The fourth step in the S.T.R.E.S.S. Process is EMOTION.
The two emotions that relate to this step in the S.T.R.E.S.S. Process are fear and anxiety.
I’ve written in earlier posts about the two separate pathways in the brain along which sensory data travels:
- the fast track where the brain’s alarm centre – the amygdala performs a quick threat assessment, and if there’s a threat, arouses fear.
- the slower track where the brain’s thinking centre – the cortex performs a more logical, rational assessment of the sensory data and if it decides the threat is a false alarm triggers the relaxation response to calm us down again, or if there is the risk of harm arouses anxiety.
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
~ H. P. Lovecraft
Fear keeps us alive. It’s a natural reaction to a clear, real or imagined present, identifiable threat to our physical and/or emotional well-being.
Fear activates the stress response and we react in an instant by taking action to avoid the danger (flight) or to defend ourselves (fight) physically or verbally. For instance – the moment a large earthquake hits, fear triggers the stress response and we ‘drop-cover-hold’.
“Anxiety is a gift from nature because it aids survival — none of us would live long if anxiety didn’t stop us from taking foolhardy risks!”
~ Human Givens Institute
Anxiety like fear activates the stress response, but because we’re not faced with a present danger, our cortex (thinking brain) has an opportunity to mediate our response. Our thinking, feelings and behaviour in response to anxiety can be a help or unhelpful.
'Helpful' anxiety causes us to behave with caution when approaching potentially dangerous situations or situations with uncertain outcomes. Cognitively we respond with apprehension, nervousness or dread. We react by preparing, planning and practicing so we can mitigate the risk inherent in the potentially dangerous situation. Helpful anxiety causes us to:
- buy a survival kit in lieu of an earthquake
- prepare and practice before a job interview
- get an annual flu jab prior to the onset of winter
- check the weekend weather report before organising a picnic
'Unhelpful' Anxiety is anxiety that is inappropriate and/or irrational, or becomes ‘free-floating’ (i.e. it’s not attached to a specific situation and keeps us on edge and hypervigilant). This type of anxiety:
- holds us back from taking action – for instance we avoid: getting up and speaking in front of others, trying something new like dancing, or starting the business we’ve always wanted to
- causes us to engage in repetitive unnecessary actions - for instance engaging in compulsive cleaning, repeatedly checking that the doors are locked after leaving the house.
As Helen Keller said, “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”
Two ways in which you can quickly change your experience of anxiety
1. Name your anxiety
You might be surprised to learn that simply by naming or labeling your anxiety out loud (or to yourself) for instance: “I am feeling anxious”, can lower the intensity of the anxiety you are feeling. Read more here.
2. Reframe your anxiety as excitement
A study conducted by Harvard Business School found that simply by labelling the sensations we feel when anxious as signs that we are excited improves our performance under pressure. Read more here.
If you’d like to explore how I can help you to experience less anxiety and stress, email me or call me on 021 056 8389.
To find out more about how you can overcome anxiety and reduce stress, simply invest in a no obligation complimentary 60 minute consultation. It could prove to be the most valuable and life changing 60 minutes of your life.
Have a safe and relaxing week.
P.S. Please do ask me any questions you may have about anxiety and stress - I am always delighted to answer them.
Tony Yuile is hired by people seeking help to perform at their best in one or more areas of their lives. He's a personal performance coach & hypnosis professional based in Wellington NZ, where he specialises in helping people perform under pressure, reduce anxiety and manage stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis, positive psychology and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
Contact Tony today to discuss how he can help you, or if you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch with him.