Anxiety Is on the Attack, With One in Five Struggling Worldwide

By Cheryl Accardi

Mental Health Coach, Advocate, Speaker
Founder & President, Anxiety Aide

Anxiety is an uncomfortable emotion characterized by the feeling of fear. It sounds simple enough. All of us, at one time or another, have felt it, whether before a big test, performing on stage, or public speaking.

Anxiety, a synonym of worry, refers to uneasiness, fear, and apprehension over an unknown danger. Technically, in anxiety, the cause is not known. In fear, the cause is known. Anxiety is a symptom, not a diagnosis of many emotional disorders, is a broader term than worry, and is mental but often has physical symptoms. But for many anxiety affects their ability to function in everyday life. When your anxiety does attack here are some things you can do to redirect yourself.

1. Perform a “thinking task”

Anxiety arises from limbic functioning. The limbic system is comprised of several brain regions, including the amygdale, to mediate functions such as emotional regulation and sustained attention, among others. There is a feedback loop between the limbic system and the frontal lobes, which plays a significant role in executive functioning (e.g., problem solving, sequential processing, analysis and synthesis of information, plan making). When frontal regions increase in activity, limbic regions decrease in activity. Hence, our emotionality tends to regulate when we become involved in executive activities.

2. Exercise

Anxiety engages the “hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis” (i.e., the HPA axis). The HPA axis controls the body’s response to stress. When the HPA activity becomes elevated, large amounts cortisol is produced and released. The presence of high levels of cortisol corresponds with inefficient cognitive processing. Exercise “burns off” cortisol in the body. Exercise also causes large muscle groups to relax, and often serves as an effective distraction from self-monitoring.

3. Sleep and diet

The brain requires resources for typical daily function. With inadequate sleep or nutrients, cognitive efficiency drops. Not only may this manifest in impaired executive functioning, but it may also lead to inefficient emotional regulation.

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