To recover from anxiety - we need to understand anxiety.
Recovery takes time. I want to say that clearly up front. I Am Anxiety isn’t a ‘get rid of anxiety in ten days’ kind of book. No one can promise you that, and those kinds of claims help no one but the person taking your money.
When it comes to anxiety - knowledge is power.
We need to understand why we stay trapped in the anxiety cycle, and to do that, we need to understand a little bit about what anxiety does to the brain.
We need a basic high level understanding of three important parts of the brain - and you don’t need to be a doctor or psychiatrist to gain this understanding (I'm neither of those two things).
The three parts of the brain are:
The amygdala – the brains fear centre which controls our natural stress response (also called the fight-or-flight response)
The hippocampus – the part of the brain involved with memory and learning which also plays an important role in helping us recover from stressful situations.
The prefrontal cortex – this part of the brain controls those things that make us ‘human’. It controls our ability to concentrate, our ability to make rational and thoughtful decisions, our ability to make judgements about different situations we encounter day to day and our ability to interact with others.
So how do these relate to anxiety?
In a nutshell, when we are stressed and anxious for prolonged periods, the stress hormones released by the amygdala cause this part of the brain to get bigger. It therefore gets better at doing its job and so does it more often. Its job is to get us ready to deal with danger – so we get better at being anxious (and so do it more and more).
The bodies stress hormones also cause the hippocampus to get smaller which means it’s not as good at doing its job. Its job is to help the body recover from stressful events and it also plays an important role in memory and learning.
When the amygdala gets bigger and the hippocampus gets smaller, the prefrontal cortex can’t do its job properly. The fear centre of the brain (the amygdala) has taken over.
You are now caught in the anxiety cycle.
Through the reading and research I did when I was unwell, and by taking the most helpful advice from others who had experienced anxiety and recovered, I realised that there were two things I had to do to break the anxiety cycle permanently – and return my mind to normal healthy functioning.
1. I had to take the fear out of my symptoms. This would reduce the quantity of I’m in danger messages my amygdala was receiving; and
2. I had to take the ‘hyperactivity’ out of my amygdala to stop it from being so good at doing its job. This would help it, and the other parts of my brain, return to normal healthy functioning.
The book has enabled me to fully explain how - by applying these two steps to my life and to the strange and frightening symptoms I was experiencing on a daily basis - I was able to fully recover. I also use the blog on this site to discuss the steps to anxiety recovery and their practical application.