Managing Anxiety and calming your thoughts

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”

-Marie Curie

Fear is a challenge that we all must face in our daily struggles and accept as part of living. Fear is the inherent reaction of our mind to tell us that something is dangerous or could be potentially harmful.

Fear is also a result of our consciousness responding to external stimuli, and thoughts, and how our mind processes these. If left unchecked or improperly managed, these in turn develop in to stress or anxiety which are bad for our health.

Today, we will talk about how we can avoid complications brought about by ‘fear’ and how we can manage anxiety but before we get to that part, it is important for us to understand what exactly ‘fear’ is and its relationship to Anxiety.

What is ‘Fear’ and how does it correlate with ‘Anxiety’?

Fear is a natural, primal emotion that arises in response to a perceived threat or danger. It serves as a survival mechanism, triggering the “fight or flight” response in our bodies to help us respond to potential harm. When we encounter something frightening, our brain releases stress hormones like adrenaline, which prepare our body to either confront the threat or escape from it.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a broader and often prolonged emotional state characterized by worry, unease, and apprehension. It can be thought of as a more generalized form of fear, not necessarily tied to an immediate threat. Anxiety can stem from various sources, including future uncertainties, social situations, or even irrational fears.

In the brain, fear and anxiety share some common neural pathways, primarily involving the amygdala, which processes emotional stimuli, and the prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making and rational thought. However, anxiety typically involves more complex cognitive processes and can persist over time, while fear is a more immediate, instinctual reaction.

Understanding the relationship between fear and anxiety is crucial because both emotions play significant roles in our lives and can impact our mental and physical well-being. By delving deeper into how our brains respond to these emotions, we can gain insights into managing and coping with them effectively. And by understanding both, we also somehow develop confidence that we could finally face both emotions which therefore, lessens the overall ‘fear’ and worry that we experience.

Managing anxiety

Practicing mindfulness and early recognition of anxiety

Being mindful of that moment when anxiety hits is crucial to managing it. We have to understand the many possible triggers that could lead to it, as well as recognizing some patterns during the onset. These patterns and triggers differ from each individual so you need to pay attention to yourself and once you’ve gained a better understanding of these triggers and patterns, take a pause, and practice breathing exercises – Take deep breaths through your nose and inhale deeply while trying to hold it in for 5 seconds, and exhaling it slowly for 5 seconds, all the while counting as you do this. Repeat the cycle for about 2 minutes and as needed.

Practicing meditation

While the previous mindfulness technique that involves breathing practices work greatly as a ‘first-aid’, it works even better when you combine it with regular meditation.

Meditation helps us process overwhelming thoughts, ideas and ‘noises’ as we organize and declutter them along with other overwhelming emotions. Even a few minutes of meditation on a daily basis does wonders in helping us develop resilience against stressors that could trigger anxiety.

Engaging in physical activities

Distracting ourselves through physical activities make for a great solution in managing stress and anxiety as well and giving our bodies the much-needed workout at the same time!

Engaging in regular physical activity, such as walking, jogging, or yoga or other forms of exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters and stress reducers.

Seeking social support

Having a friend to talk to about your problems or worries always helps. As humans, it is also part of our instincts to seek accompaniment and the help of others.

Talking to friends and family about your anxiety and sharing your feelings with a trusted person can provide emotional support and reduce feelings of isolation.

Practicing gratitude

It’s easy to be worried and fearful of the unknown, but it is easier to count your blessings.

Think of the things that have been going well in your life recently despite being surrounded by these worries and fears that develop in to anxiety – even the simple things such having been able to enjoy a hearty and warm meal counts because by being grateful of the good things, we gradually lose our focus over these worries which in turn, disarm anxiety.

Anxiety relies on the strong presence of fear in our minds and hearts and when we are grateful, we are doing the opposite; we think of the fun and happy moments, the good things, the things that are worth living for, the experiences we continue to yearn for, which could be as simple as trying out new food, visiting new places, trying out a new hobby, or experiencing new things.

Keeping a simple journal could also help in this endeavor. Not only are we able to keep track of the things that we are fearful, but also of the good things that we encountered and live for, which, as time pass, could be a good learning reference for ourselves as well!