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  • Writer's pictureRenae Holbrook


Updated: Apr 26, 2023

There are 3 Aspects of Anxiety:

Cognitive – low self-esteem, unrealistic demands for self, belief of inadequacy.

Behavioral – no eye contact, avoid, don’t date, don’t speak in class.

Feelings – anxiety, blush, tremble, sweat, dry mouth.

A man stressed and anxious at his computer
Anxiety can cause a variety of issues

Anxiety comes and goes throughout your life. The goal isn’t to have no anxiety symptoms,

it’s learning how to be able to tolerate those emotions when they show up. It is Important to remember that anxiety is distressing, NOT dangerous. We are wired to pull away from whatever is causing us anxiety.

Anxiety is normal and helpful. It helps to protect us. Our species wouldn’t have survived without anxiety. It keeps us safe – we don’t touch hot stoves, walk in dark alleyways or get hit by semi-trucks. It helps us focus on what is important – we study for a test; athletes and actors perform better with anxiety.

Helpful anxiety keeps us safe. Unhelpful anxiety holds us back from us being able to enjoy life the way we deserve.

A lady anxious against a wall
Avoidance causes more anxiety

Avoidance fuels higher levels of anxiety. Role of avoidance – It’s what our brain is designed to do when it’s feeling distressed. It feels good in the moment, but when we do the action/ behavior, we feel worse in the end.

When we feel a lot of anxiety that is distressing, it is common to use safety behaviors such as: being with a safe person (parent, teacher, spouse), staying close to home, checking pulse, reassurance seeking, avoiding eye contact/wearing sunglasses, being nice/avoiding conflict, using a cell phone.

One way to think of anxiety is by using the analogy of a smoke detector. When a smoke detector goes off, that is like our amygdala (the part in our brain that is our threat detection center) letting us know there is danger. Sometimes the smoke detector goes off when there’s no real threat (burnt toast or dying batteries). When that happens, we don’t evacuate and run into the street yelling for help and calling 911. We would assess the situation and decide how to react. It is the same with anxiety. We need to take a minute and assess the threat that our amygdala has made us aware of and decide how to react vs having a knee jerk reaction and regretting behaviors and words later.

Sensation -------------> Monkey Mind Misinterpretation-------------> What’s Really Going On

Dizziness, light-headedness. What if I faint?

Anxiety causes changes in your breathing so that you take in more oxygen and breathe out more carbon dioxide. This mix helps fuel your big muscles so that you can outrun or fight a threat. It also makes you dizzy and lightheaded—but not faint!

Increased heart rate, heart palpitations, tightness in chest.

What if I am having a heart attack? Your heart rate increases so that it can pump oxygenated blood to your large muscles so you can outrun or fight a threat. Your heart is a powerful muscle doing its job.

Vision changes. Things seem weird and unreal. What if I am going crazy?

When you are afraid, your eyes widen and your pupils dilate so that you are better able to see danger—even in darkness. This causes vision changes.

(Source: PESI Anxiety course)

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