Many of you are dealing with a lot of fear and anxiety. Much of this is related to chronic health issues, financial issues, concerns about your children’s future and the general state of the world with the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and climate change, to name a few of the issues plaguing humanity.
It is easy to become overwhelmed and fall into fear when facing daunting challenges in our personal lives and in the world around us and it always seems like when we overcome one challenge, another one is right around the corner. Although it is beyond the scope of this article to solve all of your fear and anxiety woes, there are ways that you can start to manage these. In fact, all the previous articles I’ve written about getting into the flow can be applied to helping you deal with fear and anxiety.
However, let’s address fear where it resides, in your physiology. The fact is that fear and anxiety are felt directly in the body. When we are scared or anxious our breathing becomes erratic, our heart rate accelerates, our muscles tense up and we can even suffer headaches and brain fog. These are all mediated by the sympathetic nervous system, which is part of the autonomic nervous system, which controls all of our automatic functions. The sympathetic nervous system is involved in the fight or flight response, which helps you deal with whatever is causing your fear. Now if you are facing a real danger or threat, you need to address it right in the moment, therefore the sympathetic nervous system helps you. However, most people’s fear and anxiety does not have to do with an immediate threat but with an issue that they are currently dealing with or one that is imminent in the future and weighing on their mind, in which case the fight or flight response just augments your anxiety.
The simplest way to deal with fear and anxiety is through the breath. Breathing is an essential function of our physiology, which delivers oxygen from the air to our lungs to get to our bloodstream and all the tissues and cells in our body. This is why it is such a crucial function for our optimal health and wellbeing. Most people, even when they are not under stress, do not breathe effectively and do not give their bodies the optimal environment to function. This is why it is important to bring our consciousness to our breathing.
By breathing this way, you will allow the maximum amount of oxygen to full your lungs and enter your bloodstream, optimize the functioning of all of your organs, including your brain, and activate the other part of your autonomic nervous system, known as the parasympathetic nervous system, which is involved in the relaxation response. This will help calm your mind and give you clarity of thought and help you put whatever is causing your fear and anxiety into context. You will likely realize that there is nothing to fear and this feeling is just generated by your mind.
The next time you are feeling anxious or scared about something, as long as you are not facing an imminent threat, use the conscious breathing technique above to bring you back into the parasympathetic state of relaxation. This will help put your fear and anxiety into context and give you the mental clarity to deal with the issue causing it more effectively. You will likely realize that you had nothing to fear in the first place. Use conscious breathing throughout the day, not only when you are feeling fear and anxiety, and your life will transform.
Dr. Nauman Naeem.