The Science Behind Anxiety


Are you one of the ‘1 in 4 Canadians‘ experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety? Before you panic, do you know what it says about your brain?

Anxiety is a natural, biological component of your strong, healthy brain! Think of anxiety like your brain’s built-in alarm system. A tiny but powerful part of your brain called the ‘amygdala’ detects trouble, whether it’s real or just in your thoughts. When it spots a threat, it releases a cocktail of hormones, including the notorious stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline.

The result? Your body gets an instant turbo boost – you become stronger, faster, and more powerful. This is the famous ‘fight, freeze, or flight‘ response, the mechanism that has been keeping us alive and safe for thousands of years. Racy heart, shaky arms, sick tummy, trembling legs – physical symptoms of anxiety are, in fact, a natural way for our brain and body to end the flight or fight response.

While anxiety is an incredible ally to help us get through a threat, we also need to hone some tools that will help us work with this powerful system adaptively. The brain is amazing but needs some help determining what threat is actual and what threat is perceived. This is called differentiation.

Try this: The next time you experience anxiety, ask yourself, ‘Am I in actual danger and need to fight, run, or hide, or am I experiencing fear in response to some discomfort I am having?’



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