We are blessed to live in a time where many physical diseases can be at least managed, if not cured completely. However, this does not mean that our generation doesn’t have it fair share of illness to deal with. In fact, even though our bodies are lasting for longer, it seems that problems with our mind, psychological, and emotional states are more prevalent. You could, as has been reported many times in the media, say that we have an epidemic of conditions such as anxiety. A topic that this post will go into more detail about.
Why are we so anxious?
It would be straightforward to suggest that there is an epidemic of anxiety right now because of the way we live in the modern world. After all, constant stimulation online, social media, artificial light, high sugar diets, and mainly static jobs do seem to be a recipe for an anxiety disaster.
However, some researchers believe there is so much anxiety within the population at the moment because of evolution. Yes, they argue that we have, as a species been adapted that way.
Of course, when you are standing in the supermarket queue rehearsing what to say the chaser tend times over. Just so you don’t make a huge embarrassment of yourself, it can be very easy to wonder what possible advantage there is to feeling this way?
Although, what would happen if you were suddenly plucked from your modern-day life and returned back to prehistoric times? Well, those with the highest anxiety and associated awareness would be the ones most likely to survive a saber tooth tiger attack! The reason being that it would be them that noticed it sneaking around in the bushes before it pounced.
Basically, what the experts are saying here is that anxiety is an evolutionary adaptation. One that makes it more likely for humans to survive. Therefore the epidemic that we are seeing now is the endgame of the repeated survival success of the most anxious humans over millions of years.
What is anxiety?
Now, we know where anxiety might come from, we can get into more depth about what anxiety actually is. Our course, most of us have a subjective experience of anxiety because it is a prevalent and valid part of human existence. In fact, our bodies and brains are designed to alert us to danger. This is what keeps us safe and alive for as long as possible!
In scientific terms, the state of anxiety is an arousal of that warning system, something that usually starts in the brain as a response to external stimuli or international thought process. This, in turn, causes a cascade of hormones to be released, which then activate our sympathetic nervous system. Basically instructing the body to enter fight or flight mode. It is this mode that sets up us to run away from the perceived threat, or stand our ground and fight it, that we interpret as anxiety.
Of course, there is an issue here that relates directly to our life in the modern world. It is that back in the day things that would trigger this reaction were genuine, immediate life or death threat. Whereas what our brains automatically tag as threats in the modern world aren’t necessarily as immediately problematic. Something that can make our reaction seem out of whack with the situation we are experiencing.
What can we do about anxiety?
While anxiety is a very natural part of being human, there are still tactics that can make it more manageable.
The first of these to consider is medication, something that can be prescribed to you by your doctor or medical team. In fact, there is a range of medicines available that are known to work on anxiety, including SSRIs, Beta Blockers, and even tranquilisers such as Valium.
Of course, the latter has fallen out of favour in recent times because they have been discovered to be addictive. Something that it is well worth knowing before you choose to take them. Otherwise, you could end up with an addiction problem as well as an anxiety one!
Not everyone wants to go down the pharmaceutical route when it comes to treating their anxiety. A stance that is often understandable with the many side effects that such drugs can have on the person taking them.
To that end, the use of natural and herbal remedies has scored over the past 10 years. In fact, supplements such as St John’s wort, and Ashwagandha are found to be helpful by many. While CBD Oil drops administered under the tongue are also found to reduce anxiety symptoms by some as well. Some folks even chose to use a system called homeopathy, which uses an approach of like curing like and natural essences to provide relief.
Although it is worth noting that some people choose to enhance their treatment for anxiety, with therapy. In fact, some people choose to use this as their primary recourse.
The thing to remember here is that how therapy works has changed and developed a lot over the last 50 years. In fact, while many people still believe that Freudian inspired psychology therapy is the foremost option for anxiety, things have really moved on from this.
In fact, many professionals in this area have not only discredited Freud, but also the efficacy of and trying to pick out the meaning and pathology from them. Instead, there is another approach which is often referred to as the Third Wave. One that is about accepting the anxiety, and reprogramming our minds over time to deal with it differently.
When it comes to third wave therapies, the approach that dominates is CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy. However, to understand this approach, you need to know it is built upon the foundations of both mindfulness and radical acceptance.
What this means is that patients are taught to tune into the bodily sensations and mental events that cause anxiety (mindfulness). They are also encouraged not to fight against them and allow them to be there (radical acceptance). The idea being these approaches help patients to recognise where the anxiety is coming from. This then allows them to react to it differently, as well as allow it to flow through them more quickly. Something that will enable them to get to a point where it is no longer so bothersome.
MBSR / ACT / DBT
In fact, there are many specific therapies for anxiety conditions based on these ideas. All of which loosely follows the pattern of CBT. The first to consider is MBSR. A treatment that uses mindful meditation practice as a tool to raise awareness of anxiety. Something that can then provide a space to change behaviour.
ACT, on the other hand, is a therapy where acceptance of the sensation of anxiety, and a commitment to moving forward despite the discomfort take centre stage.
DBT or dialectical behaviour therapy is another CBT focus approach that can work wonders for anxiety as well. The reason being that it teaches users to recognise mood lability and provides them with skills to soothe and distract. Something that can help them to be more in control of their lives and less dominated by the emotional experience of anxiety.
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In summary, when it comes to surviving what seems to be the epidemic of anxiety, our journey starts with identifying where it came from. We then need to move on to understanding how it works in our mind and bodies.
Once we have that basic knowledge established, we will be much better equipped to deal with our anxiety better. Something that, depending on medical advice and personal choice may include medications, natural remedies, and even CBT based therapies.