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The Vicious cycle Of Anxiety And Muscle Tension

Anxiety is a mental heath illness and should be treated seriously and with care as there are many causes and symptoms.

Below we talk about some of the common physical effects and ways to treat them, the techniques are designed to be practiced alongside mental and emotional work, preferably guided by a trained professional who can help with personal experiences and triggers.

Most people actually experience anxiety as a physical problem

Anxiety triggers our nervous system into fight and flight, (The Sympathetic side) this creates tension throughout our body as we prepare for danger. However in this case the brain is reacting to thoughts of fear not a direct physical threat and so we’re bracing our muscles for a moment that is not going to happen.

Your body thinks it needs to act, to jump out of the way, to prepare for a punch or to flea. However the actual action never happens, you just experienced it chemically, simply from a thought that crept in. You’ve been blasted with this rush of energy and hormones, but where does this energy go now? Because the physical action isn’t completed the bodies natural release of adrenaline and cortisol doesn’t happen, so how does the brain know the danger has passed?

It doesn’t, it stays in this heightened state, you muscles remain tight and your keep producing the stress hormones.

This has many, many side effects Including:

  • The digestive system taking a back seat, which can cause mild to severe stomach issues.

  • The immune system being put on pause, creating higher chances of of illness..

  • Decline of quality and quantity of sleep, possibly leading to insomnia.

  • Tight Muscles, particularly of the face, neck, shoulders, chest, stomach and hips.

At first these muscles may simply feel stiff or achey, but if the contraction continues for prolonged periods it can become very painful and create a build up of lactic acid. The body breaks this waste product down in to component parts and the lactate is transported through the blood stream for reuse. However recent studies have shown that a build up of lactate is linked to anxiety. We know people who suffer from anxiety have increased tension in their resting muscles, therefore more lactate in their blood. But this can go both ways, we can make ourselves anxious by injecting lactate into our blood stream. This shows that although anxiety can cause muscle tension, excessive muscle tension can also cause anxiety, creating a cycle of stress and pain.

Another side effect of muscle tension, particularly around the chest and stomach, is that the lungs can struggle to fully exhale. This can cause breathing patterns to change, becoming shorter, shallower, or held for too long. The shortness of breath can in crease the heart rate, causing the heart to pump more oxygen into the blood to compensate.

The good news is that we can counteract these effects by coxing the body back into the relaxed calm side of the the nervous system (The parasympathetic side)

Bringing your attention into your body and learning to listen to the signals it’s constantly sending you is key to mastering the physical side of anxiety, once you’re aware of when you’ve slipped into stressful patterns you can quickly respond to counteract the negative effects.

We’ll going to use a multitude of techniques to release muscular tension in key areas , self stimulate the vagus nerve (This is very effective in restoring you to the parasympathetic side),

open up the lungs with targeted breathing techniques and learn to self sooth at times of intense stress.

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