In these hectic times many of us are suffering to some degree from anxiety and/or depression. These types of afflictions are generally brought on by running ourselves on empty for too long or personal trauma and then a prolonged period of fearful thinking which rewires the brain and makes recovery difficult. Certain personality types are more susceptible to anxiety and depression and environmental factors during childhood can also influence the patterns of thinking installed in our minds.
To understand anxiety and depression we need to know how our brains work. This is a subject that humans have been fascinated with since the beginning of time! We are an evolved species, having additional capacity to our brains than our fellow animal counterparts. However, that makes things complicated for us and vulnerable to problems not experienced by those with more simple brain functions. All other animals on earth are primarily survival focused and regulate their nervous system to react to threats and deactivate quickly when there is no threat. They have an innate capacity for mindfulness and awareness. They are also masters at reducing stress through naturally built in systems activated within nature.
As human beings move more out of nature and natural systems, we have lost our capacity for mindfulness and awareness. Our brain stays in the processing mode of logic and reason (the evolved part of our brain), triggered by the subconscious parts of our brain that process survival instincts and emotions (the same parts of the brain that most animals contain). Prolonged triggering of a threat response rewires those neural pathways to activate automatically. Running on empty and personal trauma is a threat to survival and no amount of logic and reason can convince us otherwise!
Anxiety is the metabolic body connection to our minds, regulating our system to fight or flight. Unfortunately our bodies don’t listen very well to the logic and reason part of our brains. Our metabolic system is controlled by the other two subconscious parts of our brain, the reptilian brain and the limbic (or mammalian) brain.
To reduce anxiety and depression, we have to break into our brain programming, which is more difficult than it sounds, due to the main control center operating out of the subconscious activity in our brains. Physical and mental pattern changes are necessary to break this spell. Depression is particularly tricky because we can fall into learned helplessness and lose our will to make changes.
There are many areas to make changes that will help with anxiety and depression.
Empowerment through affirmations, learning new skills, and letting go of situations that we cannot control while focusing on what we can control helps to overcome learned helplessness.
Mindfulness helps to quiet the logic and reason brain to reduce the unproductive mind chatter that adds to our stress level. Deep breathing exercises also channel mindfulness and benefits our body with a greater capacity to absorb life preserving oxygen.
Removing ourselves from psychological triggers that activate a threat response.
Moving the body with physical exercise to reset the equilibrium state of the body after the fight or flight response. Movement is also a regulator of stress triggered by pain – injury and pain is a survival threat and becoming stronger and more agile will convince your subconscious brain of your capability to survive.
Pain can also be reduced and minimised with medication. There is evidence that pain medication can act as an antidepressant. Finding relief through altering brain chemistry to subvert the metabolic reactions can also be effective in breaking patterns in neurological wiring.
The ability to remove stress is highly related to resilience. This is two fold – reducing stress and improving the ability to bounce back. Routines and rituals can aid in reducing stress and improving resilience through the means of spiritual, social, and physical activities practiced habitually.
Writing things down can be an effective method of clearing out obsessive thoughts. Journaling may help to put emotions in perspective. Defining your goals with related small tasks then tracking progress can also aid in reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed and keep you moving forward on the things that you want to achieve.
Adequate nutrition and a well balanced diet is important for our well being. Our brain energy for the most part comes from glucose which is synthesized from carbohydrates. Protein provides the body with essential amino acids that are repairing and replacing wear and tear in our bodies. Fatty acids are our major energy source for efficient fuel use and physical endurance activities.
We hope this article has been helpful to you. We think that a body and mind connection is an important concept for overcoming anxiety and depression. Our bodies were designed to be active and agile. Harnessing this innate ability has the power to rejuvenate us physically and mentally.
This article was originally published on balancesense.co.nz and is reproduced here with permission.