Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The 5 Fs of Anxiety: Fight Flight Freeze Feed and Fornicate

Are You Sure You Know What Anxiety Really Is?

   I'm often surprised when I talk to people about their anxiety, and they have a good grasp of what their symptoms are, but they don't seem to know much about what is causing them.  Some may already know it is their anxious thoughts, but that is only part of the equation.    The physical symptoms of anxiety are caused by a misguided fight or flight response.  It's instinct.  If we were animals we may be stuck this way, but we are lucky to be human and able to use our knowledge and will to retrain our instincts.  This is a good thing because I don't think any of us would like to be stuck with anxiety forever.

   Before I go further, I would like to rename the fight or flight response to the five Fs; fight, flight, freeze, feed, and fornicate.  Please allow me to explain further.

   Most people with anxiety recognize the flight response first. They become fearful and avoid or leave situations.

   A lot of people with anger management issues don't realize their outbursts of temper are really anxiety attacks.

   I think freeze is easy enough to understand, if you have ever been expected to speak in front of a crowd, only to have your mouth refuse to move.  Ever gone quiet, afraid to speak or move in a social situation?  Freezing can be mistaken for depression.  Someone is so afraid of failure, the just stay still and do nothing at all.

   Feeding is easy to spot if you are prone to anxiety eating, but I'm also going to throw most addictions into this basket.  There once was a time, long, long ago when it was a good survival mechanism to load up on food if the future looked uncertain.  Today this can manifest itself as the need to satisfy any hunger, whether it be natural or substance induced.

   I've been laughed at for mentioning this last one.  I'm sticking to my guns.  I've seen it over and over, and lived it a few times myself.  If you were an evolving human many thousands of years ago, in an unsafe environment, wouldn't it make good sense to mate?  Sex forms strong instinctive bonds. People would fight or even die for the right mate. Wouldn't that up your chances of survival? Nowadays this can show up as getting into bad relationships, promiscuity, sex addiction, relationship addiction, inability to be single, hyper dependence, excessive jealousy, possessiveness, and all manner of other romantic problems.

   It's helpful to know what your instinctive reactions are. Do you get angry, afraid, depressed, addicted, fall in love with the wrong person, or engage in sexual activity you are not very happy about?  If you just answered "all of the above", that's okay, you are not alone.  Once you have spotted your instinctive anxiety reactions, you can be happy you have this higher mind and will.  This is what you have to start making those changes you would like to make.

  You can trade in your insecure thoughts for secure ones, and practise this ahead of time, so it becomes habit.  You can also pay attention to your body and feel these visceral responses, as they occur, and learn how to not only think a more secure thought, but take control of your physiology, by consciously breathing slow, deep, and even, like a relaxed person would breathe.  Consciously relaxing your stomach muscles, and some other ones as well, like your hands.  Consciously use your will to direct your muscles, on the outside also. "I use my will to direct my muscles to get up and..." or "I use my will to direct my muscles to sit down and....." please fill in the blanks with what you think is the next right thing to do, or that thing you are about to do but know you shouldn't. If you would like to have fun with this, you can think of your will as your own magic super power. "With my almighty will I command my muscles to move me out of bed and towards the kitchen!" Once you are in the kitchen, you may have a maniacal laugh, like you are about to take over the world. If you are able to laugh and be a little silly, you get x1000 extra bonus speed points towards your recovery.

Remember you are in charge now. Sit, stand, and walk like a confident person. It sends a message to yourself you've got this. It takes time and patience to retrain an anxiety response. Think of yourself as a loving parent to yourself. You will be kind, not push too hard, and not let yourself totally off the hook either. You will love yourself, expect setbacks, but be ready to regroup and try something a little easier next time. Keep your eyes on the prize and remember the payoff. Freedom to comfortably live your life how you choose, and become who you were really meant to be.

  This video is here just in case you have never tried sleep hypnosis for anxiety. It is another thing you can try to help you learn to calm down, relax, and feel good, while you go to sleep, and after you get up as well.