Anxiety: It’s Not What You ThinkJul 29, 2022 01:00PM ● By Kristy Vanacore
Have you been told that anxiety is all in your head? Or the result of bad genes? Or the result of a chemical imbalance? Have you been told that you need to rely on weekly counseling with therapists and pills to feel relief? Have you tried those approaches and are still suffering?
Anxiety is not what you think!
One of the hallmarks of anxiety is the limiting beliefs and fear-based narratives that govern thoughts and drive or inhibit behaviors. We have all experienced the barrage of catastrophic “what-if” thoughts that steal our joy and infuse us with fear.
Historically, therapists and life coaches have told us that the treatment is to work with the thoughts themselves by analyzing them, reframing them more accurately (i.e., “I might fail, but I’ve not failed at this before.”), and then choosing positive action. But research has consistently proven that such mindset work has minimal effect and does not create meaningful or sustainable changes.
Talk-based therapies, cognitive-behavioral strategies and mindset protocols are ineffective in the long-term because anxiety does not originate in your mind; it begins in the body. The way in which humans think, feel, navigate demands and manage stress, all begins in the nervous system—in particular, the fibers of the vagus nerve, which is the vital connection between the mind and body, run predominately in an upward direction, meaning that the brain receives more input and information from the body than it sends down to the body.
To make meaning of the information received from the body, the mind fabricates stories and interpretations. When the nervous system detects a threat and activates a survival response (fight/flight/freeze/fawn), the rational thinking brain goes offline, our emotional brain goes on auto-pilot and we simply become reactive to perceived threats, which are false alarms 90 percent of the time.
A healthy nervous system is one that is flexible enough to flow in and out of responsivity (stress state) and recovery (calm states). But our modern hyperkinetic times that prioritize speed and pressure are causing most people to remain stuck in survival mode, and this is against a human’s inherent programming. We were not meant to remain in prolonged survival states. In doing so, we create both acute and chronic psychological issues such as anxiety, depression and attentional issues, as well as physical ailments such as digestive issues, chronic pain and autoimmune disease.
Anxiety is nothing more than stored survival stress in the body due to a nervous system that believes you to be chronically in danger, and a mind whose interpretations concoct fantasies about threats, potential failure and doom and gloom, rather than opportunity for growth, success, peace and happiness. Changing these narratives begins at the level of the nervous system. We cannot simply outthink our thoughts. We can’t change our minds with our minds—it is physiologically impossible.
The good news is that we can activate our innate self-healing capacities to regulate our own nervous systems which then reengage our rational thinking minds so that we can flexibly navigate the demands of life with clarity, insight and the calm presence that will allow us to live in trust instead of fear.
We were built to do this. We don’t need to outsource our healing. We just have to remember what we have forgotten—the basic energetics of being human. We can nourish and nurture our nervous systems. We must return to the innate instinctual knowledge that we already possess so that we can reclaim sovereignty. Armed with that knowledge, you will heal yourself, as intended. If we understand how we work, we can make it work for us.
Dr. Kristy M. Vanacore is a Holistic Psychologist, Spiritual Visionary and author who has developed an innovative Rewilding program that empowers people to remember their roots, rekindle their innate instinctual wisdom and reclaim their innate boundless joy, passion, curiosity and ingenuity. Her book ReWilding: A Woman’s Quest to Remember Her Roots, Rekindle Her Instincts, and Reclaim Her Sovereignty documents her own healing journey that has become the foundation of her coaching program for all ages and stages. Connect at 914-497-8006, [email protected] or KristyVanacore.com. See ad, page 19.
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