The brain is made up of several areas and through MRI scanning scientists have been able to identify the function of these areas.
With stress and anxiety it is the Amygdala that is most significant as it has the job of dealing with fear and reacting to perceived danger and sending signals to the rest of the brain and body to do something fast. It calls on the hypothalamus to redirect the blood flow to the muscles (and so the feeling of dizziness), it speeds up the heart rate to pump more blood and it speeds up respiration to get more oxygen into that the blood- cells need oxygen to work effectively.
Problem is the amygdala only has to perceive the threat or be triggered by a past experience which did not go well to get going and the more it has been triggered in certain ways the quicker it will react when it comes across those situations. For instance, if as a child your parents argued loudly and angrily your amygdala may be programmed to loud angry voices.
It has been shown by scientists at Harvard that even 8 weeks of mindfulness training can actually shrink the size of the amygdala so we have less brain cells to react! Handling the amygdala is one of the many benefits of mindfulness.
It is extremely important to have the effective tools that have been proven to work in helping with stress, anxiety and fear. You CAN overcome anxiety with practice, focus and motivation.
MINDFULNESS offers two KEY tools for anxiety:
- Becoming consciously aware of the triggers to your anxiety – this is mindfulness of your body responses. Start taking notes when that feeling of anxiety appears. What just happened before that response was felt? Did you have an anxious thought, or see something that created a feeling of fear?
- Being so aware of your body that you can feel the anxiety signals much quicker and start using mindful breathing to counteract the stress response and call in the calming response in your own body. So if you say to yourself I am calm as you breath in and I am releasing stress/anxiety as you breathe out you are now re-wiring your brain.
The more you utilise the tools of your body awareness, mindful breathing and conscious awareness of your triggers the stronger the calming response will become. With the big revolution in neuroscience in recent years being the discovery of neuro-plasticity, we now know that you can re-wire your brain to respond in a different way – you can teach an old dog new calming tricks!
The key is practice practice practice, there are no shortcuts. Work on the little anxieties and build that mindful muscle so you can tackle the bigger anxieties with more ease and take back control of your life.
We are running two retreats in June – July focusing on the tools to help relieve anxiety and stress from your life, which can be taken separately or together.