How can your brain turn anxiety into calmness?

How can your brain turn anxiety into calmness?

When a person feels anxious the body becomes hyper-alert. This acts as an indicator for the brain to release adrenaline and cortisol flooding the central nervous system.

However, when the danger is gone the sympathetic part of the nervous system takes control and calms the person down.

 

What are the symptoms of Anxiety?

The main features and symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Apprehension, 
  • Confusion, 
  • Feeling on edge,
  • A sense of helplessness, 
  • Repeated negative thoughts, 
  • Muscle tension, 
  • Palpitations and 
  • Difficulty breathing

What are the major effects of anxiety on the brain?

Anxiety causes excess release of stress hormones

Upon experiencing danger or threat. The brain releases excessive amounts of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

When an excessive amount of stress hormones are released by the brain an individual may experience mild to moderate levels of anxiety.

This excessive amount of stress hormone causes the brain to release even more hormones to an extent that a person feels overwhelmed.

Anxiety makes your brain hyperactive to threats

When an individual experiences anxiety consistently it makes the brain hyperactive to threats. This is usually a result of a large and hypersensitive amygdala.

A hypersensitive amygdala sends false signals to the brain even in non-threatening situations.

This is the reason why people with anxiety complain of being threatened more often than someone who doesn’t experience anxiety.

 

Anxiety makes it hard for the brain to rationalize

Anxiety makes it difficult to carry out rational decisions, solve problems leading to erratic behaviors and irrational thoughts.

This usually happens when anxiety weakens the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.

The prefrontal cortex helps to process information and make an informed decision in non-anxious brains.

However, it is not able to play this role in individuals who experience high levels of anxiety leading to irrational thoughts and behaviors.

Anxiety makes the brain hold onto negative memories

When a person is anxious the body undergoes a lot of changes and experiences extreme stress.

This excessive stress causes the hippocampus to shrink which is responsible for contextual memory.

As a result of which it becomes difficult for an individual to hold on to memories.

However, in the case of anxiety, the hippocampus tricks the brain into thinking that the memories related to anxiety are safe to store and remember.

This results in holding on to anxiety-related negative memories in an individual while the positive memories of safety and success are buried deep down.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

How therapy can help to reduce anxiety?

Some ways to manage anxiety are by seeking therapeutic help in a clinical setup. This can be done in the following ways :

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps an individual to control their anxiety by using strategies like relaxation and breathing. It works on the principles of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Exposure therapy 

Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy in which an individual is exposed to a particular situation that they usually fear in a graded order that usually starts with exposing the individual to a situation that is least triggering and going up the ladder as and when the individual gets comfortable with the situation introduced or exposed to them each session aims to make individual comfortable with a real-life situation that they might face.

Group therapy

As the name suggests group therapy usually involves two or more individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems.

It is based on the principle that when an individual interacts with other people who are suffering from the same condition or fears they might not feel left alone or isolated.

This kind of therapy also helps in developing and maintaining social skills or techniques to interact with people in other social settings.

 Prescribed medication

Anxiety can also be treated with the help of medication prescribed by a health care professional.

There are different types of anxiety medications each with its benefits and side effects.

How to manage anxiety using self-help techniques?

Lifestyle changes

Apart from therapy and medication, the best way to manage anxiety is to bring about certain lifestyle changes. These may include:

  •    Regular exercises
  •    Having a balanced diet,
  •  Socializing and talking to people about their anxiety,
  • Journal writing to express and understand one’s feelings and
  • Avoiding alcohol or drugs.

Take control of your breathing

It is normal for anxiety to bring about changes in your body, for instance, increased breathing. these changes often make an individual feel uncomfortable.

One can take control of this discomfort by carrying out a few simple steps such as holding one’s breath for two seconds and slowly letting it out through their mouth.

Repeating this step several times until one feels relaxed. This is most effective when one sits down in a comfortable position with the back straight.

Carry out progressive muscle relaxation

Another effective technique to manage anxiety is progressive muscle relaxation. 

Progressive muscle relaxation involves flexing and releasing a group of muscles in one’s body which helps to maintain their attention on the feelings of this contraction and relaxation.

Start small

To manage anxiety, people must start small. In that individuals must avoid major anxiety-provoking situations and start with the situation that they are compatible with.

Push back negative thoughts

One very effective way to manage anxiety is to focus and work on one’s negative thoughts actively.

Think about the negative thoughts that one has about a particular situation and write them down. Following which the person is required to write down positive thoughts that challenge the negative ones.

Sensory awareness

One’s senses can help calm down while they feel anxious in any situation. 

For some people trying to look at photographs that give them a sense of happiness or using a particular scent that can distract them from the negative thoughts and help them reconnect with more positive ones can help to manage anxiety temporarily.

Conclusion

Long-term anxiety can have an adverse effect on an individual’s brain. It is believed that it brings about physical changes in the brain structure.

Even though some of these changes are not reversible studies indicate that not all damage that is done to the brain due to anxiety or stress is completely irreversible.

To avoid such irreversible damage to the brain and the individual on the whole it is necessary that individuals acknowledge and effectively manage their anxiety.

What we recommend for curbing Anxiety

Below are some of the services and products we recommend for anxiety

Online Therapy

  • Online therapy is another thing we should all try. We highly recommend Online therapy with a provider who not only provides therapy but a complete mental health toolbox to help your wellness.

Anxiety Weighted Blankets

  • Anxiety Weighted Blankets are by far the number 1 thing every person who suffers from anxiety should at least try. Anxiety Blankets may improve your sleep, allow you to fall asleep faster and you can even carry them around when chilling at home.

Light Therapy

  • Amber light therapy from Amber lights could increase the melatonin production in your body and help you sleep better at night.  An Amber light lamp helps reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep and increases overall sleep quality.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How do you train your brain to stop anxiety?

Some ways to train your brain to stop experiencing the uncomfortable emotions and feelings associated with anxiety are:

Adopt effective problem-solving strategies.

Actively challenge intolerance to distress or uncertainty

Improve your awareness about factors that contribute to your anxiety

Acknowledge and challenge anxious and discomforting thoughts and replace them with positive ones.

What is the best coping mechanism for anxiety?

Some coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety are:

  • Practicing deep breathing
  • Equipping oneself with favorable distractions
  • Taking some time out from the normal routine
  • Having a well-balanced meal
  • Getting a sufficient amount of sleep
  • Exercising daily to help maintain good health
  • Distancing oneself from alcohol and caffeine which are known to contribute to anxiety or panic attacks.

Does anxiety bring about changes in your brain?

It is believed that anxiety brings about changes in one’s body both physically and physiologically.

It causes reactions such as increased heart rate, trembling, dizziness, and other related symptoms.

It is believed that anxiety in the long run if not dealt with favorably can have an adverse impact on the brain.

Studies indicate that individuals who experienced long-term anxiety display decreased volume in some regions of the brain such as the hippocampus which is responsible for long-term memory.

What is the 3-3-3 rule for anxiety?

The 3-3-3 rule of anxiety suggests that when a person is experiencing anxiety they must look for or name three things that they can see.

Following which they must focus on the three sounds that they can hear.

Lastly, they are required to move three parts of their bodies such as their toes or fingers.

Does anxiety cause permanent brain damage?

Studies indicate that individuals who experience long-term anxiety or stress are more vulnerable to Dementia or depression.

In addition to this, it is found that anxiety can lead to damages in the brain such as shrinkage in some areas of the brain however these damages are not completely irreversible in some cases.

Citations

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