This is a take-away concept from many anxiety specialists, and from professional and personal experience, it is a game-changer.  The issue arises with believing the idea that all of our thoughts are real and truthful when, actually, they are not.

It makes sense when you look at the brain and the way it has developed over time. As a human species in order to survive it learned that it needed to avoid dangerous situations. It learned to be very cautious in everyday life, avoiding threat at every turn.

In the present time, the threat response is still active and engages when our brain perceives actual danger or even the threat of danger.  So, if your brain perceives threat from a stimulus, whether real or imagined, it’s in danger and it’s going to set off all of the biological alarms to put your body in a state of automatic fight, flight or freeze. It will then later assess if it’s warranted or not.  It’s the ultimate “just in case” operation. It will make up reasons why you shouldn’t do something, why you should avoid, why things could go wrong.

Thank goodness it does because at times it saves us from putting ourselves in danger- not stepping into traffic, avoiding a hot stove, etc.

But it is based on perception- which isn’t always accurate.

Have you ever thought you saw something and then it turned out that what you thought you saw was not true?  Here is an example: perceiving there is mouse on your bedroom floor in the dark, middle of the night, and when you turn on the light you realize it’s only a sock.  Your brain thought it was a mouse initially and it sounded off all of the alarms to get away from it or kill it or stay still and figure out what to do.  Your heartrate went up and you started breathing faster and maybe you screamed, but then when you turned on the light you saw it was not in fact a mouse. Your brain lied to you for a bit to save you from the imagined mouse.

Your brain works to protect you from threat.  When you have anxious thoughts, they feed on each other and can whip you into a frenzy.  In addition, they can make you extra sensitive to possible threat so that it’s hard to sleep and eat and do daily activities.  You are on high alert for danger and are preparing your body to act efficiently. Also, due to your brain’s “confirmation bias” you look for evidence that supports the anxious thought so tend find possible danger everywhere.

How do you get off this anxiety train and get your brain to be more reality based in its perception of threat?

You call it out.  You realize that anxious thoughts beget anxious thoughts and that your brain is possibly making up false information.

You focus on what is safe and real in the moment, like your immediate environment, people or spiritual beliefs that support you in the here and now.

You accept your body is on alert and you do some actions to reinforce safety to remind it that it is ok in this moment so it will calm the heck down.

You open yourself to other thoughts that are less scary and more reaffirming.

You think of activities that you could do that are more pleasurable or constructive.

And you remind your brain through repetition that it does not need to be on high alert.  You reinforce your ability to think logically of alternatives and better scenarios, problem solve, and get help when needed.

If you do all this in a kind, compassionate, and gentle way, your brain is more likely to settle down and think rationally. Challenge the anxious thoughts as they come and do it nicely.  It does not benefit you to take a punitive or judgmental approach.

When you calm your body repeatedly, it reinforces safety, and then comes out of the hyper-alert, super sensitive state.  Over time you will have less anxious thoughts and behavioral responses.

The end goal is not to eliminate anxiety entirely.  It is to get your responses more in line with a life that has more experiences of comfort calm and safety, and less discomfort and pain.   Adjusting your expectations to allow for the anxiety when it comes and riding through it will help the process.


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