Anxiety is treated through the perspective that it solely lives within the mind. The body is also a source of anxiety that requires evaluation as well.
It is a two-way street between the mind and the body. We can look at facial expressions as an example.
When we are angry, we present this emotion on our faces…
We also can make an angry face and begin to feel anger ourselves. I remember learning in my high school psychology when you hold a pencil in your teeth, you are forced to smile and will in turn feel happier.
I don’t think we can hold a pencil in our teeth and cure depression but this still can be used as an example of how the mind and body are related.
Now to anxiety treatment…
If the body and mind are connected, there must be physiological changes that trigger anxiety.
Adrenaline and cortisol are stress hormones that work to prepare the body for action against a stressor. This is great when our ancestors were in the face of a predator but not so helpful when we have exam week approaching.
Stress in the face of a predator- Adrenaline acts quickly to raise our heart rate and blood pressure, initiates sweating, dilates our pupils so we can focus on the danger in front of us. Our bodies are prepared for immediate action.
Cortisol is slowly released to give us long-term energy which would be helpful if we now had to run a long distance away from the predator. Side note- this ability for our species to run long distances may be the reason for our ancestors’ success as they could track/run down prey or maintain a steady pace away from predators. Cortisol activates the immune system and breaks down muscle/fat to dump glucose into the bloodstream for our muscles to use.
Stress in the face of an exam week- The physiologic changes are the same however the effects are different. The adrenaline and sympathetic nervous system activation prepare our internal state for action when externally we may be looking at a computer screen on our desk. The cortisol demarginalizes our white blood cells which means our immune system is active to fight foreign invaders but does not find anything to fight. Instead, our white blood cells may attack healthy cells. I can imagine our bodies preparing for war, growing impatient that there is no threat, and beginning to fight whatever cell is there.
When we are treating anxiety we should look at controlling our physiology and our mind together so they can work in unison.