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    How to Tame Anxiety

    One way to understand anxiety is that it is a conditioned response. For lack of a better word, we basically “train” ourselves to be anxious. The best way to defeat it, is to not let it defeat us. Easier said than done. Overcoming mental health issues is not a walk in the park. This is because to beat them, you typically must do the exact opposite of what you feel like doing.

    For example, one effective way to overcome depression, is to get up, and go out and do stuff. Specifically, movement or exercise. Depression makes us feel so miserable that doing stuff, particularly exercise, is usually the last thing we want to do.

    The same goes for Anxiety. We feel anxious in certain situations. To not feel that way anymore, we avoid those situations. Or we suffer through them if we absolutely must. A therapist is likely going to teach and guide you not to avoid situations or activities. The exact opposite of what anxiety tells us to do.

    By avoiding feeling the emotion we have now connected that experience with that feeling. Every time we are in that same or similar situation, we have conditioned ourselves to be anxious. Not intentionally. It is a mental survival mechanism. And, in real life threatening situations, this is a beneficial human response.

    Essentially, anyone who has faced anxiety has entered the dark amazon jungle, with hungry eyes lurking around each corner. Or traversed over gut-wrenching summits, glancing down the side of treacherous cliffs. At least this is what it feels like, in the middle of your day, with no threat in sight.

    To reduce anxiety, you must retrain your brain to recognize these situations as safe. You basically must be brave and go in to “The Jungle,” aka grocery store, anyway. Logically, those with anxiety, know the crowded grocery store is 99.9% of the time not a real-life threat. But our stress-response system is so powerful, even logic doesn’t stand a chance sometimes. Therefore, working with a therapist who understands the panicked world of anxiety can help you take the steps to face your fears.

    It is sometimes helpful to know that anxiety is a normal emotion we all experience. It is intended to motivate us to act. Especially, in unsafe situations. This survival function of the brain is known as the fight or flight response. Located in the stress-response system. When this system is activated, our brain basically shuts off communication with the logical part of our brain. The stress-response system takes over, and we make decisions based on these strong emotions.

    There are different interventions and techniques you can learn to regulate your stress-response system and support yourself in facing these anxiety provoking situations. Starting with breathing. How you breath matters.

    Taking a deep breath from your diaphragm will help you calm down. Taking a deep breath from your chest might just keep you geared up, ready for action. Science teaches that our diaphragm is connected to the Vagus nerve. This large nerve is essentially the” break” for our stress-response system.

    Take a moment right now to practice taking a deep breath into your diaphragm, filling your stomach up like a balloon. Do it again slowly. A count of four as you breath in. A count of four as you breath out. If you have any trouble learning this technique, find a therapist or professional who can support this intervention. There are also free mindfulness apps that support practicing deep breathing.

    The anxiety you feel does not have to control you. It may not be easy to face, but you only have to put one foot in front of the other, slowly and safely. You are strong enough to face anxiety, and you don’t have to do it alone. In the end, you get to experience and witness your own incredible capacity to overcome.

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