The leading cause of disability worldwide, and the number one mental health concern people face, is anxiety according to the World Economic Forum.
To highlight this issue, Quest’s senior facilitator and mental health practitioner, Margie Braunstein shares her insight and experience with anxiety, the physiology behind it, and ways to befriend anxiety, enabling us to free ourselves from its debilitating effects.
Anxiety was my nemesis until I learned how to make it my friend.
I have been a facilitator at Quest for Life for the past 15 years and last year I was privileged to sit down with the wonderful Petrea King and create an online course called Befriending Anxiety.
Along with so many of our participants at Quest for Life, I have often asked myself the question: “How do I get rid of my anxiety?”
Having a lived experience of anxiety spanning my lifetime has put me in the ideal position to address the question. So, Petrea and I got to work and Befriending Anxiety was created! This online course covers what we teach at Quest to ease anxiety so we can learn to befriend it, rather than resist it, enabling us to find freedom from its debilitating effects.
What is anxiety and why do we try so hard to extinguish it from our lives?
Anxiety prepares us to confront threats by putting the body on high alert.
The beginnings of anxiety start in the unconscious but rapidly activate a region of the brain called the amygdala, which governs intense emotional reactions.
As our neurotransmitters fire off impulses to the nervous system, our heart and breathing rates increase, our muscles tense, blood flow is diverted from our abdominal organs, and we prepare to flee or fight. The ‘flee’ part leads to anxiety.
Physical effects may include light-headedness, nausea, diarrhoea (dire rear!), and frequent urination.
When it persists, anxiety takes a toll on our mental and physical health.
The effects of anxiety
Research on the physiology of anxiety-related illness demonstrates strong and growing evidence of the mutual influence between emotions and physical functioning. Yet anxiety often goes unidentified as a possible source of a myriad of physical and behavioural issues, such as illness and addictions.
Anxiety is also often overlooked as a contributing factor in conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), heartburn, migraine headaches, and more. It is interesting to note that each of these conditions involves inflammation in areas associated with the sympathetic nervous system – our fight/flight/freeze reaction.
Anxiety plays a role in what doctors describe as ‘somatoform disorders’, which are characterised by physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, weakness, or dizziness that have no apparent physical cause but are related to psychological stress.
Anxiety is also implicated in other illnesses including heart disease, chronic respiratory disorders, and gastrointestinal conditions. When people with these conditions have unrecognised anxiety, their disease may be more difficult to treat, physical symptoms may become worse, and people may suffer more than necessary.
The social stigma
Unfortunately, often there is social stigma attached to anxiety, which only contributes to the stress – thereby adding to the anxiety which then becomes a vicious cycle. The notion that it’s ‘all in the mind’ somehow lays blame on the person who’s suffering. As if they created it on purpose for manipulative ‘attention-seeking’ purposes, which is not true!
It’s no wonder that we commonly think of anxiety as being the ‘enemy’ that we need to eliminate. Unfortunately, the adage is true when it comes to all emotions: ‘what you resist, persists’. Not only does denial and avoidance fail to reduce anxiety, they serve to increase it.
Help is at hand
Quest for Life’s Befriending Anxiety online course provides an effective way to start on the path to freedom and inner peace. If you’re feeling anxious, this course could be very helpful. The course is comprised of four easy-to-follow modules along with other practical resources. It’s easy to purchase and download from the Quest for Life website.
I personally use the strategies in this course every day. I hope this course can ease the way to a calmer life as you learn to manage the symptoms of debilitating anxiety.
You can also listen to Petrea’s Coming to Your Senses practice on meditation app Insight Timer or download from our website for free as added support.
About the author Margie Braunstein
Margie Braunstein is a Clinical Psychotherapist, teacher, and leader in transformational learning. She is a senior facilitator with the Quest for Life Foundation.
Margie is passionate about becoming fully present to life and teaching others to realise how amazing and unique we all are as human beings.
- Anxiety: What Helps?
- Anxiety: What Helps Me Most by Petrea King
- Easing Children’s Anxiety: A Simple Practice
- Wellbeing books including Your Life Matters by Petrea King – a guidebook for life.
- Meditations including Be Calm, Sleep, and Learning to Meditate.
- Ways to help you to calm your mind and improve your wellbeing and can be found on our toolkit page, including information on sleeping better and meditation practices.
If You’re Experiencing Anxiety
Quest for Life can also help you through our 5-day residential program Healing Your Life by learning strategies and techniques to manage your response to life’s events and ways to calm an anxious mind. Regain control of your life and move towards peace of mind.