Is Anxiety Always Unhelpful?
No, although when you are a quivering wreck and can’t stop running to the loo it can feel very unhelpful, however, there is a very good reason why we can invoke the feeling of near-death at random moments. We tend to call it ‘fight or flight’ which is an innate physiological and psychological response that has existed for as long as humans have.
What is “Fight or Flight” and what does it have to do with anxiety?
Fight or flight further is quite literal to its meaning; to fight or flight in times of danger to remove us swiftly out of danger. During fight or flight, our body switches into a completely different state, all focus goes on mobilising the body to get out of the situation, be that through fighting its way out or flighting. You may have also come across the concept of ‘freeze’; to play dead – akin to going into shock.
When the body switches into this mode all normal day to day functions such as digestion fall by the wayside; blood quite literally leaves the stomach and works its way to the muscles to mobilise them to get you out of there. We also see the immune system becomes compromised, the mind thought processes switching to absolute focus and the heart beating faster to aid circulation.
Sounds like a pretty neat internal reaction, right? And indeed, it is why we hear of stories of people dramatically lifting cars off loved ones and being able to achieve other superhuman feats of nature. Certainly, it is the fight or flight reaction that athletes tap into and that can help us concentrate when doing other anxiety-provoking activities such as giving a presentation or performing on stage. The problem is fight or flight can also go horribly wrong and when it does, we call this anxiety, but essentially anxiety is just a prolonged fight and flight response.
Fight and flight, anxiety and stress are used to describe the way that we feel, but yet all have the same symptomology in both the body and mind. However, anxiety, when it becomes chronic may go on to become a diagnosis and can be thought of as a direct result of a prolonged period of stress. When the body goes into fight or flight or anxiety ‘stress’ hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released. This is why you start to become a jittery mess darling. Such hormones allow us to get out the way of that wild beast.
Consider in today’s society what your wild beasts are Darling; your boss, your mother-in-law, the dreaded ex, that presentation or pitch you have to do at work. Not the same as the horn headed tigersaurous of your sisters in the Neolithic times. So, what happens? We get locked into fight or flight because we have no way to use and release the stress hormones that are now building up within us.
This is an unhealthy state for the body to be in; immune defences down, heart racing, the body struggles to function as it would normally and we are often unable to function in the way we would ordinarily. Many researchers believe that in today’s world the ‘city life’ and all of its stimuli are too much for the mind and this is why we are seeing an increase in anxiety and anxiety disorders (you can find a great book about this here). Quite literally the every so often wild beasts of yesteryear have become your everyday triggers of today.
So my Darling, take stock, take time and notice your wild beasts.