5 things you need to know about anxiety

While I am generally feeling chill AF lately, I have been journeying with my old mate anxiety for decades. As such, there are some things I have discovered along the way.

Why am I sharing this? Because there’s some cool science out there about why you might be feeling anxious, including WAYS TO FIX IT.

Anxiety is your body and brain’s way of trying to protect you (THANKS GUYS) so there is nothing actually wrong about the experience of anxiety. It’s just normal survival stuff.

Anxiety only becomes a problem when you are anxious about things that are not a threat to your survival. That’s an indication that there’s something faulty going on.

I love me a solution so read on for some stuff it’s handy to know if you are going through an anxious patch.

Menopause 

Joy of joys. The end of menstruation. Oh hang on. There’s also a truckload of side effects including insomnia, vaginal dryness, irritability, hot flushes and YES, ANXIETY. If you’re feeling a bit jumpy and you’re in the right age bracket, it could be this old bastard doing its thing.

Gut bacteria and serotonin

If you’re a dirty bitch who loves Dr Micheal Moseley as much as I do, well, you’re probably all over the gut – brain axis and the role of microbiota in regulating mood. HOWEVER, if you direct your attentions to other doctorly dudes, there’s a chance you may not be aware that if your gut bacteria is anxious, so shall you be.

This has been nominally proven by faecal transplants in mice. Happy poo from a happy mouse, when transferred to an angsty mouse with sad poo, equals a HAPPIER ANGSTY MOUSE. More on this whole fascinating phenomenon here.

See also: serotonin.

If you have IBS, or any kind of runny poo trouble, there’s a good chance that the serotonin your hard-working gut bacteria is pumping out is not being absorbed. HENCE ANXIETY.

If you improve your microbiome with prebiotics, probiotics and diet, and treat your tummy trouble, you may start feeling less anxious.

Vagus nerve

If you’re physically wound up – taking shallow breaths and experiencing extreme muscle tension – there’s a good chance your vagus nerve (that big sexy nerve that runs from your brain to your gut) – is telling your body that something is wrong.

Rather than just copping it, why not do some DEEEEEP BREATHING and yogic stretching. That way you are sending a message that everything is OOOOOOKAAAAAYYY.

Emotional contagion

We humans evolved in tribes. When the people around us got jittery, there was usually a reason for it (ie vikings in the neighbourhood, hungry bears, incoming potato famine, etc). Subsequently, our brains and nervous systems have evolved to take cues from people around us. If you are hanging out with anxious people, guess what? YOU WILL PROBABLY BECOME MORE ANXIOUS.

Hierarchy of needs

If you don’t have food, water, shelter or safety (or are experiencing challenges getting these things – ie financial problems, employment issues) you are going to feel anxious. Why? Because your brain structure prioritises getting your basic needs met. If you feel a threat to your basic security, your brain sends in the anxiety army to motivate you to sort it out, ASAP.

The problem is that having a run-in with a colleague at work, or receiving a letter from your landlord may not actually result in homelessness (but on some level, your subconscious thinks it will). That’s why anything associated with a failure to meet basic needs will result in a big old anxiety party.

Got any anxiety-busting tips? Please share them below.

1 comment on “5 things you need to know about anxiety

  1. One of the many behaviour changes I have made to try and live as well as I can despite my anxious, hyper vigilant tendencies is to take steady action towards a goal (could be as simple as making the bed or one small task at work) when feeling on the verge of being overwhelmed rather than allowing myself to get stuck in “passive panic”. It is a challenge because sometimes I get the freeze reaction (fight, flight, freeze or fawn) and it takes some practice to change that default response.

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