Break the Worry Loop: Quiet the Brain
By realizing that worry is a neurological process, rather than simply a "feeling," we can take steps to relieve it. Deep inside our brains is an almond-shaped structure called the amygdala, which acts as our fear and anxiety center. When we experience a potential worry, the amygdala sends warning messages to the cortex, the rational part of our brain, which can assess whether that worry is of true concern. As the rational cortex is flooded with more and more warning signals from the amygdala, however, it is unable to process them all, leading to worry loops or anxiety.
Fortunately, there are several steps we can take to quiet the brain and worry less:
- Spend 15 minutes a day acknowledging your worries in a tangible way. Creating a list of your top 10 worries or a calendar of stressful upcoming events allows you to strategize and deal with each problem directly, so they don't balloon to an unmanageable size.
- Deep belly breathing, whether in a yoga class, at the office, or on your couch, is helpful in interrupting irrational thoughts. If you frequently experience toxic worry, try carrying a balloon in your pocket. Blowing up a balloon forces you to take long, slow breaths from the diaphragm, which slows down your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and helps your body use oxygen more efficiently, having a calming effect.
Treat Worry-Related Stomach Issues: Soothe Your GI Tract
Your stomach acts as a "second brain" when it comes to worrying. In fact, like our brains, our stomachs have their own nervous systems, called the enteric nervous system. When we worry, millions of receptors embedded in the gastrointestinal tract react to fear by speeding up or slowing down our digestion, which can lead to nausea, diarrhea and heartburn.
Next: Two natural treatments to soothe a nervous stomach