A light blue house teetering on the edge of a cliff.

Sharing – The Best Way to Reduce Anxiety Is to Make Your Brain Feel Safe

The article below teaches an important lesson. By defining anxiety as part of the human experience, the author offers a glimpse into why we feel anxious even when there is no immediate threat.

Humans are unique in that danger doesn’t actually have to be imminent to trigger an SNS response. Our sophisticated brains can go into high alert just when remembering, anticipating, or imagining something upsetting or scary. I’m sure you’ve experienced this leading to anxiety and panic even when there is no real threat present.

They offer some good advice about calming our brains when we feel this way. I recommend reading the whole thing.

I also want to talk about something else—the importance of being safe in the first place.

Yes, as humans, many of us struggle with anxiety because we struggle with making our brains feel safe. I am one of those people. I catastrophize, I ruminate over small mistakes, and I over-analyze every situation. Yet, I know that I am fairly safe most of the time.

Not everyone is that safe, however. People in war zones are not safe. A little meditation is not going to eliminate anxiety for someone in Ukraine or Gaza. Neither will breathing exercises and mindfulness eliminate the anxiety of living in poverty, being in an abusive relationship, dealing with constant racism and harassment, or having laws targeting you as a member of a group.

I think back to my childhood and the sexual and physical violence I was subjected to. I struggle with anxiety because my brain is always going back to that time – a time when I was not safe! The things my brain learned then weren’t a failure of mental health; they were survival instincts. They were healthy reactions to an unsafe environment. My current challenge is unlearning them now that I am no longer in that unsafe environment. Asking me to do that while I was unsafe would have been dumb. The anxiety was trying to keep me alive.

So, before we start recommending exercise, mindfulness, etc., can we take a moment to ensure people’s safety? It’s the literal minimum we should offer before we start lecturing on how to make your brain feel safer.


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