Imagine you’re lying on a beach. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining and there is a gentle breeze wafting over your body.
Sounds of nature fill the air as you chat and laugh with family and friends. You are surrounded by people who you love and respect and who love and respect you.
You feel warm, contented and happy, totally relaxed, anxiety-free.
Now imagine a very different scene. It’s the dead of night and you are alone, walking down a dimly lit alley.
There are doorways on either side – who knows what’s hiding in them waiting to pounce? You are scared and your senses are heightened.
Your sight and hearing have become more sensitive, able to pinpoint the slightest movement or sound.
Your breathing and heartbeat have become more rapid, you feel light-headed and dizzy, want to go to the toilet or throw up. Your limbs feel shaky and your whole body is now charged with energy, full of anxiety, ready to fight or flee, possibly for your life.
These two scenes represent either end of the anxiety scale.
In the first we feel warm, secure and safe, we are fully relaxed. In the second we are fully tense, in a state of preparedness, highly alert and scared.
Anxiety probably serves many functions, but two of the main ones are:
1.It helps prepare our body for action, making us more alert,
ready to fight or flee from any imminent threat to our survival.
This is related to the direct physical anxiety symptoms such as
racing heartbeat, fast breathing, being jittery and on edge,
We can also go from being totally relaxed to
fully tense in an instant which forms the basis of panic.
Physical anxiety symptoms are due to the ‘Fight or Flight’
response. The body re-directing resources to the major muscle
groups (legs, arms, chest) to provide them with an energy
boost to prepare us for action (ultimately to fight or flee).