Breaking down anxiety: A scientific exploration

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Anshu Bahanda: Welcome to Wellness Curated. Thank you for being here with us today. This is Anshu Bahanda, and we’re going to take the best of our episodes. Before I go into the podcast, can I request you to please subscribe to this channel? We want to be able to provide you better and better podcasts for free. And this is all that we ask for you. Today we’re going to talk about the signs of stress and anxiety. I have here Jha. He’s an emotional code practitioner. So what is stress? What is your definition of stress? And how does it work its way through us, through our bodies, through our minds, through our emotions?

Khun Jah: Okay. By definition, as the stress is usually negative, okay? I mean, so by definition, it’s just, it’s just our body’s response to changes in our environment or in the way we think and that we need adjustment. Okay. But for me, it’s like I look at it simpler. It’s just to say, am I happy? If I’m not happy? I’m actually under stress now. When we become stressed, what happens? Our brain will send signals down the spine to the adrenal, and your whole body will shift. Your muscles, your legs suddenly become stronger, but your digestive system will become weaker. This is a chemical. So for you to survive, either you fight or you flight or you do something to get out of the situation; that’s just a normal chemical way, okay? But the thing is, when we have too many of this, okay, it will start damaging our physical body. 

AB: Say you’re driving to work and there is a lot of traffic, and you’re getting late for a very, very important meeting. Your heart is beating, you’re all sweaty, you’re in panic. And then that night, say you’re lying in bed and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, my God, the same thing’s going to happen to me tomorrow— at traffic time, I’m going to be stuck in traffic.’ That is anxiety.

Bushra Khan: The problem comes Anshu. Then when we keep talking about it, keep thinking about it, we don’t let it go. That’s where the problem is. So we all have anxiety. Every human being has anxiety. This is our fight or flight system. We are born with it to assess real threats, to keep us alive. Anxiety is our survival mechanism. RTT— rapid transformational therapy is amazing with anxiety. I had a client. She was really suffering; she couldn’t [even] perform her daily chores. In the second session, we did RTT. Problem— what’s the core problem? Where is it coming from? So it was coming from her father’s death. She lost her father when she was very young, and he went like this [snaps]. So, basically, nobody could save him. Nobody could do anything. And a child couldn’t understand what happened. So in her mind, the ambulance didn’t come on time. The doctors couldn’t save. Nobody was there to help him. She didn’t have the awareness of where her anxiety was coming from. So when I gave her the awareness, why? Why your mind is doing this? So then we dealt with her past story and passed on, because she never dealt with it, and we dissipated it. We gave her the awareness that it’s happened in the past. It’s not now. I gave her the recording for 21 days to listen to, and I gave her some exercises to do, and now she totally gets it when it kicks in. Okay, fine. It’s coming from my childhood trauma.

AB: At the heart of anxiety is the brain. Now you have your amygdala, which is like the alarm system of the brain. And the amygdala is what warns you about danger. Then there’s the prefrontal cortex that regulates the amygdala and also helps you make decisions. Then you have the hippocampus, and that stores memories. And that’s where you make your connections about anxiety. That’s where a past memory comes up and tells you that there is danger and causes the anxiety.

So if people were to stay in the present moment, then they’re not worrying about what is going to happen or what has happened. There are also hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol is the stress hormone in your body. So when something stressful happens, it temporarily boosts your energy. But when this happens continuously, it causes anxiety. Then there is adrenaline, which causes your heart to race, which causes high blood pressure. Adrenaline is also a stress response. You also have neurotransmitters like serotonin, and then you have gaba, or gamma aminobutyric acid, which is the calming agent in the body. When there is less gaba released, even then anxiety levels go up in terms of genetics. Now, some of us can be prone to less serotonin and therefore higher anxiety levels.  Anxiety could manifest as very fast breathing, sweating in your palms. Some people get high BP. Some people get rapid heart rate or palpitations. It can even cause gas issues. Some of the solutions for anxiety, one of the powerful ones is breath work. It’s a built in stress reliever. It’s actually magical. When you’re going through anxiety, your breath will be short and be fast, but the moment you calm it down, you go into rest and recover mode, away from the fight or flight mode. And when you calm down your breath, it helps your anxiety levels greatly.

