How to Break the Anxiety Cycle

By Brian Robinson.

Or in this case, the anxiety jumble. How do we break this cycle? How do we get rid of the jumble?

Although there is much truth in this idea of a never-ending emotional vortex, it is still extremely daunting for the sufferer. We ask ourselves: how do you break this cycle; at which point can we step in; is it possible to remove one circle and then the rest will crash? Often this can add to the cycle of worry. We need to find another way, another more relaxed way of looking at things.

But first, we first have to come up with a definition for anxiety, a definition that will take us closer to the heart of the problem. We could, for example, describe anxiety as an emotional disorder. It is after all a condition where our normal emotions are disrupted, where we become overwhelmed by fear. Or, we could describe anxiety as a problem involving focus. We are focused inwardly on our fears and all our other interests fall by the wayside. Whilst both these descriptions are true, they do not take us deep enough into how anxiety works.

There are two ways in which fight or flight can be energised: the natural way; and the unnatural way.  The natural way is when we find ourselves in real danger. If we fall into the lion’s den we first freeze. This involves creating huge amounts of physical tension. Then, after a few seconds, we move into high-tension mode as more adrenaline is released. This gives us the capacity to escape from danger. Once we are out of the lion’s den, our tension levels then decline dramatically and we feel safe again.

The unnatural way fight or flight is triggered, is when tension builds up in our body caused by such things as worry, emotional turmoil, life events, and so on. When physical tension levels reach a certain critical point, fight or flight is automatically activated. It is also the case, that when fight or flight comes into play, tension levels increase even further and this makes things more difficult.

This then is the definition we have been looking for. Anxiety is a disorder caused by high tension levels. If we were to become relaxed, physically, emotionally, and psychologically, then we would no longer be anxious. Tension reduction then is our way forward. And it is a way that is much more straightforward and far less daunting. For example, if you put a relaxant into a stressed system, it is bound to relax a bit: that’s physics. And if you put a lot of relaxants into a stressed system, then it is bound to relax a lot: that’s maths. So, if we do the right things, and if we’re successful in that, then recovery is bound to happen. It is just a matter of time.

There is a sense then, in which we can see everything we do, think, and feel during our day as offering the potential to become a little more relaxed. We can do a breathing exercise, walk to the shop instead of taking the car, distract ourselves when our thinking becomes troubling, and calm our emotions by listening to them but not necessarily being guided by them. As we go through our day we ask ourselves the question: is what I’m doing producing tension; or is it reducing tension? The quicker you reduce tension: the quicker you recover.

This then is a better way to see anxiety. We don’t have to feel trapped in this endless cycle. Recovering from anxiety is a straightforward matter of reducing tension and dealing with the cause or causes of stress.

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