time.
Step Two: Tell yourself there is no danger and you can switch the alarm off now.
Step Three: Switch the alarm off.
Switching the Alarm off
Switching the alarm off is not easy and will take time, allow yourself that you will need time to do this and be patient with yourself. ‘Trying’ in itself can raise your stress and adrenaline, so be gentle, be kind, breathe gently.
When we are stressed little things like losing our keys, dropping our phone, being late and so on raise our stress symptoms again. If you were fairly relaxed and these incidents happened, your stress might rise from a 2 out of 10 response to a 4 or 5 out of 10 level. If you are operating and going around stressed to a level 8 already these little incidents can feel as if they are tipping you right over the edge! For the stress chemicals you are releasing to ease off, you need to be able to drop your stress levels over a period of many hours, ideally a few days, and you need not to be stimulated by any futher ‘danger’ signals.
We can break the cycle through changing the chemicals, the thoughts or the body response. Some people take medication to help change the chemicals, and some people work to reduce their stress and to break the anxiety cycle by body relaxation, physical exercise or by changing their thoughts. I would recommend that one approach on its own is not as effective as combining two or more approaches.
You might like to talk through with a therapist, the way in which your thoughts and beliefs are maintaining your anxiety, (contact Miriam at Blue Skies) or to see a GP if you feel your symptoms are so acute they would merit medication. I particularly recommend you look at your thoughts if you just thought, “I’ve done all that and IT’S NOT WORKING!”
I have done a body relaxation recording for you below so you can begin to break the cycle at a body level.