Physiology of Fear

Have you ever wondered what happens to your body when you have a sudden flash of worry or fear?  It’s not just your thoughts that change. Your entire brain chemistry changes, and so does your body. Our brain and body react in the same way to “perceived” fear and actual danger. Let me give you some examples.
For our first scenario, let’s say you are standing outside on the curb and a paper bag catches some wind, speeds toward you, and from the corner of your eye, you see something rather big flying at you fast – your heart skips a beat, you duck, scrunch your eyes shut and raise your arm to protect yourself.  The bag sails past, never having touched you, but the threat was real. You look up, realize what it was, and say “Whoa, that stupid paper bag scared the shit outta me!”  ID-10044165
The whole incident lasted just for a few seconds, but now all sorts of things have happened to your body. You are breathing deeper now, and your muscles are tense.  Your adrenal glands have flooded adrenalin into your blood stream. Other stress hormones have been released also, like norepinephrine and cortisol. All of which will keep you awake and alert, and possibly a bit sensitive to sounds and visual stimulus (or even paranoid) for hours.  Yes, it was the “flight or fight” response.  This was a normal response for anyone.
The second scenario involves no outward stimulus. No loud noises, no flying bags, no creaking doorways or tornado warnings on the news. It’s just you and your mind.  You are at home, making dinner, when your mind wanders to your actions earlier that day. You start thinking about that brilliant report you prepared and emailed to the senior execs for the meeting tomorrow, and suddenly freeze (stir fry be damned). Did you remember to update the spreadsheet?
 You sit down to focus and think for a second, as your heart starts to pound. Did you remember to run spell check? OMG, if you distribute incorrect data, you could look very stupid, earn the distrust of your boss or even lose your job!  OMG OMG OMG… but… wait… now that you think about it, you did update the spreadsheet and did run spell check, right before your lunch date arrived.  ID-10076375
He must have distracted you from the task you had just performed, enough that you would later forget that you did it. But you remember now. Whew. Ok then, don’t you feel better. However, how is your body and brain chemistry reacting now?  Exactly the same as with the flying paper bag.  You have triggered the release of many powerful chemicals in to your body, all from a single thought.
I hope this impresses on you the power of the mind.  This is why it is so important for us to gain control over our extreme anxiety and fear response, and “get our Zen on”.  ID-10044144

 

Loss is the Bottom Line

As I sit and worry about the worry-du-jour, or for me, more like the worry de l’heure. (worry of the hour), I think, “what if…”.  The what if question feels like an end to itself, which is clearly the worst, most terrifying possibility it can be, and the end of all of life’s happiness, and I’m certain nothing will ever be good again and that feeling permeates every part of my body until I’m ill and exhausted. Images of the worst case scenarios play out in my brain like the most macabre of short-attention-span movies. What are the chances it’s actually the “level 10” tragedy I’m certain it is? More likely it’s a non-issue, a zero. Or, maybe it’s a level 2, a minor annoyance. Could be a level 6, which is a pretty high level of suck, and will involve time and effort to get over, through, fix, mend, heal, etc., but I can and will.

Despite the odds, my mind races with endless “what if’s…” What I fail to do, is actually answer that question…  What IF this thing happens? Answer the question. Well, if it does, I have to do this thing, or that thing, and possibly cry and mourn, and not to sound cold, but I will get through it. Whatever your worry is, you WILL get through it. Even if it is that most horrible, level 10 of all tragedies.