We know anxiety can wreak havoc on our bodies, but do we know why?
Our bodies are just trying to protect us — whether we need it or not. The brain might think “DANGER DANGER DANGER” but the body doesn’t know that the threat is an important exam, not a huge f*cking bear.
Sometimes the physical symptoms of anxiety are enough to worsen the anxiety. But, if we know why our bodies react this way — and stay mindful of that — we can decrease the amount of suffering anxiety may cause.
Here's why anxiety can make us (physically) feel like sh*t.
Your fight-or-flight response is responsible for the physical symptoms of anxiety.
When your body senses a threat (real or not) it tries help you survive by preparing your body to either attack or run (hence fight-or-flight). The body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, contributing to anxiety's physical symptoms.
Hormones like adrenaline cause receptors in the heart to speed up your heart rate.
This increased heart rate allows your heart to pump more blood so you can fight off potential threats. The next time your heart is racing from anxiety, don't freak out. Just remember it's your body's way of trying to help you - even if you don't need it.
Faster blood flow tells the body it needs more oxygen, causing you to feel short of breath.
This shortness of breath could send some of us into a panic. Try to prevent yourself from feeling more anxious by remembering it's just a normal stress response that will subside.
Your muscles tense up, in case you need to spring into action, causing muscle pain.
The fight-or-flight response makes your muscles tighten in place. The longer you hold this tension, the more sore we feel.
Adrenaline can also cause blood vessels to constrict, decreasing the amount of blood the muscles get. So when the response is over and blood flows back, it be painful.
Stress hormones released can enter your digestive tract, causing stomach pain.
These hormones negatively affect microorganisms that live in the digestive tract to aid digestion. The chemical imbalance can cause multiple gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea, constipation and nausea.
So, how do we manage these symptoms?
Manage the anxiety.
Try to practice mindfulness to bring your anxiety under control. Remember, once you've taken care of the root cause of your anxiety, your sympathetic nervous system will also go back to functioning normally.
These reminders rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy are perfect for managing anxiety:
Not sure which phrase is right for you?