What is anxiety?

Do you know what anxiety is?

Do you feel worried, stressed, nervous, tense, scared or fearful, concerned, shakey, apprehensive, uneasy, agitated, trepidatious, or perturbed?

Do you have the jitters, the collywobbles, the shakes, the heebie-jeebies, the willies, or butterflies?

Anxiety is a survival mechanism. It is a primitive response that allowed us to respond to danger and threats to our survival. If we were about to be attacked our central nervous system would respond by increasing the production of adrenaline, our breathing rate increases, our heart rate increases, the muscles start to tense up to get ready to run or fight, our digestion decreases or stops (we might feel nauseous or not be able to eat), our bladder and bowel might release their contents (we suddenly need to go to the toilet), we become more alert to things happening around us and we startle more easily, we notice more and our thoughts start racing.

All these physiological symptoms occur when we are anxious, however everyone might experience these symptoms differently. Some people might be more attuned to noticing their breathing and heart rate, others might focus more on their thoughts, others might struggle because of the effect anxiety has on their digestive system.

Anxiety in today’s world is very different; we are not often faced with a threat to our physical survival. Often we are feeling nervous, worried or anxious about things that might not actually hurt us, such as standing in front of a group of people to talk, or meeting new people, or taking a flight, or getting in a lift, or walking onto a balcony, or petting your friend’s new puppy, or walking into a room with a daddy-long-legs spider in the corner. Our experience of anxiety is very much influenced by how we think about what is happening around us. Our unhelpful and unpleasant thoughts can feel uncontrollable and all encompassing and when we attend to them our experience of anxiety can become overwhelming and so very unpleasant.

Check out this video to see an explanation of anxiety.

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