Anxiety Busting for 2017
How to manage your amygdala
This week the Lancet published a study showing a link between brain amygdala activity and arterial inflammation and disease (cardio-vascular disease). What this research showed was that increased amygdala activity was positively correlated with serious stress related health problems.
Okay, so why do I comment on this now? Well this should be of interest to anyone who has any sort of problem with anxiety or stress. The reason being, in the brain, it is the amygdala that labels events as worthy of fear or not. It is the amygdala that is responsible for giving you that rush of adrenaline when there is nothing obvious to be fearful of. It is the amygdala that makes you anxious, panic and be stressed.
You should be keen to manage your amygdala
You should be very keen to manage your amygdala as best you can, lest it give you something genuinely serious and life threatening to worry about like a heart attack!
Worry, anxiety and panic always start as a heightened perception of threat, whether conscious or unconscious and it is the little amygdala that determines if something is to be labelled a threat or not.
The behaviour or all life is based on approaching what is useful and life sustaining and avoiding what is dangerous. The success of this relies on a rapid and accurate approach-avoidance system. The organism can afford to mistake something that is beneficial as a threat as often as it likes but it cannot afford to mislabel a genuine threat as safe even once. We are all the benefactors of the efficiency of this system.
All sentient life shares this system, from the lizard to the human. It works the same. Hence the fear system connects the most primitive elements of our brain, those we hold in common with reptiles, fish and birds to the higher cortical functions, the things that make us uniquely human. Hence fear can be triggered by the simplest unexpected knock at the door to the ill-defined yet distressing fear of failure.
Natural selection has clearly favoured the organism prepared to run at the drop of a hat. Indeed our neural architecture has been sculpted over millennia to survive. And the amygdala has grown as a consequence. It is now tasked with starting the process of preparing for fight or flight. What you label as emotions and thoughts are the final stages in this process. Long before you recognise the emotion you are feeling or even before you recognise the source of any threat the amygdala has caused the release of a cascade of hormones to prepare your body to deal with possible annihilation.
Anxiety is just the conscious part of this process. By the time you recognise anxiety the full system has already kicked in. The amygdala has done its job.
If you struggle with any anxiety related problem it must have become apparent to you that your amygdala is working far too hard on your behalf. It is responding to way more threat than it should be. Look around, are people dropping like flies, is there death and destruction all around you or does life continue for people as if there were no threat at all? Who else is constantly anxious? The kind of threat your amygdala is preparing you for is simply not there on an everyday basis.
Your amygdala has learnt to be over-sensitive
This means that your amygdala has slowly learned to be over sensitive. It can be likened to the sensitivity to an allergy. Your amygdala has become over sensitive and hence responds when it does not need to. For you this is experienced as being anxious.
However it is in the nature of learning that the meanings of things can be changed. With new learning comes the opportunity to revise previous beliefs about yourself, the world and your place in it. New learning, gives the opportunity create new rules about what is risky and what is not. In short your amygdala can learn to be much less sensitive leading to much less anxiety. And according to the lancet article much less cardio-vascular disease. I have helped thousands of people to re-train their amygdala both through face to face CBT therapy and through my online programs.
Take steps to change anxiety and stress
If you would like to know more about how to re-train your amygdala so that you are much less anxious. Or even not anxious at all! This means no panic, no worry and no anxiety. Then follow this link to learn more about what the Panic Pit Stop Course can do for you.