By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
From listening to politicians and the news media, and even your neighbors and family, it’s easy to conclude that these are scary times. This article will explain fear and anxiety, provide you anxiety/stress reducing tools, and offer a way of looking at the world in which we live from a metaphysical perspective.
Fear is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat” (Oxford Dictionaries). The amygdala, that part of the brain that determines safety, hasn’t evolved to distinguish the difference between a true imminent threat and an area of possible concern. It evaluates every input from one of your senses including what is seen, heard, touched, smelled, tasted, and emotionally felt. From a safety perspective this makes perfect sense. But the amygdala has not learned to differentiate between a bear on a forest path and a call to the boss’ office. Both result in the same physiologic fight, flight or freeze response. Additionally, the amygdala and its supportive systems rarely distinguish between a threat that is happening to you and a threat that is happening to someone else while it’s viewed on the news or in a movie, or is told to you by another. The mind/body/emotions respond as if the threat is happening to you, right now.
To make matters more complicated, if you happen to be one of the many highly sensitive individuals (not just those on the autistic spectrum), your amygdala is hyper-vigilant. And if you are a worrier, then every additional worry-thought after the original trigger keeps your amygdala continuously responding.
The amygdala’s response is designed to be temporary, not to keep the system on high alert 24/7. Since the amygdala response actually lasts only 90 seconds, anything longer is due to the amygdala being repeatedly triggered by either the continuation of the real danger or by the mind’s continued focus on the perceived danger (actually a worry-thought).
Here are some ways to keep your amygdala response to the more manageable 90 seconds: [Read more…]