Having strong faith, I believe and trust in Spirit and I know that my life is guided. So how can I feel anxious sometimes? Perhaps you feel the same way as I do?

I need you to know that if you have spiritual faith and still experience anxiety, it’s not your fault.  In this article I will explain why.

As humans, we have a physical nervous system and brain. However, as well as being human, we are spiritual beings, trying to integrate all aspects of ourselves and live harmoniously in this very unpredictable environment on Earth.

The human aspect of who we are evolved from quite a primitive nervous system. This nervous system includes what’s called the ‘reptilian’ part of the brain. It’s where our instincts to run, fight, freeze or hide begin when we believe we are under threat.  The brain in modern humans has also developed a large neocortex, which covers the top and front layers of the brain. This area of our brain controls our thinking –the logical and rational function of our mind. This means we can think rationally and logically as we process information, something many animals cannot do.

So, if humans can think logically, why are so many of us still experiencing anxiety, in situations where there is no real threat to our wellbeing?  The answer lies in our evolution. The neocortex was one of the most recent parts of our brain to evolve, reaching its current capacity approximately one hundred thousand years ago. For much longer than rational thinking, the evolution of the human species has been ruled by urges to fight, flee, or freeze, when faced with danger.

When we are triggered into anxiety, we experience a sense of not being safe.

The primitive part of our brain is triggered first, and this overrides our neocortex. It is straightforward neuroscience.  If you experience anxiety and still have a strong spiritual faith, it is because the part of your brain that evolved first- the reptilian brain – overrides the more recently developed neocortex, which produces rational thinking. It’s like your brain is arguing with itself, but the unhelpful part of your brain wins.  

What exactly is anxiety?  Anxiety is a pervasive sense of dread or fear that something awful is going to happen, even when often, it is not.  Anxiety doesn’t need to have a logical reason to exist. We can feel strong dread or fear because the body responds as though we are under threat. This prevents our neocortex from being able to assert the power of logical thinking.  

Not every person is at risk of developing anxiety to the same extent as others. There are causes of anxiety that are understood by medical professionals. However, sometimes the triggers for anxiety remain a mystery. Evidence suggests that anxiety does have a genetic component. Some anxiety-sufferers will recognise family members – perhaps, grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts or siblings – who have signs of anxiety.

Children growing up in unpredictable or uncertain conditions may experience anxiety from a young age. Common family stresses such as health problems, unemployment or financial distress worry children. They may not talk about it, but their anxiety comes from Mum and Dad not being ‘okay’. Children need calm, confident parenting for their own sense of security. Without it, they may develop long term anxiety that persists into adulthood.

If you could use some help to feel more calm and confident as a parent, I have recorded 3 great meditations exactly for this issue. You can explore them on my website https://trustyourintuition.com/product/positive-parenting-for-parenting/

Stressful experiences, thoughts and feelings create neural pathways in our brain, especially if these stresses are severe or long lasting. Our brain evolves minute by minute according to how we are perceiving our world. The neural pathways begin to develop from the moment we are born, so early experiences really do matter.

If we learn at a young age that we are not safe, then our brain creates pathways of fight, flight and freeze that are continually reinforced throughout the years. A child who is experiencing emotional, mental, physical or sexual abuse will have neural pathways that convince them they are worthless, unsafe or unworthy of love.

These pathways create a long-term relationship with anxiety, in which anxiety is hardwired into the emotional, physical, and mental systems of our physiology. When we experience heightened sensations of anxiety, two chemicals are immediately produced in the limbic system. These are cortisol and adrenaline.

Close to the limbic system is the amygdala, sometimes referred to as the ‘pharmacist’. The pharmacist in our brain doesn’t consider whether something is real or whether it is imaginary. It just produces the chemicals that the ‘fight flight and freeze’ part of our brain demands. These chemicals flood the neocortex, and so rational thinking evaporates.

You can’t talk yourself out of a panic attack because that rational part of you isn’t working anymore. 

We can also develop anxiety at any time in our life. It doesn’t have to begin in childhood. There are many experiences and relationships that trigger anxiety. A single traumatic event can be enough. We are living in a world where anxiety is like an energy-soup all around us. The media feeds us distressing and true stories of suffering 24 hours a day. Becoming involved in the emotional experience of another person’s suffering can trigger our own anxiety. Be careful of that. Stay within ‘your business’ if you are prone to feeling anxious.

In summary, many factors contribute to anxiety. While there is a genetic predisposition in some families, environmental factors and personal experiences also contribute to the development of anxiety. If authority figures such as your parents are anxious, then you may unconsciously imitate that behaviour and take anxiety on for yourself.     

The good news is that you can learn to manage and limit anxiety. Recognising anxiety’s presence in your life, and desiring to take control, are your first steps.

My next article will cover my strategies for dealing with anxiety. I look forward to sharing them with you.

For a helpful book that teaches the power of positive thinking as well as a process for managing anxiety, check out my book ‘I’m Positive! Program Your Thoughts and feelings to Create a Positive Life.’
You’ll find it on my website https://trustyourintuition.com/product/im-positive/

Until next time,

Blessings, Michelle Robinson