Since opening up our studio, over 20 months ago, we’ve been privy enough to discover that quite a number of our guests suffer from anxiety. Whether you suspect that you might too or you know someone who might, we thought it would be worth dedicating a newsletter to dissecting the ins and outs of anxiety.

A study from Beyond Blue found that 40 per cent of people think anxiety is “just stress”. A large number also believe that anxiety is merely a personality trait. Well, guess what? It’s not.

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While anxious feelings are a common response to a particularly demanding situation or event, they usually pass once the situation itself has passed, or the ‘stressor’ has been removed.

Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don’t go away. They are more frequent or persistent and aren’t always connected to an obvious challenge. They start to impede on one’s quality of life and day-to-day functioning. So how does anxiety work? Well, it all comes down to the stress response…

  1. The amygdala, a tiny, almond shaped structure deep inside the emotional part of the brain (the limbic system) perceives a threat;
  2. It activates a cascade of immediate physiological reactions to prepare your body to either fight as hard as it can or flee as fast as it can (the fight-or-flight response)….
    1. Breath rate gets faster to enhance oxygen supply to the brain;
    2. Blood pressure heightens to pump blood quicker around the body;
    3. Perspiration increases to cool us down;
    4. Fine motor skills diminish as blood is prioritised to large muscle groups;
    5. Muscles tense up to help protect them in the fight/flee;
    6. Creativity and memory recall is affected as these capacities of the brain are minimised.
  3. When the prefrontal cortex (rational brain) determines the threat has passed and the amygdala detects safety, it switches off the panic button and the symptoms subside.

In people with an anxiety condition, stimuli that aren’t real threats continuously trigger this same fight-or-flight response in the body, unnecessarily. Often a thought or a memory is good enough. The prefrontal cortex (rational brain) isn’t able to switch off the false alarm so the anxiety persists.

Did you know that about a quarter of Australians will experience an anxiety condition at some time in their lives and about 3 million people currently have a condition, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics? Think you might be one of them? Find out by taking the test here.

The good news is that the amygdala can be trained and the prefrontal cortex strengthened to help overcome anxiety.

Resources to help:

  • Regular meditation
  • Online courses: Mindspot, This Way Up
  • Face-to-face programs and counseling: Anxiety Disorders Clinic, Indigo Project
  • Anxiety blogs
  • Support circles: Who Cares? Two of our guests have taken it upon themselves to start a monthly meet-up, together with our support. It’s an informal, confidential, safe space for urban professionals to come together and share their experiences with anxiety and/or depression. If you’re interested in joining or hearing more, contact whocares.sessions@gmail.com.