Harika Pekinel: Transformational Breath® uses open mouth breathing technique, which is a connected breath with a relaxed exhale. And it is practised to help people to deal with issues such as anxiety, panic attacks or burnout. It also helps with improving breathing and feeling more energised, focused and positive. So, for example, when we are feeling nervous or stressed and push those feelings down, we may plunge our jaws. You might just feel that when you are angry as well. Or our throat constricts or our chest begins to tighten, doesn’t it? And even our digestive system can be affected. Yet if we take a moment to consciously breathe deeply into our belly, for a short while even, we’ll notice the tension release from the diaphragm and other primary breathing muscles. And this helps to increase our lung capacity and oxygen in the blood flow, which has the dual effect of relaxing the body and energising the mind as we become more rational, lighter and clearer. 

AB: There is something else which I am a big believer of, and that is gratitude and affirmations. I have a very personal story, actually. When my daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia and I was in shock, the doctor sat me down and said to me, ‘I know she’s been diagnosed with leukaemia, but if my child…’ he said to me, if his child was to get cancer, he said, the sort of leukaemia she has, I would wish that on him and no other form of cancer. And suddenly hearing those words, my body was filled with gratitude. It took me through those two years where she was being treated and it’s taken me through so many situations in my life. 

So there was a woman who had just been through a terrible divorce. She was having a really tough time getting back on her feet, but she had found a job and had settled her children into school and somehow managed to buy a second hand car. Now, one day she was at a park with her friends and they heard a rustling noise. This woman and her friends turned just into time to see a tree come crashing down on her car. The woman’s heart sank. ‘I have such bad luck,’ she said, and she was barely able to hold back her tears. Her best friend smacked her on the arm. ‘Are you crazy?’ She said; ‘That’s great luck. You could have been inside that car, your children could have been inside that car. But here you are, safe and sound. You should be so grateful.’

AB: Now look at that. You’ve turned the whole thing around. You made it into a surprise, a gift. Another very important tool is meditation. So meditation is about getting more mindful. It’s about being more in tune and more connected. When you meditate, what actually happens is that your amygdala is affected, but it’s at ease, and therefore the cortisol levels do not go up the way they do otherwise when your amygdala is stimulated. Does meditation help?

Amrita Mann: Actually, meditation is like taking a spiritual shower. So, you know, we take, we clean our bodies every day, but there are so many things that go on in our mind, in our thoughts, emotions. And meditation really helps clear that energy. It helps you remove all the toxic thoughts, emotions. 

AB: Then there is therapy, of course. Various therapies like CBT have been known to be extremely helpful. 

Anjali Singh Mitter: Because every adult, you know, as you grow up, every adult, is going to encounter something stressful. Even normal things like moving houses, changing jobs, applying to jobs, you know, those can all cause stress if we haven’t been properly, adequately prepared for them. Stress response is a human, natural, animalistic response. It’s part of who we are. So I think the answer to your question, the way I would answer your question, is saying, ‘Okay, how can we best equip a child to deal with stress in a way that doesn’t feel like what we are now perceiving as anxiety?’ So ongoing stress. So how can we be preventative for ongoing stress, long term stress, rather than a stress response? A stress response is, oh, something is happening. I got adrenaline running through my body, that something is over and my adrenaline finishes. That’s what we want. We want a little burst of adrenaline because that’s what it’s designed to be. What we don’t want is weeks and weeks and weeks of anticipation, then weeks and weeks and weeks of decompression, and for it to be a whole few months of anxiety. My three pillars are sleep, nutrition, and movement. And I say this to every single teenage and child client. I say it to my adult clients as well, but you’ve asked about children. When those three things are in place, you’re setting the physical body up to be able to deal with whatever we have going on in the day. If we’ve slept properly, if we’re eating properly, and if we’re doing some degree of movement, we’re getting some degree of exercise. The body is well equipped to then deal with stress. So again, the stress response becomes shorter, the stress response becomes more manageable, and we also are operating in a healthy enough and balanced enough way that we can properly comprehend what’s happening to us and reach the solution that we want.

