We all worry about things, from taking care of our families to completing our work, or even buying the perfect present! But unless you are a biologist, you may not have thought about why we get anxious and why it can be so bothersome.
Our brains have a small area called the amygdala, which is part of the limbic system and has a primary role in processing emotions like fear. The amygdala’s intent is to get us out of harms way; to protect us. Say there is an oncoming bus about to hit us, the amygdala swoops in to rescue us from danger by increasing our heart rate, tensing our muscles, increasing blood flow to the head and trunk, increasing perspiration and dilating pupils. All things useful to get our bodies to run out of the
way of the bus! But if there is no bus or real danger, if it is just a math test or a social interaction then these feelings can be distressing. These feelings are what we call anxiety. And when we don’t have a good understanding of how anxiety works, or ways to process this it can be debilitating for us and for our students trapping us in a cycle.
We can become anxious about being anxious. So how do we stop this cycle?
Many of our children have no idea. My first suggestion is to acknowledge the anxiety, and your body’s response as normal. Your body is doing what needs to do to protect you from danger! I know it sounds silly, but this acknowledgement can be a game changer, by demystifying what is happening inside all the while validating what you are experiencing. This is the first step, and some- times the only step, needed to fight back against anxiety. Other times more help is warranted. If you or a family member needs more help, please reach out.