What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’s reaction to actual danger, but also to events which we consider important. Anxiety is like an internal alarm system. It prepares us for danger and helps our body to prepare to deal with it. For example, anxiety helps us to jump out of the way of an accelerating car. Anxiety helps us to pull ourselves together and do our best when studying for exams. Anxiety is something that is experienced by everyone. There are no people who do not feel anxious sometimes!

What is happening to me when I feel anxious?

Anxiety affects our thoughts, bodies, and behaviour. When facing a real threat, you become worried. Your body prepares to help you to face the threat, which enables you to either flee from the threat or to prepare to fight it. Thus, anxiety protects you. Anxiety is something that has helped us survive as a species. We would be long extinct without anxiety.

What else is happening to me when I feel anxious?

Anxiety affects our thoughts, bodies, and behaviour. Imagine walking outside when a large dog starts barking on the other side of the fence. Thoughts like ‘What if it jumps over the fence and attacks me?!’ spring into your mind. Your body also reacts (the pupils dilate, the heart starts pounding, the muscles tense up). You may shudder, start to walk faster, or even freeze.

The phrase ‘fight-flight-freeze’ is often used about anxiety. What is it?

It is an automatic reaction that helps you to cope with the threat. For example, if you are feeling attacked, you can react quite fast and strike back.
On the other hand, when you are at a social gathering with strangers and it is making you uncomfortable, you may feel the desire to avoid those people (not to go to the event at all).
And sometimes, when you are in danger, you may freeze and hope that no one notices you.
It may happen that when the teacher asks you a question, your head feels completely empty.

The ‘fight or flight’ reaction is actually pretty cool. It is a special power given by nature which you can use to protect yourself.