AB: Bushra, will you explain to us what you do and also the main forms of therapy which you use to tackle worry, anxiety, stress, depression.

BK: So I do a lot of holistic work. I do a lot of mindful work, which has a lot of different modalities, Anshu, and we don’t have that much time to go into it, everything. But I do EFT. So that’s tapping on the meridian points. That’s very amazing. I’ll discuss a little bit later about tools on anxiety. So EFT. I do EMDR, when people are suffering from trauma; and especially I do RTT, which is amazing. The traditional way is to have 20 to 30 sessions. And after three years, you literally maybe know what’s the real issue. So RTT is amazing to go to the core of the problem; where is the problem sitting and to literally take it out from there and change it, and give a different suggestion to them, to the mind.

And you said about anxiety. So first let me explain to you about the present moment. So what happens in the present moment? Let’s say when the… Let’s say you’re having this thought, ‘I’m going to lose my job.’ And then what’s going to happen? Everybody I speak to, they’re losing their job. So the first is that you catch that thought. Okay, fine. The reason my anxiety is flaring up is because I’m having this thought that I might lose my job, then check it. Is it true? Has anybody told you at the workplace that you’re going to lose the job? Then maybe the answer will be no, you’re not going to. Okay fine, I’m going to change it— I’m fine, I’m secure, I’m going to be completely okay. My mind is creating this problem. Or if it’s true because you’ve been given notice, then what you say, okay, fine. What do I do about this? What steps do I need to take? Because worrying at 04:00 in the morning, you can’t deal with the problem, you can’t solve it. So when you sit down with a pen and paper, okay, fine. This is how much money I have in my savings. I might be out of a job for three months. So what do I do? Who do I need to apply? What more do I need to do? And so you will go proactively into solution mode. And once you go into the solution, you are in the present moment, you can’t do dual things. You can’t multitask. You can’t be worried and solving the problem, because when you’re not in the present moment, you’re worrying. So come into the present moment. People always ask me, so how do I come into the present moment if I’m not looking for a solution? Look into your senses. So look into all your five senses. The first thing, what I do is when my thoughts take over me, I start looking into my hand. I start feeling the energy around my hand. So visually, my senses are on, so I’m looking at it and my eyes are bright, eyes are wide, and I’m looking at my hands, and then I involve the feeling in it. How does it feel? I can feel the vibration. You’re straight away in the moment or look around the room. And another thing is, which is amazing, is to do breathing exercises. Because when you breathe deeply, your stress receptors come on. And you literally… The signal goes through the mind that the person is completely fine. They are okay because they’re breathing deeply. If you see a lion, you won’t go [breathes slowly], you’ll breathe from here [points towards the lungs] because you’re scared. So when you’re breathing deeply from your lungs, then your mind gets the signal that, ‘Oh, she’s fine, she’s okay.’ So you come, you straight away, calm down. But also you need to have a certain way of routine in your life. You can go out, go for a run in the park. You can go around the park. Do exercise, do exercise at home, you know. Make sure that you’re eating very healthy and you’re cooking your food. And as soon as your thoughts start to play out, play up. I use the words catch it, check it and change it.

AB: What I would like to say to you is that there is no one magic solution. You have to work towards attaining more peace of mind and less anxiety. You need to work with balance and boundaries. We’ve talked about breath work, we’ve talked about gratitude, we’ve talked about affirmations, we’ve talked about therapy, meditation, psychedelics, sleep. All this will help you greatly. It’s about doing a few things, taking care of your lifestyle, like regular exercise, your nutrition is important. You’re not alone in this. We all go through these things. We’re all working together. We’re learning, we’re growing, and we’re trying to find peace in the middle of all this chaos. Thank you for being here with us today. See you next week.