Is Anxiety Stealing Your Joy?

Anxiety and depression can steal our joy. It can stop us from doing the things we love, and impede on our daily activities including sleep, appetite, and overall peace. It can also have negative effects on our relationships, and even our faith. Living with anxiety is not always living. Sometimes, it’s barely surviving.

However, fear, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Fear is an emotion we need. It’s fear that drives our sympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as fight and flight.  When we are in a dangerous situation, we need to be able to either defend ourselves (fight) or run(flight). That is what our bodies were created to do for survival. As adrenaline is released into our bloodstream from our adrenal glands, we start to feel uncomfortable. Adrenaline is preparing the body for danger by sending blood to our big muscles. Some of the symptoms we may feel while operating in the sympathetic (fight and flight) include:

  • Brain hijacked – you can’t think, you forget what you were doing, you can’t focus and you may even feel “detached”.
  • Widen eyes – your pupils get larger to let more light in effecting your sight.
  • Dry mouth – your blood vessels narrow causing your mouth to dry up.
  • Dizzy – you get light headed and you may even faint or black out.
  • Increased shallow breath – you begin to breath fast and shallow.
  • Body sweats – your body heats up and you begin to sweat, and the palms of your hands get clammy.
  • Churning stomach – you get nausea or “butterflies” in your stomach, and you lose your appetite.
  • Increased heart beats – you may feel like you have been doing cardio exercises though you have not moved a muscle.
  • Tense muscles – your arms and legs may feel tense, painful, or numb. Your hands may tingle and your legs may feel like Jello.
  • Relaxed bladder -Do you remember the expression, “I was so scared I peed myself”?  Well, it’s true. This can and does happen.
  • When it’s over you feel weak and tired like you just finished running a marathon, because, in essence, your body has.

Now when we are in a dangerous situation, these symptoms are important for survival. However, having these symptoms when we are in a safe place with safe people is not good. It can be debilitating. Then the fear of being fearful kicks in.

So, here is the good news: You have the ability to change. You don’t have to live in fear anymore. You can let go of fear and reclaim your joy.

One of the ways I do this with my clients is through therapeutic mindfulness, and relaxation meditation. You see, our feelings, like fear, start with thoughts and we are hardwired to think scary negative thoughts. And, our world reinforces those scary thoughts. Just turning on the news in the morning reinforces fear as we hear about terrorist attacks, Hepatitis A outbreaks, and all things that cause cancer. Therefore, that spot on your arm that the doctors said is just a bite must be cancer, and suddenly your sympathetic nervous system kicks in. However, through mindfulness, and relaxation meditation you can activate the parasympathetic (rest and digest), which allows our bodies to relax and rest.

Through mindfulness and meditation you can take control back over your brain by training it to think positive thoughts, peaceful thoughts, thoughts that generate joy. Thoughts that let the sunshine back in. How cool would that be? To go a day, a week, a month, and even a year not knowing the last time you were scared. Instead of being anxious, you seek peace and live in joy. Instead of hiding, you smile at the days to come. You see yourself as strong and successful, able to conquer whatever this chaotic world throws your way. You not only pursue peace, you find it.

References:

Hanson, R. (2013). Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence. Harmony Books, NY.

Siegel, R. (March 2, 2017) Mindfulness and Compassion For Anxiety and Depression. 5th Annual Compassion and Wisdom Conference; Faces Conferences. San Diego, CA.

Vivyan, C. (2015) Get Self Help.  https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/Adrenaline.pdf

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