Let’s get one thing clear to begin with. Anxiety is not the devil. It’s actually a very necessary response we’ve adapted over many years of evolution so that our bodies can fire up our stress and anxiety inducing hormones to get us out of difficult situations. If our ancestors had stood back had not had enough adrenaline to flight or take flight from that bear or deadly snake, then you and I would not be here at all. I actually find this point to be the most helpful in overcoming anxiety. If I’m stressed out or feel like I’m under a black cloud of worry I try to remember that it’s natural to feel like this and that challenging ourselves every now and again is no bad thing. We are here today because we are survivors; and therefore we are also the ones with a very well adapted anxiety response.
Clearly we’ve adapted to respond to stress and anxiety very well, and one of the ways our bodies do this is by not waiting to see what the stressor turns out to be. Imagine our ancestors out hunting. They hear a rustle in the grass or the bush near them and they can either do one of two things: wait to see what it is and potentially suffer some life threatening injury, or take action and be ready to fight or get the hell outta there! So over the centuries our bodies have adapted to sense danger and mount a stress and anxiety response without waiting to find out exactly what it is. Survival is clever, but this spells problems for us 21st Century beings that have less life-threatening stresses but are still reacting in the same way.
There is a lot in our lives these days that causes us anxiety. For example: bad gut health, non-organic food that has toxic chemical residues on it, electro-magnetic radiation, allergies, infections, viruses, food additives and pollution. All of these things will activate a stress response. So to survive against these non-life threatening stresses we’re constantly in a state of nervous panic and anxiety.
So don’t feel bad. It’s totally normal!
So how do we combat this then? Well, by avoiding some of the non-life threatening stressors listed above: living a healthy life, focussing on organic produce, reducing your exposure to pollution and looking after your gut bugs.
There’s a lot more you can do though besides good nutrition, and here I’m going to talk about my favourite pastime; grounding. Now before you dismiss this as an Instagram fad, there is actually science behind it. Our brain is constantly trying to work out where we are in space and time and it gathers data from our environment to do this. There are three main places that it gathers this data from: our ankles, which tell our brains where we are on the ground and whether we’re stable or moving (#grounded), our ears; which are like our internal spirit levels and determine whether we are moving, swinging around or again, stable, and our eyes; which tell us where we are based on a point of reference like the horizon. If you can balance these three things then signals are sent to our brain which make us feel calm and relaxed.
It’s why many people feel anxious in crowds, because they can’t see the horizon or the landscape and why nature is such a valuable source of calm for us because things like trees and mountains give our brains a reference point. Wearing high heels or thick soled shoes can also impact this, and the absolute best thing to do is go barefoot where you can so that you can feel grounded, connected to the earth and therefore calm. Oh, and don’t get dizzy because that will throw the info that our ears gather out of whack too!
So next time you feel the invisible cloud of anxiety creeping up on you get outside, breathe deep, take your shoes and socks off, find the horizon and feel the calm wash over you. Honestly, it really works!
What are your tips for overcoming anxiety? Let us know in the comments below.