Anxiety can be a debilitating condition. Anxiety changes chemicals in your brain that can affect the way you think and the way you feel to such a degree that each thought feels normal or can become overwhelming. People struggle to tell themselves that they’re worrying for no reason, but anxiety tells them that their worry makes sense. Anxiety makes them genuinely feel there are issues to worry about. It does this by negative thinking. It’s the act of genuinely believing that something negative is going to occur because of the way anxiety affects your brain. Most detrimental stress comes from the overanxious brain and can lead to physical inhibitions and depression. This is especially true for a pattern of anxious behavior that can lead to anxiety attacks that can physically shut down the body and make a person ill. The chemical changes in the brain can be responsible for an overall shut down effect on the body, but you can control your anxiety by dealing with the stress in advance as it begins to occur. Academic and social performance both in school and on the job are greatly impacted by anxiety. Here are six tips to dealing with anxiety and to stave off anxiety attacks before the chemical change occurs in the brain.
Prayer/Mindfulness – Centering your thoughts outside yourself and on nature, God, the beauty around you and focusing on these have a cleansing effect on the brain and allow the brain’s neurons to problem solve in a relaxed manner. Over time, people who engage in this centering process of prayer and meditation develop thicker layers of neurons in the attention-focused parts of the prefrontal cortex and in the insula, an area that’s triggered when we tune into our feelings and bodies. Other research has shown that being mindful boosts activation of the left prefrontal cortex, which suppresses negative emotions, and minimizes the activation of the amygdala which is the “alarm” trigger for fight or flight. To reduce fight/flight once it has started, begin to think small to large-my fingers are fine, my toes are ok, my arms are ok, etc. until you reach your core….As in Philippians 4:8, Think on these things: things that are true, honest, just, pure, good reports….”
Positive Journaling – Preventative measure-write down good uplifting thoughts such as scriptures that can combat anxiety and put into places that you will see them when you are facing the anxiety such as on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, dashboard of your car, on your child’s notebook, in your child’s lunch sack, etc. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.
Surround yourself with Positive People – “Birds of a feather flock together.” Positive thinking friends have a profound influence on your mental health and the negative ninnies do too. Locate people that act the way you want to feel and spend time with them. If you find positive relationships, you’ll become more positive around them and it spreads. Smiles are contagious. If you have a solitary job or situation, find positive videos/pictures that make you smile and laugh. Laughter is good medicine for the soul.
Social Media Diet – Take time off from negative feeds in your social media account-stay away from negative people and negative press by suppressing your feed to those that are not uplifting in what they post, or stay off the social web altogether to re-center yourself.
Attainable Goal Setting – A sense of accomplishment is also a great tool for positivity. Set many different small attainable goals for yourself. Reaching these goals shows you that you worked for something, which is a great way to overcome anxiety. One such goal can be to overcome negative thought by practicing positive restatement because if you’re able to overcome anxiety you’ll be able to overcome negative thinking. But in the meantime, focusing on becoming a more positive person can have profound results for your day to day happiness.
Exercise Cognitively and Physically – Both mental and physical exercise create positivity. When your brain/body feel healthy, your mind releases more “good mood” neurotransmitters that help you deal with some of the symptoms of anxiety. Setting up a quick walk or a mental exercise to do when anxiety strikes allows you to think ahead and combat negative feelings before they can take root. Perhaps counting backwards from 100 by 2s…spelling your city backwards…even singing songs that are old tunes that you have to recall the words also opens up the neurons to fire in a positive manner-Think of Little Orphan Annie singing Tomorrow…the sun will come out tomorrow…or the cute little mice singing “somewhere over the rainbow”…or grandma singing “Jesus never Fails “Exercising the brain in a positive manner gets those neurons firing and bundling together which causes endorphins to boost, and you can have a little chocolate (serotonin) to boot without guilt if you have exercised that body!
Stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing and can actually be quite good for the body as it makes us work more quickly and diligently. When the pressure becomes a level of stress/anxiety that our body and mind cannot handle, then the chemical changes occur and become detrimental to our health and well-being. Scripture tells us that God has not given us a Spirit of Fear but of Love and a sound mind so we need to practice this in our everyday life. There are all kinds of simple tools from scents/oils such as peppermint to soothe to professionals that have psychology and counseling degrees as well as medications to help. If you are struggling with extremes, seek out a professional and be upfront with what you are feeling. If you need a brain trainer to boost your academic and cognitive thought processes, seek out LearningRx or other local professionals. If you need spiritual help, find a good local church with an active positive group of people to interact with and engage yourself and your family. Boost your performance by taking steps in advance to reduce anxiety load and see if you don’t feel better in 2017!
March is Brain Awareness Month!
Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is a nationwide effort organized by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and the Society for Neuroscience to promote the public and personal benefits of brain research. The official week for the next BAW is March 13-19, 2017, but the month of March is Brain Awareness Month. Several local facilities have upcoming events that focus on the brain such as Pi Day on March 14, 2017 at LearningRx and Brainy Camp during Spring Break. SciPort has many events scheduled for that week in addition to camps for Spring break also. Also, ThinkFirst has some workshops. For a list of activities in our area, go the link for Brain Awareness Week on Dana.org.