The Anatomy of Anxiety

Anxiety can be experienced in a number of ways, not only through our thoughts, but there are also feelings and physical changes that happen to our body when we feel anxious. It comes from fear and our body's response to that.

People of all ages experience some level of anxiety, often in reaction to stressful events or changes. For example, the first day back at school or after falling out with your mate in the group chat. It becomes challenging when our brain identifies and misinterprets a risk…

Have you heard of the fight, flight or freeze response?

Just like an animal in the wild trying to protect itself from a predator, when we feel under threat, our brain and body try to protect us!

‘Fight, flight or freeze’ is a normal process and something that we don’t have control over. Our brains release certain hormones to make us more alert and push us to react, so that we can defend ourselves from a threat. Humans developed this response to protect themselves from danger!

Nowadays, when ‘threats’ come in a different form, for example exams, or social situations we may want to avoid, it’s not so easy to just run away! This means those hormones remain elevated in our system and can cause symptoms.

How our body reacts 

Stress hormones are released, we get more blood flow to our muscles and our breathing rate will go up. This causes physical symptoms, which among others can include:

  • Stomach churning
  • Heart racing
  • Restlessness or being unable to sleep
  • Constant thoughts of worry that don’t stop
  • Avoiding things that are worrying or fearful 
  • Change in behaviour, maybe feeling less social 
  • Feeling sick or a lack of appetite

'The body and brain aren’t separate, they’re linked...having an awareness of how the two interlink is important.’ – Dr Radha 

When your anxiety is long-lasting and your worries continue - even though you may know deep down that you have nothing to be worried about - or if your anxiety affects your daily life, this is something you should try to deal with.

Remember, it's always a good idea to share how you're feeling with someone you trust. Seek help and talk to an adult. 

  • If that funny, anxious feeling in your tummy lasts for a long time. 
  • If you feel distressed and not in control. 
  • If you feel physical signs of anxiety similar to the ones listed. 
  • If it becomes hard to cope with day to day activities like going to school. 
  • If you have big worries over small situations. 

Online/offline: The online world is a great way to connect, be creative and so much more, but it's not so great when it’s something you feel you have to keep up with, or if you feel a social pressure check-in, or if you're just not enjoying your time online like you used to. Being online and spending too much time on your phone, endlessly scrolling on social media, or feeling like you have to reply to all the messages in the group chat can contribute to a general feeling of anxiety for a lot of people. One way of relieving anxiety is to spend time doing things offline.

Things you can do to help

  • Tell an adult how you’re feeling, try writing your thoughts down on paper first if you’re struggling to express yourself. Get that adult to help you to problem solve to reduce that fear and help you to feel more in control.
  • Arts and crafts or music – whatever you enjoy doing! 
  • Exercise. 
  • If you feel your anxiety levels rising. Take slow deep breaths. Feel your feet on the ground, look at something around you and focus on that one thing. Close your eyes and visualise a safe space. For some people – mindfulness or meditation is helpful too.