Anxiety is built into our body and without healthy anxiety, we won’t be able to survive. It is the body’s way of letting us know that we are in some kind of danger. But when we have experienced trauma, the smoke alarm in our brain becomes hyper sensitive and can make anxiety, a survival mechanism, our worst nightmare.
The Neurobiology of Anxiety
The amygdala and the hippocampus are the parts of the brain that act as our smoke alarm system. When these organs sense danger, real or perceived, the smoke alarm goes off and within milliseconds, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which gives you the initial boost of energy that prepares your body for fight or flight. You can become hyper-vigilant, experiencing a spike in heart rate, stomach feeling knotted, extremities tingling, fast and shallow breathing and other symptoms. When the body realizes that it is safe and the danger has passed, then the adrenaline and cortisol levels drop to their base level. For people who are not generally anxious, this base level is quite low.
So when does anxiety become a problem? It becomes a problem when our internal smoke alarm is subjected to chronic stress or traumatic events and becomes too sensitive and hyper-vigilant and it starts to overreact.
With chronic stress, the body starts getting used to higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol. Then these hormones don’t go all the way down to their previous base levels. Say, during a time when you were not as anxious, this base level was 10 out of a max of 100, but now the level does not go below 30. This can result in a lower window of tolerance. Now, even small insignificant things give you an anxiety attack and you never seem to be able to relax completely.
My Therapeutic Approach
In my practice I see a lot of clients with anxiety issues and given how chaotic our world is becoming, unhealthy anxiety is skyrocketing. I use a 2 pronged approach to anxiety –
Symptom Management – Teach you skills such as diaphragmatic breathing, Mindfulness, Calm Place Installation, EFT tapping, etc. to help you calm yourself down when you are feeling anxious. It is essential to let the brain’s smoke alarm know that everything is safe and these techniques help to calm the nervous system and give that safety signal to the brain
Reprogramming Limiting Beliefs – Apart from chronic work stress, unhealthy anxiety is often caused by our limiting beliefs about ourselves, about people around us and the world at large. Negative beliefs like “I am not good enough”, “I don’t feel safe in my body”, “I cannot control my feelings”, are internalized in childhood and can also be internalized due to the effects of unhealed trauma. Here I use techniques like EMDR, Internal Family Systems, hypnosis, etc. to reprogram these beliefs and help you install beliefs that are more positive and life affirming. This can then heal the root causes behind the unhealthy anxiety.
Free Phone Consultation
Contact me for a free 30-min phone consultation and we can talk about how we can help you with your anxiety.