When people experience anxiety they often get physical sensations which can be really uncomfortable. In extreme cases this can end in a panic attack. This is caused by our “Fight or Flight response”.
FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE
The fight or flight response is your body’s way of protecting you from danger and equipping you to run away from or fight your way out of a dangerous situation. Your body starts to channel all its energy and resources into making you able to run faster or fight harder.
If you were in physical danger this would be a lifesaver but (fortunately!) It’s very rare that we experience these emergencies and our fight- flight is often triggered unnecessarily and unhelpfully. When you are going for a job interview you need a clear head and a calm attitude – not to be able to fight hard or run away!
Symptoms of fight/flight
- increased heart rate
- racing thoughts
- difficulty concentrating
- nausea/butterflies in stomach
- rapid breathing
- tense muscles
Is the fight/flight response dangerous?
Most people experience this reaction at one time or another and usually it doesn’t cause major issues and goes away as soon as the perceived threat passes.
Sometimes though it can feel really overwhelming and happen too often causing a lot of problems with anxiety. However at it’s extreme it can cause panic attacks which can be very frightening and debilitating.
FIRST AID FOR WHEN ANXIETY STRIKES
Remind yourself that what you are feeling in your body is not dangerous, that it’s just a physical response to stress and it will die down in time.
- Try some relaxation responses to switch off the fight -flight
- take a few deep breaths and make your exhales slower than your inhales
- look around and notice 3 things you can see or 3 things you can hear (this is a mindfulness practice to bring you into the present moment)
- try progressive muscle relaxation click here for instructions
COUNSELLING AND CBT
If anxiety is impacting your day to day life counselling and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) could help you to break free.
Counselling is a safe place to talk about whatever is troubling you without fear of judgement.
It can help you to identify your anxiety triggers and deal with them so they no longer kick in and cause anxiety for you. For example sometimes a past trauma can keep coming back until we make sense of the experience and process the feelings.
A personal example of this from my own past is that I was bullied in school and this led to me feeling anxiety when in group situations as it triggered the memories of being around a group of children in school who bullied me.
In counselling I was able to work through this and understand what happened and how it wasn’t my fault. Once I had worked through this I no longer experienced being in a group as threatening and the anxiety diminished.
CBT can help you identify if you have unhelpful thinking styles that are contributing to your anxiety. For example many people think of the worst case scenario when faced with a stressful situation which only makes their anxiety worse. This is an unhelpful thinking style called catastrophising – for more on thinking styles click here
My name is Anna and I am a counsellor and work either face to face in Birkenhead, Wirral or online over zoom. I have a special interest in anxiety and chronic pain.
For more information on counselling click here