What do we mean when we say we are anxious? What does anxiety mean in biological terms?
When we are relaxed or when we are watching something enjoyable on the television or Netflix, our bodies perform digestion as its primary activity, which is related to long-term survival. Yes, it is true. Next time notice yourself when you are relaxed, and you will feel more saliva stimulation in your mouth to help your body in the digestion process.
That is why people eat when they are stressed. It is comforting. The moment you put that food in your mouth, your brain gets the signal that things are under control, and again that whole saliva-digestion cycle starts.
If you find yourself eating mindlessly, then do pay attention to the things that are bothering you. Anxiety and stress can lead to an upset stomach. Emotional eating can lead to various issues such as obesity, irregular menstruation cycles in women, high blood pressure, diabetes, and the list goes on.
Kinds of autonomic nervous system
When you are relaxed, you can say that your parasympathetic nervous system is active. During this state, your body works fine, the food you eat gets digested properly, the pupil of your eye remains constricted, and your heart beats fine.
But what happens when your brain senses threat? In the times when you experience threat or danger, your sympathetic nervous system gets activated. That is the opposite of the system we talked about before. So, when you deal with anxiety, you can say your sympathetic nervous system is active.
During this state, your body stops all the other primary functions and goes into a fight or flight mode, your heart beats faster, your mouth becomes dry, your pupils get dilated, and other similar changes take place in the body. Your brain signals you to take action.
Now, the threats we are talking about usually last for a small amount of time. For example, you are in your car on a one-way lane, and you see another high-speed vehicle approaching from the other side of the road, in that case, your sympathetic nervous system signals your brain to do something. Either you slow down your car, or you honk the horn-like some crazy person so that the other person can slow down his/her vehicle instead. And these are called acute or short term threats.
Our brains are accustomed to that. We can deal with short-term threats because they are going to get over anyhow. We are going to go back to normal sooner.
But what about the situation we are in now?
We know there is a threat out there, and it is not acute, it is here to stay for a while, and such a threat is called a chronic one. It is invisible, ambiguous, and not just that, it is causing damage economically, people are losing their jobs, their health is in danger, their mind does not know how to respond to this. In other terms, anxiety kicks in every now and then. You can say our sympathetic nervous system is in the ever-activated state these days.
And it is not a state which is favourable for us for longer durations. It can cause damage to our brains. We need to get out of that. Even numerous researchers over the years have not seen anything like this. We have accepted it as it is, but not all of us can cope with this scenario.
Some of us don’t accept the threat because that is what makes us remain sane in these uncertain times. You see and condemn the people for not wearing masks. It is because they are not ready to see what is going on worldwide. The real picture scares them. Of those people who accepted it, not all of them know how to deal with this state.
That can also lead to lack of sleep, loss of emotional control, our health getting weaker, and it can attack our immune system; making us even more susceptible to the virus.
So, you have two options here. Either remain oblivious of the actual situations and act like an educated illiterate or you can learn to deal with it long-term with an enhanced sense of understanding about your brain and body.
You workout for hours in the gym to get that toned body, so why not work on your mind to get sound mental health?
In the next post, we will see how everything you don’t know can control everything you are doing.
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