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Dr. C’s Blog: I Used To Be A “Worrier”… Now I Am “Lovely”.

Compared to what so many of our readers have lived through, this hardly seems worth the time to tell the story – but I know that anxiety and worry can steal the joy from life.   So, here’s part of my story…

I was a nervous child.   I worried and fretted over so many things.   Things that were beyond my control.   Things a child shouldn’t be thinking about.  It got to the point where my hair started falling out in clumps. My mom would ask me what I was worried about…. and I wouldn’t know what to tell her.  I worried about how people felt about each other and whether or not we would have “enough” of something.  For me, it felt like butterflies in my stomach and I was hyper-sensitive to other people’s feelings.

Anxiety is worrying about what may happen. 

It’s like how your stomach feels on the first day of school after summer ends.  It’s feeling uneasy… apprehensive…

There are things that contribute to how much anxiety each person feels or experiences:

–  How much great grandpa and grandma, mom and dad experienced anxiety.
–  Brain chemistry – the type and amount of chemicals in our brains.
–  Life events we are faced with or that happen to us.
–  Personality – how we look at and interpret the things that happen to us.

We can’t control who our ancestors were or how our brain chemistry works.   And so many life experiences give us little control.   But our personality – and the way we perceive and handle the experiences life brings – ARE things we have much control over.

Our bodies are formed so wonderfully in many ways.  One very important way is that we’re  programmed to survive.  When we’re confronted with something that seems threatening to us… our brain sends the signal that there is “danger” and hormones (one being adrenaline) shoot into our bloodstream in a flash.  This makes our body immediately stronger and faster so we can deal with the ‘threat’ by either fighting or fleeing.   This came in quite handy when we had to outrun lions or wildcats back in the wagon wheel days.

But what does that look like nowadays?  Our bodies haven’t changed – we still have that program to survive. So what would cause those reactions today?  While at my home outside Orlando, we actually do have bears that still roam on our acreage, I understand that is not a common problem for most people.

Here are some everyday examples of things that could cause our bodies to feel threatened:

– Your teacher passing out an important pop-quiz and you realize you don’t know any of the answers..
–  Your parents regularly arguing.
–  Needing to confront a friend about… well, anything.
–  Stress related to siblings or step-siblings.
–  Employment change you know is coming.
–  Not earning enough to cover your monthly expenses.
–  Conflict with your boyfriend/spouse.

Our bodies are still programmed to release chemicals that raise our blood sugar, heart rate, blood pressure and pulse.  Our digestion still slows down, our pupils dilate and our breathing gets shallow…. even though there may not be any physical danger about to happen to us.

We can’t “fight” the teacher or “run” from the classroom…. but those hormones are still being released into our bloodstream.  They still need to be worked out of our body.  And when they aren’t – anxiety… worry… panic… stress…. “freakin out”… is what we begin to feel.

We experience anxiety in different ways and increasing our own awareness of how we experience stress will help us learn how to manage it.

For example:  Let’s say three girls all experience “test” anxiety.   Whenever they know a big test is coming up – they all start to feel anxious.  All three of them have this reaction of feeling nervous… but they may experience it in different ways.

One girl may have a hard time sleeping a few nights before the big exam.  Racing thoughts..(will I know the answers?)  Fitful sleep (nightmares or dreaming of being late).

Another girl might be able to sleep well enough, but has knots in her stomach.  She has no appetite but knows she needs to eat to keep from being lightheaded or weak.

The third girl’s anxiety for taking a test may feel like nervousness.  She has a hard time concentrating and feels jumpy and antsy.  Her heart is beating faster and she needs to take deep breaths.

Just knowing how our body reacts to stress and what we can do to prevent and manage stress and anxiety will make us healthier and happier.

Next week, lets look at some ways to deal with anxiety and manage that stress.
What about you?  What situations make you feel anxious… which situations do you feel like you need to get a handle on?

I used to be stressed.. now I am lovely.

Dr. C.