Imagine a distant, very distant, ancestor crouching behind a rock, terrified: that big black shape over there, is it a bush or is it a bear? This is a life or death situation, but it might not be, perhaps it is a bush after all, but the fear remains. That was all a long time ago and the ancient part of our brains still operate on this model. It is our immediate survival mechanism which is always on the lookout and comes into play at the first hint of danger. None of us is immune from this, however there are useful and less useful ways of managing it; to still our anxieties or keep them topped up and dangerous. There’s nothing like anxiety to depress the immune system.
Rational argument, telling oneself to be sensible or not to be stupid doesn’t often work as the fear is not rational. There are simple techniques we can use to calm the system, rapidly; here is a good one: As you feel anxiety clutch at you, stop what you are doing, stay still and take a couple of deep breaths, bring your attention back simply to where you are, to your body, to the present moment. Be totally aware that at this moment I am okay, I am safe, I can let go and breathe deeply and be at peace. Every time you do this you are changing your brain in a new direction. This pattern works because though fear is in the here and now what we fear isn’t. If we are unwell, that’s here and now and we deal with it, making our best choices. If we are not unwell but anxious our anxiety is of what might happen, it hasn’t happened so it is kind of unreal, a fantasy of a possible future state. We can only live in the present; the past is gone the future hasn’t come, so it makes sense to keep our attention on where we are, thus we come back to reality where we belong and out of which we act.
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