mind and body

IS IT ONLY YOUR MIND THAT’S ANXIOUS, OR YOUR BODY TOO?

It is World Mental Health Day!

There couldn’t have been a better time to talk about one of the most common afflictions as far as mental health is concerned, something that almost all of us face – ‘Anxiety’.

Be it seeing after your children or making it on time to work, several situations give us the “on the edge” feeling.

When we talk of dealing with or managing anxiety, we think about it the mental way. We try to take things easy, we try to consciously ask ourselves to ‘calm down’ and stay focused.

However, what we tend to ignore is that –

Anxiety is as much in the body as it is in the mind

Think of a situation that made you feel anxious. Along with the anxious thoughts and worries, didn’t you also experience that-

– Your head hurt

– Your breath was shallow

– Your palms were sweaty

– Your shoulder and neck muscles were tense

– Your stomach and bowel were upset…

Maybe not all of these, but some of these?

In all probability, you did.

What really are these bodily symptoms?

Well, these symptoms are part of the body’s evolutionary response to threat – the fight or flight response.

The fight or flight response is basically evolution’s answer to the wild animals, forest fires and rival hunter groups that were an everyday threat to the survival of our ancestors. It prepares the body to either ‘fight’ the threat, or to ‘flee’ from it.

What Happens to the Body when it is in the ‘Fight or Flight’ Mode?

Well, what happens is –

fandf (1)2

Now perhaps you’re thinking…

“This response seems too intense! My hassles are too mild in comparison to a tiger!”

Well, yes, the picture outlines effects of the fight or flight response when it’s full throttle. All of these would be really intense in the case of grave physical danger, like a tsunami or an earthquake.

However, this response remains mildly active even when milder stress causing events take place. And such events are commonplace. Traffic jams, irritable co-passengers, pressured deadlines at work, arguments with close ones – anything that makes you feel wired up and stressed is also making your body feel that way.

Some of you probably don’t agree with this, ’cause you don’t remember experiencing these symptoms. Well, think involuntary processes.

Most of the effects of the fight or flight response are involuntary. They are not in your control. If and when you feel anxious and stressed, there is no way that this response is not activated.

 

The good news is, there are ways of dealing with this response. Ways that are gentle and involve you being in touch with your body, so that you know what’s happening to it.

We’re going to be talking about this whole phenomenon a whole lot at the Mental Health Awareness Weekend. Also, Sadia Raval, our head psychologist is holding a talk on ‘Coping with Anxiety: Chaos to Calm’ where she will share how the mind as well as the body can be brought to a space of calm in the midst of chaos. Do register for it!!

And, like we say everyday, drop in at the stalls at Carter Road Amphitheater, Bandra and take a look at what the mental health community is up to this weekend!

 

Post contributed by: Anusha Manjani and Malini Krishnan

Anusha is a Clinical Psychologist and she worked with children and adolescents at Inner Space, from 2013 to 2015. 

Malini is a Clinical Psychologist and she worked with adolescents and young adults at Inner Space, from 2010 to 2015. 

 

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