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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Albin PsyS. LMFT

Let Go of Anxiety

Updated: May 27, 2023

There are 2 causes of anxiety.

1. Something that triggers adrenaline.

2. The inability to reassure ourselves.

Anxiety is learned by modeling from a parent or by not learning how to reassure ourselves.

1. A loud sound, loud voices, or a thought, can trigger our adrenaline. When we rush or we think or say out loud, I've got to hurry, our body sends a surge of adrenaline to us so we can run there. Only, we are not running, so we don't need that burst of adrenaline. Adrenaline speeds up our heart rate, and our breathing, and it shuts down our digestion, and immune system. Because it quickly becomes too much adrenaline, we begin to feel irritable and anxious. The stress cycle begins when adrenaline prepares us to fight or flee. The stress cycle ends with us feeling depleted or depressed. We are more apt to get sick when our stress cycle is running because our immune system is off.

Our body's only way of helping us is to trigger adrenaline. Our body responds to our thinking as if it is literal and it's happening now. When our adrenaline is running, we are anxious and irritable.

Adrenaline impairs our thinking. Our brain channels our thinking to physically help us fight or flee. The goal is to keep our adrenaline off unless we are in a life-threatening situation. Anytime our stress level is higher than our coping techniques, we run the stress cycle and feel irritable and anxious and then depleted and depressed. #copingskills

2. The ability to reassure ourselves is learned when we sleep by ourselves and learn to self-soothe. When we tell ourselves either silently or out loud that we are ok, our adrenaline turns off because it no longer needs to prepare us to fight or flee. We might not have learned how to self-soothe either because we slept with a sibling, or we got our reassurance from well-meaning parents, who let us sleep with them, therefore we got our reassurance from our parents, or if we did not feel safe in our environment, it does not develop. We can learn how to turn off our adrenaline and self-soothe at any age. Subsequently, once we turn off our adrenaline, we will not feel anxious.

For us to feel in balance, the goal is to keep the stress cycle off. "What if" or worry thoughts which are about something bad happening in the future, trigger adrenaline in our body because our brain thinks that what we are worrying about is happening now and its only way of helping us is to trigger adrenaline which starts the stress cycle. If our thought is not a problem to be solved then it is a thought to be stopped. It can be changed to a positive one and one that doesn't trigger adrenaline. If we are thinking about a problem that needs to be solved, see my blog for problem-solving skills to keep your adrenaline to a minimum when solving a problem.

Our unconscious or subconscious mind is like the hard drive of a computer. It stores all of our important information. Our conscious mind is what is currently aware. Our thoughts are in part directed to our conscious mind from our subconscious mind. The thoughts in our unconscious mind are thoughts we accidentally reinforced by thinking about them in our conscious mind or the part of our mind where we are aware.

When we consciously worry about something, our brain counts the number of times we think about it and notes the environment we think it in, for example, the car when we are driving or before we fall asleep.

If we think the same thought, in any environment, 21 times in a row, our unconscious mind records it. Our unconscious brain is hard-wired to record the thoughts we think about, assuming the thoughts are important to our survival. Our brain doesn't discern whether the thought is true or not, only the number of times we think about it before it's recorded. The unconscious mind will then throw the thought out, in the same environment, to our conscious mind.

Then if we reinforce it again by thinking about it, our unconscious mind thinks it did the right thing by throwing it out, and it looks for more opportunities to throw the thought out, even in different environments when our mind is free. Now our "what if " thought becomes a habit.

If we have established a habit of worrying, which triggers adrenaline, we can change it.

1. To change our worried thoughts, we have first to become aware of them as soon as our unconscious mind throws out the unwanted thought. It takes practice to catch our thought just when it begins. Listen for any "what if" thoughts. Just keep at it.

2. When we recognize the thought, visualize or imagine something that signifies stop, this is "thought stopping". For example, you could see a stop sign, paint over it or imagine the thought going up and away in a balloon.

3. Then replace it with "I am calm and relaxed". Once we think or say out loud "I'm calm and relaxed" our body will turn off our adrenaline and we will subsequently relax.

The thoughts we want to consciously choose to think, won't trigger adrenaline.

Our thoughts need to be positive because our brain does not understand the word not. So if you were to say "I am not anxious", our brain hears "I am anxious".

Imagine you are in a relaxing place. When you do, your body thinks you are in that place. And it relaxes as if you are there.

Therefore, in summary, since anxiety is learned, it can be unlearned. Anxiety is the adrenaline that keeps running. We can consciously turn off our adrenaline. To learn to keep it off use a combination of thought-stopping and coping skills to keep your stress cycle from running. Please see the coping skill blog for details. If you have a problem that needs solving, see the problems-solving blog. If you are in the habit of worrying, see the corresponding blog.

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