We often talk about anxiety as a purely emotional experience. But the science behind the emotion tells us that after our brain is triggered, our bodies experience a dramatic chemical change.
Once your brain perceives danger in the environment, a hormone called cortisol is released into the bloodstream, which signals the body to shut down non-essential functions. If we consider that stress’ main job was to keep us alive, this makes sense. Who needs a finely tuned immune or reproductive system when you’re running from a lion?
But the stress system was also meant to be in use only in times of life threatening danger. Our systems are then built to return to a healthy baseline. So while you might experience digestive issues while your cortisol is spiked (ie, when you are actually running from a lion), everything will normalize again once you're safe in your cave.
The problem is that nowadays, the stress never really stops. Usually, we are not worried about a sudden lion attack. Instead we experience stress about things that don't end: what our loved ones think of us, how much money is in the retirement account, whether our children are safe. Because of this sustained stress, the cortisol levels stay elevated, wreaking havoc on your physiology. Anxiety can create some surprising issues:
- Suppressed immune system
- Lack of sleep
- Higher risk of heart disease
- Increased risk of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Decreased sex drive
- Metabolic issues
Stress causes a considerable number of physiological responses. The respiratory system is compromised. The digestive system is compromised, The immune system is compromised. Executive brain function is diminished (ie, it becomes more difficult to make thoughtful decisions). If you’re living every moment of every day with anxiety, your body pays a physical price. You may get sick more. You may have cloudier thinking. You may have gastro-intestinal issues. Your doctor may be concerned about your blood pressure.
If you're experiencing these symptoms, there are truly simple solutions for you that don't come in a bottle and don't need a prescription. With the right anxiety treatment, you will learn how to tame the worries in your mind and thereby reduce the cortisol in your bloodstream. By teaching your mind that you are safe in the world, you can reach levels of physical health you may not have thought possible.