Remedy for Fear

Remedy for Fear

The world is afraid

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global pandemic, the United States issued a travel ban on all incoming travel from most of Europe, and the world began to fall apart. Store shelves have been emptied within hours as people stock up on whatever they think they might need. Reports of hoarding and price gouging are pouring in. Sporting events, conferences, and schools are closing for two weeks or more.

We think we are powerless.

We feel powerless in the face of so many unknowns. The unknown makes us all fearful, and if left unchecked, that fear can spiral out of control into anxiety, panic, and desperation. The illusion of control has been stripped away. Our assumptions about how the world works have been turned upside down. Our everyday routines are changing suddenly and we are powerless to stop it. Things we have taken for granted are no longer. We can’t coast through life right now and that scares the living daylights out of us. Our leaders, the media, and even our doctors don’t have all the answers. The sheer volume of conflicting information is mind-boggling. No wonder so many are confused and afraid.

Truth is the remedy.

There may not be a vaccine, treatment, or cure for COVID-19 (the disease caused by the SARs-coV-2 virus), yet there is a cure for fear. Truth is the remedy for fear. Knowledge — accurate, relevant information — can help us make reasonable decisions in the face of so much unrest. I’ve included a list of reliable information sources at the bottom of this page. Please, ignore the headlines. Go straight to these sources for accurate information. Make your decisions based on facts, not emotion.

What can we do?

We all need each other right now. This is not the time to “look out for Number One” or let everyone “fend for themselves.” Yes, please do wash your hands and practice social distancing. Just don’t lose your humanity. Call, email, or text your friends and loved ones. Check on your neighbors. If you have a surplus of food, medicine, or supplies, share them.

Doing my part

In addition to following my advice above, I am opening up my available office hours to anyone who needs to talk during this very stressful period. If you are struggling with stress, worry, anxiety, or need help problem-solving due to anything related to coronavirus, travel restrictions, changes in routine, cancellations, etc., please reach out I’ve also extended my office hours to make it easier for everyone to get the help they need.

Under normal circumstances, I serve the greater Kaiserslautern Military Community. In light of recent events, my services are available to anyone, anywhere in the world who needs support. From now, through May 14, 2020, I am waiving my normal session fees.

I am here for you.

Truth is the remedy.

I’m committed to passing out the truth, free of charge, to anyone who needs it.

Information we need

I will update this list as warranted. If you know of a good source that you think should be included, please contact me and I’ll review it for inclusion.

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Anxiety in Control? Helpful Advice You Need to Know

Anxiety in Control? Helpful Advice You Need to Know

Anxiety is a complex system of emotions, brain activity, and physical sensations that work to protect us from danger. We are all wired with this alert response system. This protective system is controlled by the most primitive structures in the brain stem. This “lizard brain” is also called “fight or flight.” Unfortunately for humans, this instinct often takes over when we’re not in danger.

Anxiety in Your Genes

Even if no one in your family has anxiety, you can still inherit anxiety. Winning the genetic lottery may not seem like a cause for celebration though.

Anxiety in Experience

Before age 5, we respond to threats by watching the reactions of others. How our needs are met may train our alert response system to over-react when we’re not in danger.

Traumatic Events

Even without genetics or early life experiences, we can acquire anxiety because of traumatic events that were frightening and dangerous to us or others.

Early Warning System

The locus coeruleus (LC) is located on the brainstem and is responsible for alerting the brain to stress, reward, danger, and the unexpected. LC registers an event and alerts the rest of the team to spring to action. LC also listens for feedback from others as long as necessary to eliminate the threat.

Command & Control

The amygdala is the first to receive LC’s message. As the seat of emotional memory, the amygdala controls our attention, focus, and memory. This drives and controls the actions of every other player in the brain, including when to stand down. The PAG (periaqueductal grey) assists the amygdala in creating messages for others.

Ground Troops

Hippocampus

First, to receive orders, the hippocampus communicates with the amygdala in real-time. It is responsible for deciding whether we engage or avoid the threat. It may also make us freeze. Anticipation anxiety comes from the hippocampus. It determines our actions. It will activate the HPA axis when the situation is unexpected.

HPA Axis

When the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) gets this message from the hippocampus, it springs into action to deal with this new threat to restore our sense of calm.

Prefrontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex has two hemispheres: right and left. The right hemisphere is responsible for creativity and emotional expression. The left is responsible for rational, analytical thought. When our alert response system is activated, the left hemisphere is inactivated. This leaves the right hemisphere in control. That’s why we often behave in erratic, irrational ways when we’re anxious. We can’t stop it. Suddenly we become completely irrational, much to the dismay of anyone observing the event. It can take a minimum of 30 minutes for our brain chemistry to return to normal and finally allow us to use our left hemisphere again.

Hormones, Steroids, Neurotransmitters, & More

Anxiety increases adrenaline, cortisol, serotonin, testosterone, and luteinizing hormone. Glutamate, NMDA, and nitric oxide set off “fight or flight” and respond to diazepam (Xanax). Progesterone also responds to diazepam. Cortisone and serotonin can also stop the alert response system when reduced by other influences.

Stopping Anxiety

Shutting down our primitive, instinctive alert response system can happen automatically or intentionally. Left alone, the system will eventually restore homeostasis and life will get back to normal. Until it’s over, we’re likely to experience:

  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Tunnel vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Vertigo
  • Fear
  • Inability to communicate
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Brain fog
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Disorientation
  • Racing heart
  • Impatience

We Can Shut Off Anxiety

Our alert response system is triggered by events that are unexpected, unwanted, and out of our control. That feeling of helplessness lies by telling us we can’t change what’s happening and that our only option is to endure it.

That’s not true! There’s a lot we can do to turn off that alarm. We’re fighting against a powerful instinct that’s been perfected over millions of years. When we decide to do something new, we risk setting off that alert system. So we have to be creative and sneaky. By working with the alert system, we can subtly change our instinct. We can make it work for us.

Dopamine Rush

Think of a time when your alert system was trigged. What were your urges? What did you crave? Find something you find pleasurable and pair it with a brief activity. The idea is to trigger a dopamine response in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for motivation and pleasure. By using our brain, we can retrain it to alert us only when there’s a real danger.

Here’s a list of activities that can stop or prevent anxiety. You don’t have to do them all. As you review the list, think about how you can pair one or two with something that gives you a dopamine rush.

Fast – stops anxiety already in progress

  • Deep abdominal breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Body scanning
telEspera YouTube Channel
  • Focus word
  • Mantra
  • Prayer

Slow – prevent anxiety before it starts

  • Meditation
  • Body scanning
  • Visualization/imagery/VR
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Prayer                                    
  • Mantra
  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Reiki

Is anxiety still getting the better of you?

This isn’t an exhaustive list of strategies. Some challenges require expert assistance. If you’ve tried a lot of options, you may be thinking that you just have to live with anxiety. No way! You probably just need a creative approach that’s tailored just for you. That’s right. You need therapy that’s as unique as you are. No one-size-fits-all cookie cutter approach will do. If you’re interested in how this works, please book a free consult to discuss your options. I’d love to meet you.

Source:

1. Thierry, Steimer (2002) The biology of fear- and anxiety-related behaviors, Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 4:3, 231 – 249, DOI:       10.31887/DCNS.2002.4.3/tsteimer

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