As well as feelings of fear and an inability to think straight, symptoms can include a pounding heart, dry mouth, excessive perspiration, insomnia, fatigue, headaches and muscle tension. Dealing with the normal challenges of daily life can be a trigger – walking into a room of people, getting stuck in traffic, travelling to an unfamiliar place, having to talk at a meeting, for example. But anxiety can also occur with no obvious cause, leaving sufferers feeling frustrated that they cannot control these reactions. However, as we’ll see, willpower alone is not the answer. Researchers working in the field of neuroscience have found that emotions operate at a much higher speed than thoughts and can frequently bypass the mind’s linear reasoning process entirely.1 The part of the brain involved in emotional processing – the amygdala – also evolved before the cognitive, ie thinking, part of the brain, and is highly attuned to potential danger, so is hyper sensitive to possible threats.
What this means in practice is that a past event, which at the time seemed threatening, can then set a pattern for future reactions. And because this trigger is often held in the subconscious, it can be hard to identify. So, for example, witnessing an angry exchange between your parents as a young child may then make you terrified of anger and confrontation. Also, if you experience a particularly challenging period that causes you to feel extreme stress or anxiety, your amygdala can become hyper-reactive, so will be looking for other potential triggers. This means you can find yourself in panic mode before your rational brain can evaluate a situation to see if such a response really is necessary. This state is referred to as ‘emotional hijacking’. One of the best approaches for dealing with this is HeartMath.
But there’s a lot you can do with your nutrition and lifestyle. While you are working towards adopting a consistently calmer way of being, steer clear of activities that significantly raise your heart rate, as these may confuse the brain into thinking you’re in an emergency situation. Opt instead for activities that help to relax and raise your natural energy levels like yoga, meditation or t’ai chi. Likewise, avoid stimulants that get your heart racing – ......
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