by David Delaney, MA, CAR, LPC
Johnny’s (not his real name) Mom contacts me to say that he is having anxiety and school is about to begin.Can I help? He is feeling upset in anticipation of the school year and all the stress that that brings with it.He is upset allot and that is affecting the family as a whole.It’s true, if one family member is not doing well, everyone feels it.Whether we are an adult or a child, we all have to deal with the anxiety of anticipating changes that school and life brings, and honestly, some of us cope better than others.
What might cause anxiety?
Anxiety can be caused by major life changes, work, school, social relations, financial problems, being over-scheduled, inability to accept uncertainty, pessimism, negative self-talk, unrealistic expectations are a few of the things that can go with anxiety. And it seems allot to do with our inter-relations with other humans. Our interactions with other humans put pressure on us and some of us aren’t as facile as others in dealing with certain personalities and the social demands that go accompany it.
What is happening inside when we are experiencing anxiety?
When we experience ongoing anxiety (or any negative emotional state), our nervous system is in a fight-or-flight or unresolved stress response mode, or simply said, in ‘arousal’- it is aroused and not calm.We are feeling that we are threatened (even if mild) even though we may not always be able to put our finger on it.In the animal kingdom, when the animal experiences a threat to its survival, it fights, flees, or freezes; thus the term fight-or-flight.When the animal no longer experiences that threat, it ‘shakes’ until the stress leaves it body (called streaming), resolving that fight-or-flight state and triggering the Relaxation Response.The Relaxation Response is the opposite of fight-or-flight, and the way the body brings itself back into a relaxed, secure mode of living in the present moment.
Learning ability inhibited…
But in this fight-or-flight state, learning ability, as well as other mental functions (including problem solving and reasoning ability) are inhibited. Since flight-or-flight is a life saving physiological state for when threatened and need to protect ourselves, it is not meant for more that short periods of time.However, many people experience this response on a regular basis through pressure at work, traffic jams, relationship challenges, social pressures, school and work pressure, and many more situations that are not life-threatening, and thus we are depleted quickly.Again, any state other than clam and relaxed will ask more energy of our body than can be replenished in current time; we use up reserves.
To be in this state (increased blood pressure, shallow breathing, hyper-vigilance, speedy mind, etc.) and not have to fight or run for our life is extremely debilitating and explains why chronic stress is indeed the biggest problem for humans.It appears that our culture is addicted to these arousal states and we are thus unable to bring ourselves out of this protective survival mode into the Relaxation Response where all our body, emotional, and cognitive processes function at a rate conducive to enjoying satisfying work, activities, and relationships; calm, present, productive, alert, and relaxed.
How to orient away from fight-or-flight
Within a few sessions of seeing him, Johnny’s anxiety is gone they tell me.His Mom and Dad seen a big change in his behavior; his brother has noticed it too, and Johnny as well notices a palpable shift in his mood and lack of anxiety in anticipating the start of school.
After seven sessions they decide that he is fine and he no longer comes in for the brain training sessions.They are clearly relieved that another mother who had brought her children to see me, told them about this FDA approved brain training method of providing the brain information about its own behavior and it producing it’s own adjustments.
Natural state of the brain…
Our natural brain state is calm, relaxed, and efficient, able to adapt quickly to the countless adjustments that are demanded of us daily in our technological society.
See the website for other articles as well as comments by clients about the benefits of NeurOPTIMAL™ neurofeedback training.