Anxiety often arises in situations where we want and need to stay calm and clear headed – a job interview or promotions board, an exam or test, a first date or when faced by a bullying boss.
We know we should stay calm, focused and confident.
But that’s pretty hard to do when the your mouth has gone dry, your stomach is churning, your heart racing, you feel sick and giddy, find yourself blushing and sweating or fear-fainting.
Suddenly your body is out of control and your mind has gone blank.
What on earth is happening and why?
Essentially what is happening is that a primitive mechanism – the Fight, Flight or Freeze response – has been triggered in the face of what the emotional regions of your brain perceive as a threat to survival. If you really were faced with a life or death situation where fighting, fleeing or freezing were the only available options then this response could indeed help save your life. Because one can easily and quickly learn to become anxious in situations where there is no genuine threat to survival, a response that evolved to save your life can help to ruin it. The key points to remember are these:
Anxiety – no matter how intense and disabling – is not an illness but an association you have learned.
You cannot be ‘cured’ of your anxious feelings any more than you can be ‘cured’ of speaking your native language.
What you can and must do is to learn ways of bringing those intense feelings quickly and effectively back under your control.