REWIRE YOUR ANXIOUS BRAIN.
Updated: Apr 6, 2022
By Lauren Janowiecki | 1/15/19
Anxiety. Its that one word that, in itself, causes that nervous unsettled fear that seems to take hold, and not let go. It is tormenting, and often feels unescapable. It is the invisible force that suffocates and the lingering tension that steals hope, peace, and rest. Webster’s modern dictionary defines anxiety as: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome; a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.
Lets take a moment and go back to the beginning. Why mental health? Yes, I do realize Dr. Volck specializes in dentistry. And yes, I do realize that those two subjects are not closely related. So, again, why? Let me explain. We are NOT just a dental blog. (lets be honest, there is only so much you can learn about dentistry without enrolling at OSU.) We are a health and wellness blog that offers weekly articles on everything from healthy family meals to charcoal toothpaste usage- and frankly everything in between. Our goal, like most healthcare providers, is to offer articles that are both applicable and relatable to the every day human being on the pursuit of a full healthy and happy life. We strive to provide articles you actually WANT to read, and that you can truly take something from. That is our goal. So whether we are covering vitamins, mouthwash, depression, or 20 minute meals, we are here to encourage wellness- in every category.
I reached out a few weeks ago to get an idea of what you guys want to read. I had a great response and have had quite a few of you make requests for the blog to cover mental health. Since this is such a broad variety of topics, I have decided to start a series of weekly blogs that target those touchy subjects. Over the next few weeks I will be bringing many professionals on- board to get their perspective of the ins and outs of mental health. We will be featuring everything from anxiety and depression to self love and confidence. We will be touching on natural remedy’s, best practices, how to manage your symptoms, and the ‘why’s’ behind each mental illness.
Today we begin by touching briefly on a topic that hits very close to home for me- anxiety. This is the first (very brief) part of a much larger article that we will dig so much deeper into. The full multi-part article will cover the different types of anxiety, what causes them, how to deal with them, and how to eventually rewire your anxious brain. For this multi-part article, I will be compiling professional articles along with one-on-one interviews with few doctors and colleagues that focus on mental health. These professionals have spent countless hours researching and studying mental health (some even battling it themselves) and most of the applied articles are written by mental health specialists, therapists, and psychiatrists. I truly hope this helps you as much as I am hoping it will help me.
I am one of the many that feel the effects of anxiety, on a daily basis. I am that type of person that tends to think… Then over think- a lot. I drive myself crazy, tirelessly evaluating hundreds of possible scenarios. I derive potential outcomes based upon theoretical information. I over analyze everything. Literally- everything. And It. Is. Exhausting. So I decided to tackle this subject first in hopes that in the process it brings understanding, peace, and confidence to the many of you out there that struggle with the same thing. Happy reading.
Anxiety wears many masks. It presents itself in different ways and is often prompted by different triggers. Like most mental health disorders, the symptoms, intensity, causes, and reactions, can often be surprising and vary from one situation to another. Many times the emotions can sneak up on you, and you will find yourself sitting there, fidgeting your clammy hands, unable to breath, and simply wondering why. Lets go back to basics- science.
For many of our articles, I will be including are snippets from the books, blogs, video series’ and articles by Douglas Bloch.
Douglas Bloch, MA, is an author, teacher and mental health coach who writes and speaks on the topics of psychology, healing and spirituality. He earned his BA in Psychology from New York University and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of Oregon. He is the author of ten books, including , Healing From Depression: 12 Weeks to a Better Mood, Words That Heal the Blues: Affirmations and Meditations for Living Optimally With Mood Disorders, and The Power of Positive Talk: Words to Help Every Child Succeed.
A former radio talk show host and popular public speaker, Douglas has given lectures and workshops around the country to businesses, schools, church groups, recovery centers and national psychology conferences in regards to mental health. Douglas currently leads healing from depression and anxiety support groups in his local area and offers a mental health newsletter on his web site, Healing from Depression. The following is his back to basics outlook and video on rewiring the anxious mind- derived from the simplest root of them all- science. For your reference, below is also a link to the video and original page source.
“This blog on anxiety is called How to Rewire Your Anxious Brain, and it’s purpose of this video is to give you an overview of how to heal anxiety disorders. You can do this by looking at the two major brain circuits that are involved with anxiety. The first circuit is in the neocortex or the thinking brain. This part of the brain allows you to think and plan for the future, and to anticipate that future.
Problems arise in the prefrontal cortex when we think about the future and exaggerate the negative outcomes and this causes us to worry and to to “catastrophize.” The way to treat this type of anxiety is to use cognitive behavioral therapy to replace fearful, unrealistic thoughts with rational and realistic thoughts. Thus, if you are preparing for a job interview and thinking to yourself, “I’ll never get this job. And when I don’t get it I won’t be able to pay my rent and I’ll become homeless,” This is going to cause you to feel a great deal of anxiety. Using cognitive therapy, you can tell yourself “I’m well prepared for this interview,” or “I am as qualified as any of the other candidates.” This will calm your mind down and will decrease the physical symptoms of anxiety.
The second pathway in the brain that creates anxiety involves the amygdala, the almond shaped structure located in the midbrain or ‘emotional brain”. The amygdala is called “the sentinel of fear,” and its job is to warn you of any danger and is always on the lookout for some threat. It is wired to protect you from harm before the thinking brain even knows what he harm is. The amygdala creates the physical sensations of anxiety which are more difficult to treat than the cortex induced anxiety.
The amygdala is wired to respond quickly enough to save your life and it seizes control in times of danger. And because of this wiring, it is difficult, if not impossible, to use reason-based thought processes that arise in the cortex to control amygdala-based anxiety. This is why it is hard to talk yourself out of an anxiety attack. The amygdala induces the fear response, even where is nothing out there to be afraid of. This is what happens in PTSD.
The key to healing amygdala-based anxiety is to use strategies that directly impact the brain and nervous system and bypass the thinking mind. Three examples are exercise, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Another one, taught in the DBT training, is to put your face in sink or bucket of cold water and hold your breath for as you long as you can. Doing this activates what is called “the dive response” which in turn activates the relaxation response. This may sound a bit unusual, but I have been told that it does work.
In conclusion, the key to rewiring your anxious brain is to first decide which brain pathway is determining your anxiety. If it is the cortex and you have issues with worrying about the future or anticipating the worst, than you should seek out cognitive based tools to correct your thinking errors.
On the other hand if you suffer from amygdala-based anxiety, which means that you feel anxious but there is no obvious cause—you just are fearful without knowing why, then you need to seek out strategies that will calm the amygdala and reduce the activation that has been created in your body. And in either case, you will want to be sure that you are seeing a counselor or therapist who specializes in the treatment of anxiety.” by Douglas Bloch | Oct 3, 2017 URL Reference: https://healingfromdepression.com/rewire-anxious-brain/
I hope you found that article as eye opening as I did. Determining which part of the brain your anxiety stems from can help you to better understand the root scientific cause as to why you feel the way that you do, and therefor how you can move past it. And, of course, this is only the beginning of our multi- page article on How to Rewire your anxious brain as part of our mental health series. Tuned for our next article that will continue to dig deeper into the world of anxiety and I hope that you found this helpful!